2015 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE NIGHTMARE

nightmareSwitching over to the Park City at Midnight section, the sole nonfiction selection closes out this week’s profiles: Rodney Ascher’s unsettling study of a mysterious sleep disorder, THE NIGHTMARE.

Sundance Program Description:

You are very tired. The pillow is soft. It’s late at night, and you start to drift off in your bed. Snap – your body locks up, totally frozen. But you are not asleep. You can see and hear everything. That’s when the shadow men come.

Following his exploration on the deep effects of cinema in his feature ROOM 237, director Rodney Ascher now investigates the phenomenon of sleep paralysis. In this documentary-horror film, we experience the terror that a surprisingly large number of people suffer when they find themselves trapped between the sleeping and waking worlds every night. What should be explained by science gets complicated as sufferers from random backgrounds have very similar visions. THE NIGHTMARE enhances the stories with eerie dramatizations of what (and who) the subjects see. Ascher, who has also experienced the condition, treats the subject with respect, combining a primal horror movie with an existential terror in the lines between reality and the imagination.

Some Background:
Rodney Ascher’s feature debut, ROOM 237 (2012), followed his well-received Sundance doc short THE S FROM HELL (2010). Rejoining him from ROOM 237 for his latest is co-producer Tim Kirk. Producer Ross Dinerstein previously produced Sundance Midnight titles THE PACT (2012) and THE KILLING ROOM (2009), while fellow producer Glen Zipper produced the Oscar winner UNDEFEATED with his brother Ralph Zipper, an executive producer here, together with Content Film’s Jamie Carmichael (also an executive producer on THE PACT) and Preferred Content’s Kevin Iwashina (Sundance credits include THE TRUTH ABOUT EMANUEL (2013), JESS + MOSS (2011), and LITTLE BIRDS (2011)).

Why You Should Watch:
As with his previous work, Ascher is able to translate his subjects’ profound sense of unease to the screen, perfectly capturing a sense of the uncanny as the relate their experiences. The result is thoroughly unsettling, potentially nightmare-inducing – but at the same time oddly entertaining.

More Info:
For more information, visit the film’s Facebook page. Check out his Indiewire interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2015 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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