Thursday, November 1, 2018

In short: Sleep No More (2018)

Warning: I’m going to spoil the film’s single (good) idea!

After a research project to “cure sleep” with some magical drug ends with the death of one of its subjects via eye mutilation and suicide, the medical – or pharmaceutical, the script neither tells nor has probably thought about it – researcher responsible (Yasmine Aker) convinces her grad students (Brea Grant, Keli Price, Stephen Ellis, and Christine Dwyer) to continue the experiment on a long weekend. After all, once they have reached 200 hours without sleep, they will reach a state of lucidity and will be feted as heroes of humanity everywhere, right? Of course, everyone involved quickly develops horrible hallucination, and starts to see a foggy CGI monster, while also suffering from various other psychological problems you might imagine to occur with drug-induced sleep deprivation.

There is, by the way, no connection to L.T.C. Rolt here, if you were asking yourself that. I rather enjoyed director Phillip Guzman’s previous film, Dead Awake, and I sort of dig the sleep themed horror thing he has going on, but the film at hand is pretty atrocious. It’s not so much Guzman’s direction – though the decision to show a CGI monster this crappy quite this often, as well as how the tonal shifts in the acting present don’t do the film any favours either and are certainly in the purview of the director’s job – but rather a script that gets basically nothing right apart from the cool, old school fantastika idea of dream-eating monsters living in symbiotic relationship with humanity until a couple of idiots decide to “cure sleep”.

The characterisation is broad and empty where depth and detail are needed for the story to have any effect on its viewers, and the tone shifts between awkward comedy and supposedly deadly serious horror at a moment’s notice. The actors seem to have been left without any guidance, so only Aker – who doesn’t have to go through these shifts – and eternal pro Grant actually seem to have any kind of grip on their respective characters. The rest of the cast wobbles and stumbles through the series of disconnected moments that goes for a plot here. The film’s basic problem is the complete absence of actual definition in characters and world, which is rather a heavy lack in a film all about horror based on the psychology and perceptions of its characters.

For some reason, this is also set in the 80s, so these aren’t just unconvincing characters, but also ones dressed up in “period” costumes who look exactly like that – costumed.

That Sleep No More’s idea of how medical research works, what a control group is and what it is there for, and so on, and so forth, has little base in even the most cursory research made by the writers seems to be par for the course for this sort of thing; that most of its deviations from reality – which make Flatliners look scientific – aren’t even useful in building drama, adds insult to injury.

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