Directed by: #AnnaPanova
We have all had nightmares, ranging from childish to terrifying, and for some, the nightmares don't seem to end when we wake up. Epiales, named from the Greek personified spirit of nightmares examines the experiences of sleep paralysis and “encounters” with shadowy figures. Director Anna Panova treats the theory behind the sleep paralysis demons with respect and insight with two interviews, one of a photographer Christopher Clay having these nightmares and one with an expert Ryan Hurd explaining possible origins for the condition. Panova does not have these two subjects interact, Epiales operates as a portrait documentary of two viewpoints rather than an in-depth examination of Clay’s ailment.
There lies the fault with Epiales, while Panova, a student filmmaker who is likely following project guidelines, she can’t make the short runtime leave a strong impact. The audience learns of sleep paralysis, its subconscious and spiritual connections as well as techniques to potential ward off these incidents. It lacks a personal touch, both subjects speak of the subject matter but we don’t experience it, not that the audience is suffering from a lack of faith. No sense of terror, or helplessness from Panova’s storytelling just cultural contexts with references to Greek myth and horror literature. Though Panova and camera operator Serena Smith deliver some amiable cinematography with B-roll recreations of sleep paralysis imagery. Along with landscape nature shots, giving an almost gothic feel from the tree lines.
It is an interesting subject portrayed in an uninteresting approach, it doesn’t need to be The Exorcist but it does need depth. It’s a film wanting to explore the machinations of an individuals subconscious and why it would manifest into a waking terror. Yet the imagery is a majority of talking-head interviews and cutaways to books and nature. Panova’s direction allows both Hurd’s and Clay’s stories to guide the film but she doesn’t do anything to expand into her own voice and make this film her own. Even with Christopher Clay’s contributions, Epiales lacks an emotional connection, the audience can retain this information but that’s about it.