“I’ll always be a devout fan of Rodney Ascher‘s Room 237 because it’s a treasure chest of endless imaginative theorizing about Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining. I loved the fruit-loop quality. But his latest, a documentary about sleep paralysis called The Nightmare, is almost completely devoid of imaginative riffing of any kind. The film is entirely about descriptions of creepy, real-deal encounters with “shadow men” — Freddy Krueger-like spooks who have terrorized several real-deal folks in their bedrooms (always in the wee hours) and caused them to freeze and be unable to speak and in some cases have trouble breathing. It just goes on and on like this for 90 minutes…”I was half-sleeping and then I felt something and the boogie man was behind me,” etc.
“Okay but what’s really going on? Why these people and not others? (Ascher himself has been visited.) What kind of scientific proof has been collected? Has anyone ever found any physical evidence, made any recordings, observed changes in electrical energy…anything? One tip-off is that a female victim says that the spooks went away one night when she said the name of Jesus. (What if she’d said Buddha or Sri Krishna or Wack-a-Mole?) Another is that the shadow men seem to be a manifestation of individual weakness, vulnerability and fear. But why do the goblins all look like the same (some along the lines of the monster in Michael Mann‘s The Keep) or alien-like creatures with huge serpent eyes?
“I’m not saying the victims are making stuff up, but just hearing their descriptions over and over isn’t enough. I began to feel antsy about a half-hour in.” — from my 1.29.15 Sundance Film Festival review.