The Nightmare, directed by Rodney Ascher, (the same guy who directed Room 237 about The Shining and the conspiracies surrounding it) is a 2015 documentary thriller about the frightening real life condition/phenomena of sleep paralysis.
I’ve never experienced sleep paralysis myself, but I’ve read enough about it to know that it is definitely not something I want to experience. People who experience sleep paralysis become unable to move or even speak just as they are falling asleep or waking up. They also experience terrifying physical experiences of ‘entity’s’ coming into their room and interacting with them, along with audio/visual hallucinations.
Before hearing about this documentary film, I’ve read a number of true life accounts of people’s experiences with sleep paralysis, and trust me, they are frightening. To actually experience being paralyzed as seemingly supernatural or ‘evil’ beings enter your room, touch you, speak to you and even threaten you must be a horrible experience. Many people experience feelings of pressure on their bodies and chests as if something or someone is sitting on them, making it hard for them to breathe, and some people even report feeling that something has had ‘sex’ with them during one of these experiences.
The whole phenomenon of sleep paralysis is terrifying; perfect for the premise of a thriller or horror film. But what makes Ascher’s film so interesting is that we have real people telling their real life stories of what happened to them. As they are telling their stories of what happened, we can see and feel the fear on their faces.
The Nightmare focuses on eight people’s experiences. Not only do we hear the people tell their true stories of horror, but we also see terrifying, vivid reenactments on screen of the dreams. Just as the person talks about hearing the sound of ‘demons screaming in her ear’ we experience it on screen, and low and behold we get to hear what it possibly would sound like to hear ‘demons’ screaming at you. Trust me, it’s not something I want to hear again.
Hearing people talk first hand of their terrifying experiences was really intriguing, and coupled with the reenactments on screen, this documentary pushed itself into a new territory of thriller. I started to think about how I would cope if I was experiencing the same thing every time I went to sleep. It’s not like you can escape from sleep, we need sleep to live, we can’t resist eventually going to sleep…but what if going to sleep meant having these demonic-like experiences every night?
The documentary also covered some explanations for sleep paralysis. The medical side: which states that sleep paralysis is caused by stress and not getting enough sleep.
But wouldn’t you be stressed and reluctant to sleep if this happened to you every time you closed your eyes?
A few of the people in the documentary were seeking other answers to explain the phenomenon. Some looked to Christianity, others to New age spiritualism.
But the most interesting (and frightening) theory to me was one of the guys way of looking at his experiences. He said that he thinks that the world is ‘wrapped in cling film’ and when he has his paralysis, this cling film is removed momentarily and he gets to see and experience what we can’t see and perhaps ‘shouldn’t’.
As someone who believes in the supernatural, I am probably more easily convinced that these experiences are something from the supernatural world, even demonic in nature, than perhaps someone else.
But what does this mean for me? If I beleive that these ‘hallucinations’ are actually real contact from nonhuman creatures that our brain cannot interpret usually, then what happens if I have sleep paralysis?
Unfortunately for me, this was exactly what I was thinking about last night as I was trying to drift off to sleep. Suddenly I was full of worry that the more I thought about sleep paralysis, the more likely it was going to happen to me. As I was drifting off, I dreamed of a ‘shadow man’, a common thing to see in sleep paralysis experiences, and woke myself up with a jolt.
I had to sleep with the TV on, and as I tried not to let my mind wander to the images of aliens, shadow people and strange demon entities, I wondered-
If the scariest place on earth to you is sleep…how do you get away from it?
Tell me in the comments if you’ve ever experience sleep paralysis. I’d be really interested to hear more horrifying real-life tales of these experiences!