Rodney Asher is the guy behind one of the most intriguing film documentaries in years, Room 237, which is all about the clues and conspiracies behind Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel The Shining.
Ascher is coming back to intrigue and spook us with another doc, this one on the phenomenon of sleep paralysis. It’s called The Nightmare, and from the look of it, it’s bound to cause quite a few!
Dread Central: I saw Room 237 at LAFF the year before last, and I thought it was really well-crafted and quite labyrinthine… will The Nightmare have the same vibe?
Rodney Ascher: I think so, at least about the attitude, seeing as how I’m still in a similar headspace in a lot of ways, and this mystery is in some ways bigger and more complicated than a single film, even one as formidable as The Shining. The big difference will be the amount of original imagery we’ll be creating for this one.
DC: There’s a scene in The Shining in which Danny is having a bad dream, foaming at the mouth and almost in a state of sleep paralysis – is that what sparked the idea for The Nightmare?
RA: That’s interesting, really interesting – but (probably) just a coincidence; in fact I hadn’t made the connection until you mentioned it. Of course eerie coincidences, synchronicities, and the challenges of nailing down cause and effect were a big part of 237 and will probably find their way into The Nightmare. Certainly they found their way into my own life and experience during the making of Room 237 and beyond (to pick one at random – it sure was strange that billboards with the number 42 appeared everywhere just when 237 was released).
DC: Tell our readers a little bit about what intrigues you about this weird phenomenon enough to want to actually make a film about it… I mean, filmmaking ain’t easy, so you really have to be inspired, especially with documentaries, which aren’t exactly known for the cha-ching! factor.
RA: It’s a time and place where the rules of reality seem to break down – one thing in particular that seems nuts to me is that although a ton of people seem to experience it (and I can’t hardly bring the idea up in a group without one person saying it happened to them), I hardly ever seem to read or hear much about it unless I’m going out of my way to research it. Apparently in some other cultures it gets talked about a lot more, but I’d think a halfway common experience that seems absolutely supernatural would come up a little more often.
DC: What’s your take on sleep paralysis? Have you ever experienced it, and do you think the terror of it is overrated? (I mean, everyone does wake up eventually… right???
RA: It hasn’t happened to me lately, but the first time was genuinely the most horrifying thing that ever happened to me – a visit from this shadowy ghost creature while I was caught in the equivalent of a glue trap, unable to scream. Even if that was all, I wouldn’t call it overrated, but in fact it is suspected to have been related to some people’s death in their sleep.
DC: Yipes! I guess dead men tell no sleep paralysis tales. What’s one tidbit you can share about the doc to entice horror fans to go see it?
RA: Of course the film is very much in progress, but one thing they might find interesting is the suggestion that sleep paralysis has been the inspiration for countless horror classics from Dracula to A Nightmare on Elm Street, alien abductions and beyond. In fact here’s a passage from Dracula that Ryan Hurd (a guy who’s experienced and written a lot about SP pointed out): “I felt the same vague terror which had come to me before and the same sense of some presence … I would have screamed out, only that I was paralyzed.”
One last thing, if I can – we’re still looking for people to share their stories so if any of your readers have had powerful personal experiences, we’d love it if they contacted us via our Facebook page.
DC: Thanks, Rodney. Can’t wait to check it out!
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