DIRECTOR: Rick Bieber
WRITER: Rick Bieber
Charlbi Dean Kriek
Drea De Matteo
Jason Alan Smith
Shawn and Zach a young couple who move into the guest house on an estate owned by Mr. and Mrs. Marino. As the couple settles into their new home, some strange and bizarre events begin to happen. As the danger increases within their household. Zach starts to unearth memories from his past that threaten everyone around him. Is Zach losing his grip on reality and his sanity?
When I went into Don't Sleep. I was expecting a generic ghost story. The sort of run-of-the-mill film that I've seen a hundred times before. I honestly didn't expect much. The poster itself looked like the dozens of other ghost films that have been released over the years. I'm pretty sure that I've seen this poster with ghostly figures, prying at the body of a young woman at least three times just in the year 2017. To say that that this horror fan was worried was an understatement.
What actually got me interested in this movie was the cast. Cary Elwes from Twister, The Princess Bride, and Robin Hood: Men In Tights. Drea De Matteo from the great Sopranos, and Jill Hennessy who is most well known for Crossing Jordan and Law & Order. The casting was enough for me to think that they've signed on for something special. A story that might deliver something great and hopefully original. My fingers were crossed for this to produce the goods.
Don't Sleep's negatives sadly outweigh the positives. There are moments within the story that I think show promise. They just aren't executed very effectively here. I do see what they were trying to do with those psychological aspects of the story. I just don't think that they wrapped things up in a manner that made this story feel like it all came together cohesively. I found the ending to be a little underwhelming. I think that the ending will either make or break it for a lot of viewers.
The movie starts off pretty solidly. We witness a young boy who is in the middle of a nightmarish dream. We see what this boy conures by during his nightmares. We see old hags, angry old men, and evil ghost children. We witness a kid who is haunted by his dreams and nightmares, and as he grows older, these dreams start bleeding into reality. It's a great idea for a story. Sadly, what starts out as exciting descends into something entirely muddled, and that feels rushed.
The story itself sort of jumps back and forth between our main character Zach as a child and as an adult. We witness Zach in therapy as a kid. His therapist deserves to have his license revoked. The kid ends up undergoing shock treatment, which comes across as incredibly cruel to a kid. The problem here is that we never find out any of his past trauma. It's never explained. We are just shown a kid in therapy, and that's about it. So nothing makes any sense by the time the end rolls around.
There have been films that have successfully used their small budgets and were able to deliver something that looked far grander than their budgets would have you ever believe. I hate saying that a film may have looked better had the budget been more significant, but with the nightmare sequences, the ghost make-up, and death scenes may have fared better if the director had been given that chance. A lot of the horror sequences look incredibly low-budget compared to the rest of the movie. A bit more cash behind him, and it would've made the sequences look more like nightmare fuel.
One of the things that Don't Sleep gets right is the characters. I think that most of them are entirely likeable here, so when his nightmares start to manifest in the real world, you really don't want to see any of these people die. I liked our central couple and the neighbours that they rent their apartment from. So when the inevitable shit hits the fan and the death toll starts to ramp up, I was pretty sad to see characters fall victim to these supernatural entities. So we at least care for most of these folks, where a lot of horror movies lack that element.
Lastly, we come to the scares and gore. I think this film aims to disturb, but a lot of the sequences come across more like loud noises that intend to provide jump scares. I wouldn't say that Don't Sleep is scary by any means, but I'm sure non-horror folks would find maybe one or two frights in this movie. As for the gore. The movie doesn't have a lot of gore. I think some of the effects look a little cheap as well, but that falls back on the low budget.
DEATH TOLL: 5
BLOOD AND GORE:
- An old woman is seen eating a dead rat.
- A man is attacked and bitten by someone.
- A man is seen bleeding and tied up with a wire in a forest.
- A body is found hanging from a tree.
- A severed head is found in a bed.
- A little girl is seen eating a woman's stomach.
- A man hangs himself with a chain.
- A woman is seen having her head smashed against a wall.
- A man is dragged off down a hallway to his death.
Don't Sleep has some nugget of a good idea in there somewhere. Sadly, the past and the present don't come together in the end. We are left with a story that ends up with little to no explanation. We don't really find out why these nightmares begin bleeding into reality. I think the budget is also a massive constraint on a lot of the more horror elements. This one sadly missed the mark for me.