Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its sixth year on Ain’t It Cool News in October! And what a fantastic year in horror it was! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down my favorite horror film released since last October 1, 2014 and covered in my weekly AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2014 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column six years ago!) and worked and reworked a list throughout the year until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness; just my own personal favorites. The only rule qualifying the film for this countdown is that it had to be released to the masses (via theaters, digital download, On Demand, or DVD/BluRay) within the range of October 1, 2014 and October 1, 2015. Anything before or after that span of time doesn’t count in this haunted dojo. I’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth noting or just missed making the list for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know what you think of the pick, it’s placing on the list, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, let me know your own personal faves from the last year in horror…let’s go!
#16 THE NIGHTMARE
Available on iTunes here and Netflix here!
THE NIGHTMARE (2015)Directed by Rodney Ascher
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I have found that, depending on the subject matter, I can either be completely enthralled by a documentary or be bored to tears. Now, I don’t want to take away from the art and effort put into making a documentary, but I think for myself and (I don’t want to assume but what the hell) for some other viewers, if you’re just not into the subject matter being delved into, it’s going to affect the way you take in the film. I found that to be the case watching THE NIGHTMARE with a friend recently ,as we were decidedly split on the entertainment quotient of the film.
The director of ROOM 237 (a film I had high expectations for and was somewhat disappointed in; read my review here), Rodney Ascher, sits with 8 people and discusses their experiences with sleep paralysis. The film not only shows these people who actually suffer from the malady, but provides imaginative reenactments of some of the more frightening aspects of their harrowing tales.
As depicted in this documentary, sleep paralysis is a broad term associated with night terrors, nightmares, and odd phenomena while one feels like one is sleeping. Symptoms are described as not being able to move, having difficulty breathing, lucid or waking dreaming where you know you are dreaming, and out of body experiences. Other details include the presence of shadowy or bizarre looking forms walking into the room, standing next to the bed, and speaking with the sleeper all giving off a threatening vibe to the sleeper. Needless to say, whether this is all in the mind of the sleeper or an actual medical condition is not important. What is important is that this condition affects the sleeper dramatically and the fact that the testimonies of these 8 people, all from different regions of the world, are so similar.
And this is where I think the divisive factors come in. Having experienced sleep difficulties in the past, with some of these testimonies hitting a little too close to home, I was engrossed with this film, soaking in one testimony after another. Seeing others who have experienced the same sensations and sleep difficulties I had through the years was both a frightening and cathartic experience for me as it made me feel less alone with my own sleep problems. That said, my friend, who sleeps like a baby, was bored with the film, citing it was redundant in darting between the 8 different people who were basically recounting the same type of details over and over. I can see where this would be repetitive, but still, I couldn’t get enough of it.
Ascher does his best to tie some type of similar throughway between the stories (much like he did with the different THE SHINING theories in ROOM 237), but here the connections are much more solid. Ascher’s reenactments are vividly made with horrifying imagery of shadow men standing and growling over beds, animations of synapses firing, and clips from films like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, JACOB’S LADDER, and INSIDIOUS showing how Hollywood has represented sleep paralysis through the years. All of these aspects made the experience all the more real for me.
All of that considered and playing devil’s advocate, there could be something said to the mental stability of those interviewed. These conditions could also be attributed to the power of suggestion and people making connections that really aren’t there. Part of the curse of sleep paralysis is that once it is told to someone else, those experiences occur in the next person as well almost as if someone were infected with a PONTYPOOL like virus. This adds to the ominous threat of the condition, but also attests to this being some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy for folks with minds that can be more influenced by others. Still, Ascher makes a compelling argument for this being some kind of phenomenon rather than word of mouth.
Films like the recent SHADOW PEOPLE (which I reviewed here) have been pretty successful in dealing with this topic and making it scary. Be it a chemical imbalance or something supernatural going on, this condition does affect the sleeper dramatically, and while THE NIGHTMARE doesn’t provide answers, it does give voice to these people in a manner that really made an impact on me. Watching this film in the dark was not a smart thing for me to do, as it made what little hair I have left stand on end and caused me to look behind me more than once in fear that a person would be standing there in the shadows. I can’t speak for those of you who get a peaceful night’s sleep on a regular basis, but for those of you who have ever feared for your safety while laying on your back in the dark, THE NIGHTMARE is going to impact you in ways you might not be comfortable with.
Worth noting: HORSEHEAD!
#31 – AN AMERICAN TERROR
#30 – WE ARE STILL HERE
#29 – FROM THE DARK
#28 – THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN
#27 – DEAD SNOW 2: DEAD VS RED
#26 – THE GREEN INFERNO
#25 – THE EDITOR
#24 – THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN
#23 – WITCHING & BITCHING
#22 – EXTINCTION
#21 – WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD
#20 – BACKCOUNTRY
#19 – POD
#18 – MAGGIE
#17 – A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 6. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
Find more AICN HORROR including an archive of previous columns on AICN HORROR’s Facebook page!