Starring Brian Krause, Kevin Grevioux, Louis Herthum, Jaimi Paige (Peacock), Callie Thorne
Directed by Drew Gabreski
Sleep paralysis is kind of trendy right now, perhaps kicked off with the Rodney Ascher documentary, The Nightmare. The latest narrative film we saw on this freaky phenomenon was earlier this year with Dead Awake, which did a great job of exploring the psychological reasons behind the syndrome as well as adding a scary supernatural element. Be Afraid uses sleep paralysis as a hook, but it doesn’t take center stage. This movie is more of a mystery.
The story cold-opens with a violent child abduction. As the Booth family sleeps, a presence creeps in. The father (Kevin Grevioux, Underworld, I Frankenstein) wakes up just in time to witness his young daughter being pulled away from the safety of her bedroom and into the dark night… never to be seen again. Then the main plot unfolds a few years later, not long after Dr. John Chambers (Brian Krause, Sleepwalkers) and his family arrive at their new home in a small rural mining town. John, his pregnant wife Heather (Jaimi Paige), and their sons – teenage Ben (Jared Abrahamson), seven-year-old Nathan (Michael Leone) – are all trying to put their past behind them and move forward with hope. Of course, that is not to be.
John begins to experience horrific nightmares during sleep paralysis. As he lies there frozen with fear, otherworldly shadow-creatures torment John and his youngest son. They can only be seen out of the corner of one’s eye, never fully in view but always ready to pounce. These encounters begin to haunt John in his waking hours, morphing to complete terror as he discovers the entities’ purpose: they want Nathan. Big bro Ben goes out to the caves to party with some townies, not knowing about the legends. He’s dared to go inside, without a flashlight. Ben is a bit nervous. But he’s game until two bullies follow him inside and all hell breaks loose. Here we see lots of monster action. I must say; I did not like the monsters. I thought they were too corporeal. (I had the same feeling about the “nightmare” embodiment in Dead Awake; I’d rather more be left to the imagination.) The Be Afraid creature looks a lot like the Swamp Thing wearing a hat.
There’s a scene in the trailer that shows Heather relaxing in the bathtub and falling asleep. As it plays out in the film, it’s even more intense. It’s one of the scarier scenes in Be Afraid, and well-directed with plenty of suspense by first-time feature-director Drew Gabreski (augmented by brisk editing and a stirring score). What’s more, the lead actors really are convincing in their fear and tumult.
In the end, John will uncover the town’s secret, a cave-like portal on his land, and will stop at nothing to save his son before the shadow people take him away to their evil world. But Nathan seems to want to stay, and play with his new little friends… especially the Booth girl.
While I didn’t love Be Afraid – it retreads a lot of overly-familiar ground – I liked it. It’s worth a look, especially if you’re partial to horror nightmares.