Sleep No More Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by RLJE Films

Sleep No More Poster

Directed by Phillip Guzman
Written by Jason Murphy
2018, 91 minutes, Not Rated
Release on October 2nd, 2018

Starring:
Keli Price as Joe
Brea Grant as Frannie
Stephen Ellis as Dale
Christine Dwyer as Holly
Yasmine Aker as Dr. Whatley

Sleep No More 01 Sleep No More 02

Review:

There are very few aspects of the human condition that are as analyzed and studied as sleep. It’s a precious commodity that you literally cannot be deprived of for long without suffering some terrible side effects. Sleep is where the best healing takes place, mentally and physically. What if you could go without it for long enough to awaken a new stage of evolution, though? Would you? Should you? That’s the question director Phillip Guzman (Dead Awake) tackles in Sleep No More.

Dr. Whatley (Yasmine Aker, 12 Strong) is leading a groundbreaking experiment in sleep deprivation/elimination using a new drug called Cogniphan. The aim of the study is “cure sleep” and open a new stage of human evolution, one that sees human beings increasing mental capacity and productivity. Her subjects are a group of graduate students- Joe (Keli Price, The Sound of Magic), Frannie (Brea Grant, Dead Night), Dale (Stephen Ellis, Delivery Man), and Holly (Christine Dwyer, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert). Their goal is to stay awake 200 hours, thereby reaching the point of lucidity and a new awakening. Unfortunately, they’re all seeing terrifying apparitions as the threshold approaches. What have they tapped into?

By now, virtually everyone has seen the infamous Russian Sleep Experiment Creepypasta that’s been circulating the internet for a few years. Clearly there is some inspiration here, but the homage aspect of Sleep No More is much more in the vein of the classic 1990 thriller, Flatliners. These are grad students going off the reservation and conducting a clandestine experiment with potentially mind-altering and/or lethal results. There’s a relationship between the doc and the male lead. There’s a quirky comic-relief guy – you get the idea. The beats are very similar without being any kind of ripoff. If anything, it’s a more fitting (and obviously horror-centric) companion piece than the awful 2017 remake.

Sleep No More 03 Sleep No More 04

While the premise may not be the most stunningly original thing ever captured by a camera lens, the reason behind the horrors and the explanation thereof is unique. The creatures that everyone is seeing are not hallucinations but pissed off beings that don’t appreciate being deprived of their food source – your dreams! That’s right…they’ve always been with us in a symbiotic relationship that Dr. Whatley’s ill-fated experiment is screwing up. It’s a cleverly written and constructed premise that (to the best of my knowledge, anyways) hasn’t been used before.

The message is simple and timeless, though: human beings aren’t meant to meddle in certain areas, and maybe science isn’t meant to unlock every mystery.

The visuals are tight and claustrophobic, with most of the action taking place indoors in a centrally located space. The score is something of an entity of its own, at times reminiscent of The Thing, broken by interludes of well known ‘80s pop. The creatures produce plenty of auditory tricks of their own. Sleep No More is made for a true surround sound experience.

The look of the creatures is a bit vanilla, a CGI creation of inky black smoke and fiery skull countenance. Something a little more practical would have been the icing on the cake from an SFX standpoint. There are, however, a couple of moments of excellent gore that work on a visceral level. At least it wasn’t all CGI.

Sleep No More is an ambitious horror-thriller that pays homage to an underutilized sub-genre in effective fashion while leaving a runner or two on base, despite all-around excellent performances from a young cast. It’s still worth losing some sleep over.

Sleep No More 05 Sleep No More 06

Grades:

Movie: Threeandahalfstars Sleep No More Cover
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About The Author
Stuart Monroe
Staff Writer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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