The Nightmare is a 2015 documentary that is ostensibly about sleep paralysis, but as you watch it, you’ll quickly realize that this is not a movie that focuses on the causes behind the terrifying phenomenon in which some people find themselves awake but unable to move, suffering strange and often terrifying hallucinations. In fact, not a single doctor or scientist is interviewed throughout the film’s 90-minute runtime.
Instead, the movie sees eight different individuals who have experienced sleep paralysis describe their experiences, which are then reenacted to horrifying effect. While there are a handful of types of dreams and hallucinations experienced by the various interviewees, the one that will really stick with you and linger in your mind’s eye is the shadow people. Looming silhouettes with glowing eyes who stand over your bed while you lie helpless to watch their machinations is enough to inspire a few nightmares of your own, whether you experience sleep paralysis or not.
The absence of doctors and scientists means there’s more room for the sufferers to offer their own personal explanations for what’s happening to them. This might mean that rather than boring but accurate talk about dysfunctions during REM sleep, you can hear how these shadow people are actually invaders from another dimension. Then again, maybe you find that more comforting. However, if you’ve seen the director’s previous effort, Room 237, you know it’s not the most ridiculous explanation he’s caught on film.