Experiencing the sleep paralysis phenomenon in real-life is terrifying—to be partly awake in a sleeping body and see creepy figures lurking in the dark. It can make you fear dreams, going to bed, or even the idea of falling back asleep again.
Sleep paralysis has been featured as a topic of several horror movies. The sleep paralysis phenomenon is enough on its own to chill and frighten, but filmmakers add twists of their own to ramp things up. When it captures the feeling of the real deal? Horrifying.
Here are some of the best sleep paralysis movies worth watching if you’re a fan of horror/thriller movies and want to venture into subgenres beyond the norm.
5. Dead Awake (2016)
Dead Awake is the story of Kate, a social worker who investigates the death of her sister Beth, along with others that happen to have suffered from sleep paralysis before death.
She consults a doctor who tells her that a demon is terrorizing and killing people in their sleep, which she insists has no relevance to the case and is just a superstitious belief to be ignored. As she digs deeper into it, it starts happening to her, and she needs to stop it before it kills her.
The best part of the movie is when she starts to fall asleep and a creepy woman crawls with her thin hands. Though she sees it clearly, she can do nothing because her body is sleeping and can’t move an inch.
4. Mara (2018)
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Mara is the story of a criminal psychologist who investigates the murder of a man, which is just the beginning in a string of supernatural murders. The story starts with a wife killing her husband, who is then brought to a mental institution on recommendation of a psychologist.
As the story goes on, she suffers sleep paralysis and sees a womanly figure approaching her, which makes her afraid to go to sleep. She manages to find the link between the killings—and it isn’t natural.
The best part of the film is whenever Mara, the demonic figure causing death, appears in a scene—whether behind a silky curtain or hovering above the victim in bed.
3. Slumber (2017)
Just like Mara and Dead Awake, Slumber features the phenomenon of sleep paralysis, but this time it’s happening to a family. As a sleep doctor, Alice believes the family’s problem is something that can be explained by science and is just a product of their imagination.
As the story progresses, she’s caught up in the disturbance that the family is experiencing. With a demon terrorizing their sleep, they have to figure out how to survive the night of unexplainable and life-threatening events, injecting the horrifying plot with tension.
One of the best parts of the film is when the boy—experiencing sleep paralysis with eyes open—wants to speak and his body stiffens. We can feel his fear and how he struggles, fighting something only he can see.
2. The Nightmare (2015)
The Nightmare is a documentary film directed by Rodney Ascher that focuses on the sleep paralysis experience.
The story is based on real-life experiences of people, which are reenacted and given terrifying backgrounds, sounds, and other film elements to make the storytelling darker and scarier.
What makes the film great is how it covers the topic in a way that everyone can relate to, with the participants (or the storytellers) themselves becoming victims of sleep paralysis.
Even if you haven’t experienced it yourself, this documentary will give you a taste of what to expect (or what you might encounter) during the terrifying phenomenon. Be wary of the shadow man!
1. Disarray (2017)
Disarray is a short film from Waterhouse Films that centers on a man who suffers from a sleeping problem: recurring events of sleep paralysis, with different creatures each night. The film features a creepy shadow man entity, which we can see slip past the main character’s point of view.
In only a few minutes, we see why he fears sleep and why he keeps himself awake as long as he can—just to avoid the frightening monsters that terrorize his sleep.
The best part is the scene where the shadow man enters his room and crawls into bed. The sound of his heart pumping faster as he catches his every breath is something all sleep paralysis victims relate to.