Sleep Paralysis in “The Nightmare” (2015)

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The Nightmare (2015)

Director: Rodney Ascher

Starring: Yatoya Toy, Siegfried Peters, Steven Yvette, Age Wilson, Elise Robson, Nicole Bosworth

Guys. I  have a lot of thoughts about this documentary, but I’ll keep this review short. As someone who battled sleep paralysis daily for 19 years, I had high hopes and expected The Nightmare (2015) to shed new information about the misunderstood sleep condition. Instead, I got weak re-enactments of the documentary subjects’ hallucinations and zero scientific clarification about sleep paralysis. There’s literally one sentence in the opening credits explaining what sleep paralysis is, and then discordant montages of “alien abductions,” “demonic possessions,” “Shadowman,” and other paranoid conspiracy theories linking sleep paralysis with the paranormal.

To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. So let me break it down for you without scare tactics.

What is sleep paralysis? In a nutshell, it’s a physiological disorder that happens during the REM sleep cycle when the sufferer awakens while the body is still immobilized from sleep. The dream continues to play outside their mind while they are paralyzed and aware. This can be a very frightening experience and can sometimes leads to panic attacks, hallucinations, and anxiety. Every person with sleep paralysis experiences their own unique cocktail of symptoms, but ones most people share are:

1. Full-body paralysis–unable to open or close eyes, sit up, or open mouth to call for help

2. Buzzing, banging, and other auditory hallucinations (some people hear screams or disembodied voices)

3. Heavy feeling weighing down the chest (can feel like being smothered or forcibly restrained)

4. Sensing an outside “presence” hovering above or near the body

If you’re like me, you also get crazy, intense hallucinations and temporary amnesia. I used to wake up each morning not even remembering what my name was. Panic attacks and night terrors haunted me almost every night, and as a child I slept in bathtubs at sleepovers, hid inside kitchen sink cabinets, and laid awake for hours, to the point of exhaustion, just to avoid falling asleep. I found no relief until starting relaxation therapy with a professional therapist.

It is tempting to link sleep paralysis with demons, alien abductions, and other paranormal phenomena, but I assure you, sleep paralysis is a medical condition and can and SHOULD be treated. I only wish the filmmakers had taken a scientific approach instead of misleading people.

If I were to judge this documentary for its entertainment value, it’d still get a lackluster grade. I’m afraid I can’t recommend The Nightmare (2015) to anyone who actually has sleep paralysis. It is triggering. Make time to “cool down” after watching the film (if you choose to watch it at all!) For everyone else, meh, if you like cheesy re-enactments with unconvincing graphics, this documentary is chocked full of them. Giving this one a “D.”

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The “Teeth” in her vagina should bite harder!

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[Trigger Warning: Rape]

Writer/Director: Mitchell Lichtenstein

Starring: Jess Weixler, Hale Appleman, John Hensley 

It took me four years to watch Teeth (2007). My husband refused to watch it. In fact he didn’t even want to be in the same room if it was on, which left a very small window for me to sit down and enjoy the film in its entirety without interruption. The movie has a lot of concepts that I really like (ahem, like the cave sex scene that freaked out my husband) but ultimately fails to push beyond its severed penis gags to discuss rape and violence against women with any seriousness. But I admit to cheering with misandrist glee after each killing. This movie seems to strike a nerve with male viewers and its easy to see why. Trailer below.

[!!!!] This post will talk frankly about rape–if you’re sensitive to that please tune out now [!!!!]

The story follows Dawn, a high school girl, who loves Jesus and wants to maintain her virginity until marriage. She meets another boy from her high school abstinence club, however when they go on their first date he ignores her wishes to wait and rapes her. Dawn discovers her vagina can bite off men’s penises. And so the reverse-gendered horror and hilarity begins.

