Nyctophobia Image


By Alan Ng | June 8, 2024

Anxiety is a condition we’ve all wrestled with, and certainly, film has covered it. Seayoon Jeong’s experimental feature explores a specific type of anxiety known as Nyctophobia…the fear of the dark.

Liz (Olivia Clair Nice) is a young woman who suffers from Nyctophobia. Sleeping with the lights on prevents her from getting the rest her body so desperately needs. As the film’s website explains, the condition “often leads to sleep-related issues such ​as insomnia and sleep paralysis, as well as physical ​and emotional symptoms, such as panic attacks, ​trouble breathing, chest pain, and dizziness.”

In Nyctophobia, we are placed in Liz’s pajamas as she attempts to exist in this realm that is between reality and dreams. In the beginning, we are lulled into a deceptively peaceful world as young Liz (Sophia Biscotti) walks through a serene forest. Yet, soon, Liz is ushered into her ongoing nightmare, taking us to a blockade of horrifying clowns.

Every attempt Liz makes to get past these clowns sends her into an even more nightmarish reality. In one, she is a jazz lounge singer performing to a less than hospitable crowd. In another, she is a rag doll controlled by a sinister force, and in another, she becomes a dancer from the 80s. As a schoolgirl, she is alone in a classroom of bloody mannequins.

“…placed in Liz’s pajamas as she attempts to exist in this realm that is between reality and dreams.”

Nyctophobia is the classic definition of experimental films. Filmmaker Jeong walks us not only through the stages of sleep but also presents imagery that hopes to connect us with Liz’s inability to fall into REM sleep and a reality where her body attempts to sleep. At the same time, her mind fights her every step of the way.

With the exception of some voice-over bookending the nightmare, Nyctophobia has very little dialogue. It reminds me of the old Disneyland ride, Adventures into Inner Space. Instead of shrinking us to the size of an atom, Jeong guides us through the stages of sleep, starting with the act of lying in bed and then transitioning into the realm of sleep. Here, Jeong uses a mix of practical and CG effects to show what the mind sees before dropping us into Liz’s wonderland.

Jeong then presents a series of elaborate set pieces, from the abovementioned classroom of mannequins to a wall of monitors with demon clowns on the other end. Mixed with the CG effects, Jeong creates on screen the nightmares that most of us have experienced over our lives. In Liz’s case, these nightmares happen every night. Along with the CG and practical effects, there’s an interesting ASMR session we’re thrust into.

Nyctophobia is an artistic creation. Like an artist, writer/director Jeong uses imagery to visually evoke emotions and ideas, aiming to connect with the audience. Despite the unusual concept, I never felt lost and understood the direction of this journey. Nyctophobia might not be everyone’s preference, but for fans of the experimental and the unusual, the experience is worth it… if you dare!

For screening information, visit the Nyctophobia official website.

Nyctophobia (2024)

Directed and Written: Seayoon Jeong

Starring: Olivia Clair Nice, Sophia Biscotti, Christopher Gilbert, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

Nyctophobia Image

"…guides us through the stages of sleep..."

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