Sleep paralysis is a variety of dream which can seize a person prisoner in a ghoulish and tactile hallucination. "The Nightmare" profiles a dozen such severely afflicted individuals and invites you into their brains.
The recorded medical history of the disorder is touched upon in brief, only long enough to establish the subject's credibility. It's not a phenomenon that's been approached with much clinical discipline, and medical history is ostensibly not what this is a film about. It is instead fascinated with the experience itself, and the life these people lead.
Mostly the movie plays out through vivid dramatizations of dreams recounted in voice-over. It gets hella scary as the volume of awful steadily rises. A common vocabulary of bad things runs through it all, which amounts to elemental nightmare fuel.
This builds to the question of how his interviewees deal with their worsening condition. This film takes folks on an extreme of human experience and examines how they and then perceive their reality. What if sleeping meant you were attacked by demons? Would you explain it with cognitive science? Christianity? New age spiritualism? The film is patient enough to listen with interest and a sort of apathy to concrete answers.
It isn't perfect. Particularly there's some intentional fourth wall breaking-behind the scenes that's labored and distracting. And there's one dream recreation technique of photo slide show that isn't as hot as the rest.
But a unique experience of a documentary. Just watch it at night in the dark, don't be a chicken ;)
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