September 27, 2018 Sleep No More (Movie Review)
Could you forego sleep for 200 hours in the name of science? And, if you managed this feat, what would be the price for your success? Consider this and then check out the newest Horror offering Sleep No More, which arrives to VOD, Digital and DVD on Tuesday, October 2, 2018, thanks to RLJE Films.
In 1986, at the non-descript St. Martin University, a group of four graduate psychology students are dabbling in a potentially life-altering study on sleep deprivation. The central core of Dr. Ella Whatley’s (Yasmine Aker: Grey’s Anatomy series, 12 Strong 2018) research involves searching for a “cure” for sleep. Yes, you read that right: a cure for sleep! With the newly-synthesized drug Cogniphan, Whatley and her students seek to treat sleep as an illness that can one day be eradicated. The implications here are astounding, mind-altering: from an improved workplace productivity to making better soldiers to giving everyone 1/3 of their lives back.
Despite the tragic outcome of initial research utilizing undergraduate volunteers – such as the now-deceased Carter (Lukas Gage: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse 2015, Assassination Nation 2018) – and Dr. Whatley’s indefinite suspension, the team opts to skirt traditional protocol and go off-kilter with their study, making themselves the guinea pigs. The team is a fierce foursome, consisting of de factor leader Joe (Keli Price: The Naked Brothers Band series, One Fall 2016); a geekette with massive glasses, Frannie (Brea Grant: Dexter series, Dead Night 2018); resident dork and self-chosen control subject, Dale (Stephen Ellis: Delivery Man 2013, Hail, Caesar! 2016); and pink-haired Holly (Christine Dwyer: Drop Dead Drunk 2008, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert TV movie 2018).
Going into the experiment, the foursome understand that they are likely to experience all the hallmarks of sleep deprivation – from visual and auditory hallucinations to irritability, to hand-eye coordination issues and beyond – long before they hit their goal, the “lucidity point” at 200 hours (just over 8 days) of sleeplessness. Unfortunately, none of them have bargained for the horrors that lie ahead, circling them like a shark scenting its prey.
Clocking in at 91 minutes in-length, Sleep No More – which was initially entitled 200 Hours – was directed by Phillip Guzman (2:22 2008, Dead Awake 2016) and written by Jason Murphy (The League of Extremely Ordinary Gentlemen short 2017). Billed as Horror, Sleep No More reads like a Horror-Thriller with some Sci-Fi elements, in the vein of and quite similar in many ways to 1990’s brilliant Flatliners. Here, as in the aforementioned film, a group of grad students decide to do their own medical research and everything goes completely awry.
Also billed as a film set in the ‘80s, Sleep No More has a definite nod to that magical decade, though it doesn’t feel as truly authentic as recent, totally tubular ‘80s flicks such as Summer of 84 or even 2017’s It. In these two films, there’s an attention to detail throughout the film – from wardrobe to script, to props, to music – that creates what feels like an authentic nostalgic experience. Here, yes, there’s the inclusion of some ridiculous clothing (particularly Dale’s heinous tie-dyed pants), as well as songs from Duran Duran (“Hungry Like the Wolf”), Bananarama (“Cruel Summer”), Pet Shop Boys (“Two Divided By Zero”), and a cover of Falco’s “Der Kommissar,” but none of it amounts to an overall 1980s vibe. Sleep No More feels like it was set in the past, sure, but it’s not an entirely gnarly ‘80s ride.
With that out of the way, there’s no reason not to see Sleep No More. It’s an enjoyable film – no matter the decade – that puts its own spin on the idea of self-authored scientific research gone horribly wrong. Our fierce group of four quickly devolve, much in thanks to a mysterious, ominously dark outside force. The end result is a film splashed in an ample amount of blood, with a truly gruesome ending, that while not particularly scary and not even especially creepy, certainly has an intensity to many of its scenes.
This comes much in thanks to the film’s stellar cast who all do a splendid job portraying their characters and the complicated symptoms of sleep deprivation. As the group’s leader, Price (as Joe) does a fabulous job of anchoring the entire production as he more than adequately brings to life a young man suffering under the haunting symptoms of having been wide awake for nearing on 200 hours. What’s particularly amusing is that, the longer he is awake, it seems the bigger Price’s hair gets – but that’s neither here nor hair to the plot. As the somewhat dorky Dale, Ellis does a phenomenal job of making the myriad of ridiculous faces that one would expect from a sleep deprived student. With his mouth often gaping wide and his eyes as big as saucers, Ellis portrays his serious character with a gentle light-heartedness that promises that he is brilliant in a comedic setting.
The ladies are equally talented, though Dwyer’s Holly is not given quite as much development as some of the other characters. She is initially bold and sassy but seems to slowly devolve as the sleeplessness takes its hold. Aker’s Ella is initially likable, and wholly believable as a researcher, with a poise and sophistication that makes her acting work beautifully in the role. Grant’s Frannie is one of the more well-rounded female characters, cautiously optimistic about their research but eventually wishing to tap-out long before her 200 hours have come to pass. It’s a compliment to Grant’s acting talents that, with a bad wig, some massive tortoiseshell glasses and a huge change in character portrayal, she is hardly recognizable from her recent starring role in the Slasher Dead Night; she makes the transition from axe-wielding momma to research student brilliantly.
To put it simply, Sleep No More takes a fairly banal concept but manages to inject a zest into the mix that amounts in a unique, enjoyable watch. Much in thanks to its wonderful cast of characters and some magnificently tasteful CGI, this is a tale with some intense moments that is definitely worth its run-time and a bag of microwave popcorn. Or, if you are feeling sassy, go with Jiffy Pop for a more authentic experience. Either way, prepare to experience something nightmarish despite being completely awake! For these reasons, CrypticRock give Sleep No More 4 of 5 stars.