Right off the bat I just want to let you know that The Nightmare is scary. There, done – the only question about a horror movie you should have is, “Is it scary?” Who cares about the direction, the production, the quality, as long as it keeps you awake long into the night. Glad we got that over with. See you in my next entry!
My editor has informed me that it’s not really fair to you if my SXSW blog entries are only a few sentences long. Fine.
Actually, I guess there is something talk about. Did you know The Nightmare is actually a documentary-horror film? No, not a documentary on a horror film, an full on hybrid of the styles. Not all of my fellow festival goers seemed to know. But then again, it is kind of a unique concept.
Here’s how it works: you know how in a good number of documentaries you’ll have one or two people telling stories, and then to visualize these stories they shoot reenactments (with actors, sets, props, etc.) of them. Often times, regardless of the quality of the documentary, the quality of the reenactments are a bit sub-par. In fact, the last documentary I can remember with above average reenactment portions was Man on Wire.
The stories everyone tells in The Nightmare are about their experiences with a condition known as “sleep paralysis.” The condition affects the sufferers while they’re asleep: they feel completely aware of their surroundings, but at the same time are unable to move. While paralyzed they see and feel the presence of demonic figures – whose descriptions don’t differ much from person to person.
As you can probably guess, the experiences with the demonic figures are the subjects of the reenactments. And this is where the “horror” portion of the film kicks in. Director Rodney Ascher basically shot each of the reenactments like mini horror movies. Well done horror movies too. There’s great lighting, great camerawork, and thankfully a minimal amount of jump scares. Plus, the nightmare creatures make for some kickass horror movie monsters; the Shadowmen, the Hatman, and the grinning alien monsters can proudly stand side by side with Freddy Krueger – whose own dream-based horror film franchise is brought up.
If my own ringing endorsement isn’t enough for you, how about this: the worst thing I heard said about The Nightmare after the screening amounted to, “It was good, but not quite as good as Room 237” – Ascher’s last acclaimed documentary, about the obsession of some people with The Shining.