Dawn is raped/molested a lot in this movie. Like…a lot. She’s raped by every major male character, including her stepbrother. Even the “hero” drugs her, waits until she’s unconscious, and proceeds to have sex  while she is unable to consent. But Dawn is able to defend herself by biting off her rapists’ penises. The moral of the movie (I think?) is not to rape women. Is it scary? No. But it does challenge views about sex and women’s roles in horror films.

Let’s face it. Most horror movies are marketed towards men and their sexual frustrations. The monster/killer/bad guy is almost always male, violent, and harbors a special bloodlust for female victims. The female character always has the bloodiest death, usually after just engaging in sex or equally provocative act. Erotica and horror are a potent, powerful mix, which is why it so happens to be my favorite sub-genre of horror.

Horror movies are a safe way sexual people can vicariously relieve ourselves. I get it. You get it. We all like the violence in horror movies. But that’s precisely why Teeth is so great! For once the female character isn’t tripping over her own breasts or waiting to be rescued. Dawn rescues herself.

What peeeved me most about Teeth is that it didn’t go far enough. It’s hard to call Dawn an “empowered” character when she is raped and molested throughout the entire film. Not once is she in control of her sexual choices, her rapist is.

Teeth is still a movie for and by men, but I think women might enjoy this movie for its attempt to reverse gender politics. Four years was worth the wait. Giving this one an A and also adding it to my collection.

African American Tarot

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http://i74.photobucket.com/albums/i250/bubblensqueak_logos/Squidoo/DSCF0002-10.jpg

I have several tarot decks but I haven’t reviewed any of them. Today I’m pulling out my newest  set, African American Tarot by Lo Scarabeo. Lord knows, I searched low and high for a tarot deck that didn’t have the generic white, European characters on them! I saw a few decks that depicted “ethnic” characters/themes, but the artwork was hideous and I don’t accept that having brown characters means I have to compromise on quality. No, honey, not this one. White folks have been whitewashing the trade since…well…colonialism. But that’s another rant for another post. Just walk into your local occult shop or hoodoo shop (haha, don’t get me started!) and count how many people of color you see. Chances are, not many.

So I searched for a beautiful tarot deck with lush, detailed pictures like the Euro-centric ones in my collection. It wasn’t easy. There were a few that caught my eye, but I’ll only review  the deck my boyfriend surprised me with. I like obscure and or rare tarot decks, and I was not disappointed by African American Tarot. Illustrations are by Thomas Davis and Jamal R. is the writer.

The African American Tarot has nothing to do with “African Americans,” like advertised.  It’s more like generic tribal with afro-centric imagery. Lots of zebras, elephants, lions, and muscle-y men in loincloths and elaborate headdresses. I don’t mind all this, but there’s nothing “American” about what I just described, either. I was hoping for a more…um…”modern” approach, but whatevs. At least I have a deck with characters that (sorta) look like me! Historical black figures grace the foreground on some of the cards. 2 of Chalices has Jean Baptiste Du Sable and 5 of Pentacles features Sojourner Truth.

The minor and major arcana are based on traditional Rider-Waite themes. Like most tarot decks, there’s a booklet included with notes from the author. He infuses African-based folklore and deities into the descriptions and does not limit his scope to just one African religion/region. But I appreciate his broad approach. I don’t know what Sojourner Truth has to do with the 5 of Pentacles, but I’m happy she’s there, haha. Disjointed? Yes. But I’m willing to forget all that because the artwork is so well-done! The images are interpretive and I feel a visceral connection to them. Some of the images are odd, like the 2 of Wands, which depict a ghostlike man screaming in agony while a man rides on a bull above a baby in a crib. Um…yeah.

My favorite card (in any deck) is the Queen of Swords and so I always look to her first before making up my mind about the rest of the deck. In the African American Tarot, she is personified by Yemaja, who also just  happens to be my favorite Goddess. All in all, I like this deck. It’s not my favorite of all time, but I do look forward to using it when I am in the mood for an intuitive and less structured experience.