Brian Krause and Jami Paige star in a familiar thriller, directed by Drew Gabreski, that seeks new angles.
Sometimes life has little coincidences: you suffer from sleep paralysis for a while, and years later you come across Rodney Ascher’s documentary The Nightmare, which finally helps in explaining all those sleepless nights, while showing that’s it’s not as uncommon as you think.
Fascinated, you even write up some personal thoughts on said film; and, only a few days later, you come across Be Afraid, which uses sleep paralysis as a horror device. If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear it’s stalking you.
Be Afraid starts out in pretty typical horror movie fashion: Doctor John Chambers (Brian Krause) movies his family – worried wife Heather (Jaimi Paige), college dropout older son Ben (Jared Abrahamson) and somewhat creepy ghost-seeing pre-teen Nathan (Michael Leone) – out to a small country town to start a new job. (Why characters in horror movies insist on living in the middle of nowhere surrounded by dark woods that look straight out of Camp Crystal Lake is one of those things you just have to accept). Pretty soon, he’s caught up in a mystery involving the deep-voiced town headcase (Kevin Grevioux) skulking around his property looking for his missing daughter, which might have something to do with the increasingly vivid nightmares he has every night.
Credit director Drew Gabreski and writer Gerald Nott for attempting to approach been there-done-that material from a fresh angle; they take one of the most out-there theories about sleep paralysis – that the hallucinations one goes through while in this state are actually a gateway to another dimension – and run with it, even if ultimately it doesn’t lead to anything particularly interesting.
After a slow build-up, it doesn’t go further than a series of jump scares and loud music cues, not too different from what Ascher did in his doco’s recreations, except that those were based on true accounts and were ten times more effective because of it. Gabreski even borrows the image of the Hatman seen in the previous film for use as a scare tactic.
With its brief runtime, this isn’t really a movie about characters, but Krause does what he can as the increasingly desperate family man – at the very least, his reactions feel genuine. Also good is Louis Herthum – who was excellent in his brief role in the recent Westworld TV series – as the town sheriff hiding a secret. Grevioux, meanwhile, is awful and should just stick to writing Underworld movies; thankfully, he has the decency to exit the film early. No such luck with Rescue Me’s Callie Thorne, who makes no effort whatsoever as yet another town crazy driving a pickup truck. Even in undemanding parts like these, the pair stick out like a sore thumb.
Be Afraid has an interesting hook – sleep paralysis is a very real phenomenon ripe with possibilities for a good horror movie – but it doesn’t do much with it other than the requisite “boo!” moments you’ve seen a million times before. The phenomenon itself doesn’t need these frills as it’s unsettling enough on its own. You’re better off sticking to The Nightmare or reading up on the subject matter if you’re looking for real chills.
Be Afraid will be released digitally and On Demand on 1 June, only in the U.S.