Joshua Fraiman’s “The Man In the Shadows “was one of the more interesting films at Dances With Films, 2014.
Sleep Paralysis is a worldwide phenomenon, afflicting many people. The Internet is filled with reports; currently there is even a link to a “shadowman” captured on video.
Estimates of how many people experience sleep paralysis vary from 5 percent to 60 percent and many experience. Science explains this as a disconnect between body and mind. Becoming mentally aware before the body “wakes up” from its paralyzed state can be a terrifying experience. Frequently, these episodes are accompanied by hallucinations and the sensation of breathlessness, as well as the sense of intruders: shadow figures, malevolent watchers and the Man In the Hat.
The Old Testament is filled with stories of night terrors. In the Middle Ages, people were visited by demons and incubus. The word “nightmare” refers to the Scandinavian “mara”, a spirit sent to torment or suffocate sleepers.
Director Joshua Fraiman and writer Adam Tomlinson focus on that night terror in their horror film “The Man in the Shadows”.
Pregnant Rachel Darwin (Sarah Louise Jurgens, “Covert Affairs”) is visited with recurring nightmares. Held down, she’s giving birth attended by a menacing shadow figure, a man in a wide brimmed hat. Waking doesn’t help. The Hat Man is still in the room.
Rachel isn’t alone, researching online, she discovers a world she didn’t know existed, a world of night sufferers like herself, visited by watchers while they sleep.
She tells husband Scott (Nick Baillie, “The Dead Zone”), who assures her there is a scientific explanation. she’s suffering from Sleep paralysis. He’s sure fear of childbirth and stress from their marriage is bringing on the hallucinations
Rachel shares her experience in her Addicts Anonymous meeting, but only one member picks up on her story. William (played by actor/producer Adam Tomlinson, “Scare Tactics”.)
Intrigued to find another sufferer, she begins spending stolen moments with the creepy William.
William’s deep on the journey; his research has convinced him that multidimensional beings surround them all, creatures who devour human souls to survive.
Encouraged by William’s worldview Rachel begins drowning in her terrors. To Scott’s horror, she can no longer tell nightmare from reality. William is sure, with Rachel’s help, he can stop the Shadow figure.
As William and Rachel continue their grass roots paranormal investigation, freaked out Scott finds out about William, arriving at his place during their attempt to conquer the shadow invader.
The first two thirds of the movie balance creepiness and marital problems, but by the third act, we’re in full out horror mode, unleashing some wack scares.
Interestingly, Rodney Ascher (Room 237″) has also thrown his Man In The Hat into the ring with his hybrid horror-doc “The Nightmare.” Another horror flick, Matthew Arnold’s less successful 2013 “The Shadow People”, also covers this terrain.
Writer/co-star Adam Tomlinson clarified at the movie’s Dances with Films 2015 post-premiere Q&A that the film’s “inspired by true events” tagline consists of a personal experience. He saw a hat man and then discovered his nightmare sighting was a worldwide phenomenon. Forced into a mere 12-day production schedule, they cut at least a50% of the material written into the original draft.