Any Horror But This
ANDI is desperate to find a treatment for sleep paralysis, a condition that renders her unable to move and sends her horrifying hallucinations of the shadowman, who tries to press the life out of her. He can’t be real, she assures herself, but that doesn’t make his visits stop.
At the urging of her adoptive brother, NICK, she enrolls in an experimental sleep study, where she finds comfort in new friends who understand her fear, but suspects RAMONA, the lead researcher, is more interested in studying them than curing them. The medication they’re given has no name, and it’s difficult to sleep with dozens of electrodes attached to her head. At least, with individual soundproofed rooms, they are shielded from each other’s screams as the paralysis finally releases them each morning.
One of the other subjects in the study is intelligent and charming BRANDON. After discovering Andi’s profession as an art conservationist, Brandon hires Andi for the project of a lifetime: restoring Fuseli’s The Nightmare. Thrilled to get her hands on a centuries-old masterpiece, Andi is dismayed by signs that the painting has been altered with modern day paints. With the help of photographer Nick, Andi orders x-rays, determined to discover what lies hidden in the paint. As she uncovers more about the painting’s past, Andi discovers some dark history of Brandon’s childhood, including a comatose mother and abusive father.
Strained and exhausted from the stress of the clinic, Andi cuts herself badly while working on the painting. After getting stitches across the back of her hand, she asks Brandon for a ride back to her home so she can change from her bloody clothes. As they share their stories of hallucinations and how they cope with them, Andi makes the impulsive decision to share with Brandon what she’s never told another soul: her fear that the shadowman is trying to impregnate her. She knows this is impossible, but it is her greatest fear all the same.
As she struggles to balance day to day life with nights at the clinic, Andi is unaware that Brandon has his own version of the shadowman, one he believes is real, and is willing to kill to learn the shadowman’s true name. In search for his answers, he repeatedly drowns and resuscitates those in mourning, hoping to replicate a near death experience of his own, but so far all of his attempts have yielded nothing but bodies.
When Nick finds him to deliver x-rays of the painting, showing an echo of the very shadowman that haunts him, Nick becomes Brandon’s next victim, and when Andi reveals her true fears to Brandon, she becomes his next target.
That night at the clinic, Andi’s medication has changed and the resulting paralysis is the longest and most visceral she’s ever experienced. When Ramona discovers Andi’s dose had changed, she tries to account for the mistake, but is forced to disband the study. Brandon tries to discover more about Andi’s experience, but she avoids him, unwilling to relive the experience.
Devastated by the discovery of Nick’s body, Andi withdraws from work and friends in her grief and shock. Brandon kidnaps both Ramona and Andi and forces them at gunpoint to continue trials, using medication to induce longer and more intense episodes for Andi. Andi sees much in these trials, but cannot satisfy Brandon’s need for answers. Andi attempts to escape, but Brandon catches her and tries to drown her. In his preoccupation with Andi, Ramona is able to turn his own gun against him and ends his life.
As Andi buries and mourns Nick, she works with Ramona to reconcile her traumas, both real and in hallucination. Always curious, Ramona asks how close it came, in the fountain. “Close enough to hinge on a single breath,” Andi tells her. “But every moment is that close.”