Tom Humberstone


horror month - day 19

The Nightmare (2015)

"And that was when the shadowman would come towards me."

Quick summary: A documentary about sleep paralysis, focusing on eight people who acutely suffer from it.

A new documentary from the makers of Room 237. One of the things I enjoyed about that film was how it showed we can convince ourselves of anything if we want to believe it enough. The ability and willingness to make huge illogical leaps in order to arrive at very specific conclusions was astonishing. It's probably saying something about my month of horror-watching that I actually found talk of demons or dimension-hopping doppelgangers haunting our sleep to be more believable than the Kubrick conspiracy theories.

I've had, as I'm sure most people have, sleep paralysis accompanied by a sense of someone else in the room. It's only happened a few times - most often in my twenties. The idea that these people have it every night and can't escape it is deeply unsettling.

The film creates re-enactments of the nightmares and employs several tried and tested horror techniques which, despite being described by the subjects of the documentary beforehand, still manage to provoke a jump or two. There are some nice behind-the-scenes bits too - with actors dressed as shadowmen walking between bedroom sets, or banks of screens showing green screen elements of nightmares - that give the impression of some other-worldly dream factory busily haunting their victims.

I've always found sleep paralysis - and it's influence on horror films like Nightmare on Elm St. - a fascinating thing, and this was an engrossing way to hear more about it and find out how it is interpreted by the people who experience it. There's also a suggestion that simply learning about the phenomenon could prompt one to develop the same problem, giving it a sort of Ringu virality vibe of it's own.

Staying on the documentary lane, I also watched:

Fear Itself (2015)

Quick summary: A cine-essay about the attraction of horror and what it says about us.

As with Charlie Lyne's previous film, Beyond Clueless, this is constructed using carefully chosen clips from (in this case) horror films, accompanied by a emotionally neutral narration which provides a prose-poem through-line. The soundtrack is by Jeremy Warmsley of Summer Camp - who provided the music for Beyond Clueless too.

I enjoyed this and it tackled a few thoughts I've been having as I make my way through these 31 days of horror in regards to my tolerance levels and what I get from watching scary films. I'm certainly starting to pinpoint the types of horror films I prefer and the ones that really strike a chord with me.

I'm fond of Lyne's editing style for these films - connecting clips through minor/major thematic links, or through environment, or even just colour palettes. It adds to that hypnotic, beguiling tone that made Beyond Clueless so intriguing to watch. I'm looking forward to the inevitable Adam Curtis-esque YouTube parodies of this style that will surely follow.

Tonight: I think it's probably time for Cronos (1993) what with Crimson Peak (2015) in cinemas this week.