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This Deceptively Creepy Short Film is Every Insomniac’s Best Nightmare

Sweet dreams.

Amazing short film about insomnia

I’m not ashamed to admit that I follow The New Yorker on Instagram. So what? I like to read! I like to pretend I’m high society! Sue me! Sometimes, their page will share short films that they’ve either helped produce or added to their short-films list, and while I’m always intrigued, I’ve never given any of them a watch—before Night of the Living Dread, that is. As a lifelong insomniac whose relationship with sleep is on-again, off-again, I’m a sucker for any form of media that’s sleep-related. That said, I feel like it’s rare that any piece of media really gets insomnia right, and that a lot of people make up what it’s like living with insomnia (you know, like when only children try to write sibling relationships and the results are very Uncanny-Valley-like).

But Night of the Living Dread is the first piece of media in recent memory that’s really, truly gotten it down—and with a deceptively spooky ambiance to boot! This short film took about a year to put together, with a team of highly creative people who managed to make its aesthetic look like a cross between early Tim Burton and later French stop-motion films (such as My Life as a Zucchini). It deliberately sucks you in under the pretense that this will be a psychological horror-type thing, as the lights go off in protagonist Ruby’s apartment and she’s forced to confront the spooks of the night. But what follows is a surprisingly introspective, amusing, and heartwarming dive into the mind of an insomniac who can’t seem to get out of her own shame spiraling.

If you’re also an insomniac, you’re probably familiar with shame spirals, oh, those nasty shame spirals. They’re the thing that happens when one bad thought gets stuck in your head, and then it just keeps on going, and going, and going. Maybe it’s a bad memory that you just can’t get past, or maybe it’s something you recently said that you still can’t help but cringe at. Ruby goes through it all. What starts as a few paranoid jumps at various bumps in the night becomes a full-on dive through Ruby’s memories, starting with an awkward miscommunication at work, and ending with that time she farted while someone was going down on her. In other words—YIKES, the horror!!!

But in the end, Ruby finds herself back in her apartment, confronted by these past selves, standing and waiting for her to say something to them. She is only able to move past her own self-hatred when she commits an act of verbal cruelty to her youngest self: Elementary-School Ruby, who got severely bullied after a presentation gone wrong. What follows is such a beautiful interaction, I don’t even want to spoil it–I think you should just see it for yourself.

Because what is insomnia but an act of self-torture? Whether it’s more of a physical thing for you, or more of a mental thing, it’s incredibly difficult to deal with, and oftentimes we end up pointing the blame towards ourselves, because what else are you gonna do in those dark hours when you’re all alone anyways? What Night of the Living Dread really succeeds at is presenting this through a lens of comedy, horror, and tenderness, all three of which are the most accurate responses to a sleepless night. It’s funny in hindsight, it’s terrifying in the moment, and ultimately, it can only be solved by being kind to yourself.

Yes, Ruby, you are “pretty cool.” Every version of you has been pretty cool, even the one that let her boob fall out while trying to get past a bouncer. In fact, that one is especially cool. And maybe one day, once you’ve finally gotten enough sleep, you’ll be able to see that, too. You can see the full film below, and it’s only 11 minutes. Happy Halloween, y’all, and pleasant dreams.

(Featured Image: The New Yorker)

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Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).