The Nightmare demands a different ad campaign. Much like Guillermo Del Toro's Crimson Peak (which I will be reviewing shortly), there's opportunity to be had in the commercial sector, but for vastly different reasons. Del Toro's film was vastly mis-sold as a horror by the studio - who messed up the trailers. It was made to look cheap, unscary, and boring. With the Nightmare, the studio have avoided the sensationalist marketing the movie craves. Opting for the slogan 'Welcome to the scariest place on earth (:your bedroom)', they have captured the ideas and fear inside the film; and the trailers are superb - brimming with style and panache. But I think that perhaps they've missed a trick. A set of plain black posters with the logo at the bottom and some more effective slogans would be nice. These, ladies and gentlemen would be the following: 'The Scariest Movie Ever Made', 'The Only Real Horror Movie Ever Made', and crucially 'The Most Dangerous Movie Ever Made'. That's right folks: The Nightmare could fuck you over; The Nightmare could make you lose your job; The Nightmare could ruin your life; and, in one particularly chilling sentiment, The Nightmare could kill you.
Rodney Ascher is responsible for one other full-length documentary - Room 237. A massive hit with the critics, Room 237 is a swooning and horrifying love letter to cinema. Comprised of footage from the Shining juxtaposed with bampot theories about what it all means, Ascher introduced us to the wondrous world of po-mo analysis and really just film in general. He returns to once again to a horror subject with The Nightmare, a double-barreled shotgun of a title blending bad dreams, and a seriously creepy painting (which forms the basis for part of the films analysis). Examining sleep paralysis, this isn't your usual documentary. Combining skew sufferer interviews with horrifyingly stylish nightmare fuel recreations, Ascher shuns scientific thought in favor of empirical data (an approach I'm particularly fond of) to create something unlike anything I've seen before. As in, ever.
But then he throws a curve ball....
Much of the second half of the movie relies on focusing on how people first begin to experience the issue. And it's not good news either. The first time people properly hear about the condition is usually in direct correlation with the first time they have it. Yikes. The witness statements fit that, and their statements about friends whom have got it because of them fit that. In fact, as Ascher shows, the internet fits that as well. And what about all those old pictures, stories, and paintings (such as The Nightmare, which shares its title with this film). So stacks upon stacks of people have experienced this phenomenon. And now you know about it too. You know what it feels like, and what happens to you. Your brain is awake to the possibility. Oh shit. The Nightmare may have just screwed you big time.
And on top of this, it's a complete mindfuck. All the interview scenes are shot from askew angles, in the dark, with the stipulation of encroaching menace, and often the camera will drift, to show we have been tricked. Maybe a doorway was a mirror, a corridor a painting, or a desk just an illusion. These scenes are genuinely unsettling and confusing. And even the nightmare sequences are joined together in such a way that we can tell they are staged. For instance, the camera zooms out to show a set. In one particularly beautiful scene, the camera drifts with a shadow man, as they move from set to set, scaring other protagonist. And then there's the weird humor that pervades throughout the entire film.... This movie really is an epic puzzle box.
|Well, say goodbye to your sleep tonight|
This is the real schrodingers cat (like, really). You're trapped in your bed with a ticking time bomb, your brain. There's a chance the slight electrical impulses will spur you into sleep paralysis, or not. So, what's the effect? I promise you, hand on heart, the night after watching this film was the scariest night of my life. I lay drenched in sweat, yet still under the covers. for hours on end. Every time I approached the moment of sleep, my mind drifed to sleep paralysis and I jolted awake again, sweating even more. The little details revealed by the interview subjects are so general that you will start seeing symptoms everywhere. I didn't experience sleep paralysis that night, but, hey, maybe you won't be so lucky.....
|The Nightmare gets 5 stars!|