'Paralys'

Vimeo is a fantastic resource for discovering indie short horror films, and their staff picks spotlight some of the website’s favorites. One that’s been receiving a lot of well-deserved attention recently is John Boisen and Björn Fävremark’s Paralys.

Sleep paralysis sounds like a sleeping disorder specifically dreamed up for a horror movie. Unfortunately, it’s all too real. A person will wake up and become conscious, but their body’s voluntary muscles will remain paralyzed in a state of antonia (which prevents your body from acting out your dreams).

As if waking up unable to move isn’t terrifying enough, there’s also the possibility of experiencing hallucinations. Everyone’s experiences are unique, but individuals often report sensing a malevolent presence in the room with them. Sufferers’ reports include seeing shadow people looming next to their bed, a demon sitting propped on their chest, and anything else disturbing enough for the human mind to conjure up.

Sleep paralysis has become a fascination of the horror community, given its frightening nature. The Nightmare is a recent horror documentary analyzing the sleeping disorder, complete with interviews and dramatizations. Paralys similarly is a marriage of horror film and dramatization that attempts to illustrate the horrific experience, and, boy, does it nail it.

The film opens with a young women, named Sara, talking on her phone about the crazy all-nighter she just had the previous evening. She lays down on her couch to watch a game show, and soon drifts off to sleep. A short time later, she’s roused awake, but something isn’t right. She’s unable to move, and the atmosphere in the room has noticeably become heavy and unsettling. That’s when things really start getting scary…

Paralys does a superb job as a suspenseful horror film, and at depicting the feeling of sleep paralysis. The short film takes on a surreal, dreamlike quality when she becomes conscious, and the intense build-up during Sara’s episode is excruciating. The game show host appears to be staring right at her eerily through the TV screen, while a malevolent entity descends upon her. It’s a situation no one would ever want to experience for themselves.