REVIEW: The Nightmare

17 06 2015

The NightmareImagine you are a young child again, and you have just woken up from the worst dream of your life.  Terrified, you run into your parents’ bedroom, climb onto their mattress, and recount every detail of the terrible vision.  Then, imagine them laughing at you.

You have just envisioned the experience that is Rodney Ascher’s documentary “The Nightmare.”

The director interviews eight subjects suffering from sleep paralysis, a condition where a person becomes unable to escape their night terrors and loses control of their muscular functions.  From the descriptions of the afflicted, which Ascher recreates for the audience, the experience sounds absolutely harrowing.  Sleep paralysis is nothing short of the supernatural in our natural world.

Yet Ascher seems to not only doubt them but sneer at them.  He might have kept a poker face for the interviews themselves, sure.  But in the editing room, Ascher stands over them with an ironic remove and presents them for mockery.  “The Nightmare” disrespects its subjects by discrediting them, mostly by making their stories all run together as if some kind of elaborate scam.

His last documentary feature, “Room 237,” could get away with gently mocking its subjects because Ascher participated in the joke.  In his mockery of cinephilia by interviewing some rather ardent Kubrick devotees, Ascher himself created the ultimate document of cinephilia.  “The Nightmare,” however, just reduces sleep paralysis victims into the pitiable loons from one of Ascher’s short docs, “The S From Hell.”

Ascher would do well to study the proper first response to sexual assault survivors – “I believe you” – and apply it to his next documentary.  Filmmakers should help alleviate the burden of the helpless who suffer injury.  They should not add insult to it.  C2stars



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