Nightmares aren’t pleasant and they can haunt you for days, but what if you weren’t the only one having these terrifying dreams?
Words: Colin Armstrong
You wake up screaming in the middle of the night, your heart is racing and you’re covered in a cold sweat. But it’s okay, you tell yourself, it was just a dream.
We’ve all been frightened by an unexplained creak in the middle of the night, looked anxiously at a creepy shadow and bolted upright after a nightmare, but what if your scary dreams were real?
The latest horror film out to cause sleepless nights is a little different. It doesn’t feature a monster or demonic entity; instead, the villain lives inside your mind and he visits you in your sleep.
Bringing a real-life terror to the screen, Be Afraid is, ironically, a dream come true for director Drew Gabreski, albeit not a pleasant one. Having been brought up on scary movies like Alien and The Thing from a very young age – perhaps a bit too young, he admits – Gabreski was fascinated with horror films and even wrote sequel scripts for his favourites when he was younger. But that’s not what inspired Be Afraid, which tells the story of a father that worries for the safety of his young boy who’s terrorised by a mysterious supernatural force.
“I had this series of a specific nightmare over a couple years about the Hat Man,” he explained.
“Every time I had this nightmare, he would get closer and closer to my house to the point where one night, he made it into my bedroom and literally stood over my bed.
“In the dream, he was watching me sleep and he was in my room, and when I woke up, he was standing there. I’ll never forget it. Of course, I did what all kids do. I freaked out and told my mom and dad there was a man in my room. They’re like, ‘Okay, whatever. It was a bad dream’.”
While watching scary movies might have instigated his frightening night terrors, the memories stuck with the filmmaker long in to adulthood.
Until one day, while surfing the internet, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up as he discovered he wasn’t the only one to have seen the Hat Man in his sleep.
Discovering that there are numerous accounts of people encountering the Hat Man in their sleep, the director was spurred on to create a new film and bring something that terrified him in his own life to the silver screen.
“I came to find out there’s this whole folklore behind him, and there are people – adults – who, going back as far as the 1940s, have drawn pictures of and spoken about this creepy character coming to visit them while they sleep,” Gabreski explained.
“I was sitting there reading this online and immediately just broke out in a sweat, because this is the nightmare I used to have as a kid.”
As his first feature film foray – Gabreski’s work has traditionally been sports documentaries and commercials – it remains to be seen whether the director can conquer the horror genre by tackling a childhood nightmare. But if anything, perhaps it will help him, and the thousands of others who’ve seen the Hat Man, conquer his own fears.
Starring: Brian Krause, Jaimi Paige, Louis Herthum and Jared Abrahamson
Running time: 100 min