• Director: Kjersti Helen Rasmussen
  • Writer: Kjersti Helen Rasmussen
  • Stars: Eili Harboe, Herman Tømmeraas, Dennis Storhøi, Siri Black Ndiaye


One of the most exciting things about the horror genre is the way it always mirrors society’s fears and anxieties. As women around the world keep having fundamental rights taken away, especially in regard to reproductive rights, there has been a surge of books and movies grappling with this very real fear.

Writer/director Kjersti Helen Rasmussen’s feature length debut, Nightmare, utilizes the demon mythology of the Mare to explore what it means for someone to no longer have autonomy over their own body.

Starring Eili Harboe as Mona and Herman Tømmeraas as Robby, they have just moved into a new apartment that Mona will begin refurbishing while Robby goes to work. As Mona peels off layers of wallpaper, she also begins to suffer from nightmares, sleepwalking and even self-harming while sleeping.

Nightmare is a bit of a mashup of various horror tropes and while Rasmussen successfully creates an atmosphere of claustrophobia and paranoia, it is still impossible to not be distracted by the Rosemary’s Baby and Nightmare on Elm Street of it all. Living in the same building as Mona is the sleep specialist who will try to help her learn how to conquer the Mare in her dreams. As her boyfriend and friends consistently treat Mona like a hysterical woman, she begins to take this journey on by herself and there are a lot of interesting ideas at work here.

The Mare, a demon who walks on your chest while you sleep and is often a part of sleep paralysis, is trying to impregnate Mona so he can be born into the world, but Mona is not a woman who wants to be pregnant, nor is she a woman who is interested in what other people think she should be doing. As she navigates a world where doctors, friends, and even her boyfriend consistently try to tell her what she should be doing with her body, she suffers a myriad of physical, mental, and emotional maladies. There is also a side story involving the building that she lives in and a history of pregnant women dying that, coupled with the mythology of the Mare, could have been more interesting than just, ultimately, watching a woman learn to advocate for herself and become more and more exhausted as she does it.

A bit too self-serious for its own good, Nightmare raises interesting questions, but gets distracted by the science and mystery of sleep and favors a social message over the fun supernatural elements that could have been far more entertaining.

Available now on Shudder

Lisa Fremont

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