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The Nightmare 

Wednesday, Jun 17 2015
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Let's face it: Our brains are jerks, and they can get even worse when we're asleep and can't do anything about it. Rodney Ascher's new documentary The Nightmare examines a phenomenon known as "sleep paralysis," in which the sleeper feels wide awake and cannot move, and is aware of a malevolent presence in the room — usually a shadowy, featureless figure — but is powerless to do anything about it. (Again, brains are jerks.) Ascher interviews several people afflicted by sleep paralysis, and they participate in re-creations of their specific night terrors. Both the re-creations and the interviews themselves are filmed for maximum spookiness, though Ascher never shies away from the staged nature of it all: The same bedroom set is reused, and we occasionally see behind the scenes of the production. The most obvious reference is Ascher's previous film Room 237, featuring people with inexplicable experiences or reactions to situations telling their stories without judgment, but a more direct antecedent may be his short film "The S From Hell," about the terror the Screen Gems production company logo caused in a generation of children. (Go watch the short right now if you haven't seen it.) The Nightmare suggests that sleep paralysis is like the Screen Gems logo invading your unconscious mind, and that's a truly nightmarish thought.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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