Devil in the Room

Enter a world between dream and reality, and learn about the science – and horror – of sleep paralysis

Carla MacKinnon

8 minutes

Devil in the Room

  • Have you ever woken from a deep sleep, totally lucid but unable to move? Devil in the Room explores this space between dream and reality, explaining the science and history behind sleep paralysis, a mystifying and often terrifying phenomenon in which dreams intrude upon waking life. Through evocative stop-motion animation and puppets, the film recreates these waking dreams, bringing vividly to life spiders that seem to crawl out from under the bed, and the feeling of a monstrous presence lurking just out of sight. Weaving together such personal experiences of sleep paralysis with scientific analysis of the phenomenon, this fantastical and probing documentary demolishes the boundaries between imagination and science, between dream and reality.

  • Director Biography:

    A filmmaker and interdisciplinary producer with a background in technology and education, Carla MacKinnon recently graduated from an Animation MA at the Royal College of Art in London. In 2009, she founded Rich Pickings, an occasional live event that brings together filmmakers with practitioners in science and the humanities with the aim of broadening perspectives. A particularly brutal spate of sleep paralysis prompted her to initiate the Sleep Paralysis Project and led to her making the short film Devil in the Room, which won the Best Documentary Prize at the Cineglobe International Film Festival at CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) in Geneva in March 2014.

  • Director: Carla MacKinnon
  • Producer: James Mullighan
  • Cinematographer: Alfred Thirolle, Hugh Gordon
  • Original Music: Dominc De Grande
  • Narrated by : Prof. Chris French

  • Running Time: 8 minutes
  • Language: English
  • Website:

Add your own review…

  • Pat

    I think we have to keep in mind that there is such a thing as psychic attack which has nothing to do with dreaming or sleep paralysis. Seek out a competent healer!

  • Amanda Finch

    Sleep paralysis has been a lifelong problem for me. In late childhood, I learned to rise up a level (finally) into an awareness of the experience. Despite the feeling of being permanently frozen, I came to know I would eventually wake up. Knowing that, I learned to manage the panic. Mostly. Only the episodes with restricted breathing cause any real anxiety. I’ve taught family members to wake me up if they hear the muffled screams.

  • David

    Stunning video. This has happened to me in the past but I’ve never had any issues with a presence in the room – just an inability to move and a real desire to scream (but unable to, of course.).

    It can be hugely scary the first time it happens but through education, with videos such as this, I think people are better able to understand the condition and live with it better.

  • Robert de Vos

    Nice (and scary!) animation … here in South Africa the “tokoloshe” is a small hairy creature who is intent on trouble-making. To avoid being bothered by him, local indigenous people would (and may still do) put their beds on bricks … why I’m not sure; perhaps making it too high for him to get on to the bed? Yes, that space between sleep and wakefulness allows for the confusion of perception between the senses, the imagination and underlying psychological conflicts.