Phillip Guzman is exploring the many negative aspects of resting with sleep paralysis flick Dead Awake in 2016, and now the recent RLJE Films release, Sleep No More, which showcases the cartwheels your brain goes through after extreme loss of sleep. When I finished my viewing of Sleep No More yesterday afternoon, I was going to comment that Dead Awake is more effective than Sleep No More. And, for arguments sake, I should clarify that the two films aren’t related except for their shared theme of sleep. However, Sleep No More is its own vehicle and carves out its own nightmare, resulting in a film that mixes aspects from Flatliners, Fear of the Dark and A Nightmare on Elm Street. It somehow cohesively jumps between genres, horror and scifi, and delivers a claustrophobic, creepy and harrowing look into how easy we can be broken psychologically. Based on the screenplay by Jason Murphy, Sleep No More follows five graduate students trying to prove their theory that once a person passes 200 hours without sleep, they’ll never need to sleep again. After their original test subject mysteriously commits suicide, the students decide to use themselves as guinea pigs, but as the hours stick by and they fight to stay awake, it becomes apparent they might be fighting something else, too. Is their unsettling experiences – violent impulses and hallucinations – the work of a tired brain, or is a dark force lurking in their dorms at night, feeding on them like a leech?
Produced by James LaMarr and co-produced by LeeLee Wellberg with executive producers Jeffrey Reddick (Final Destination) & Shari Moss, Sleep No More stars Keli Price (“Side Effects”), Lukas Gage (Assassination Nation), Yasmine Aker (12 Strong), Brea Brant (“The Arrangement”), Stephen Ellis (“You’re the Worst”), Christine Dwyer (“Jesus Christ Superstar”), James Hoare and Emily Hart. Shot under Incendiary Features in association with Arcanum Pictures, Sleep No More is currently available on VOD, digital HD and DVD courtesy of RLJE Films. Sleep No More is suspenseful and surprisingly gory, but it’s also somewhat based in reality. Look, I need sleep. I don’t think I can go twelve hours without a tiny nap. So, it makes sense that the students would go through a complete character shift and psychological breakdown during their journey. It’s statistically proven that sleep helps us deal with emotions, fatigue and a string of other physical aspects, and depriving ourselves of that leads to disastrous consequences. This is painted quite clearly in Sleep No More, from the suicide and self harm, to the crazy picture drawing skills, the moodiness, the violence and the hallucinations. Without sleep, we’re vulnerable prey to ourselves…and anyone out there wishing to capitalize on our weakness.
That’s where the demon comes into play in Sleep No More. As the tension grows, the students start witnessing the apparition of a ghostly figure. Eventually, they deduce that it’s a demon – whose name escapes me right now – who feeds off of your dreams. Without people around to dream, the demon seeks bloody vengeance. This, however, could also be a mass hallucination. Subliminal advertising, if you will. If all the students are so sleep deprived and psychologically drained, it wouldn’t be too hard for them to be susceptible to mass hysteria. If one student “sees” the demon, it wouldn’t be hard for that seed to be planted in another student’s head, so they’ll eventually see the same thing. While the demon makes frequent appearances in the latter half of Sleep No More, I’m not sure if it’s a real villain or just a figment of their imagination. Normally, I’d appreciate an open ended film, but since the demon in Dead Awake was very much alive, I’d like to know the answer here, too. Whether it was a manifestation of their own self-destructive nature or an evil entity, I enjoyed the villain none the less. It only added to the complexity lying behind the lines of the Sleep No More script.
How far would you go to prove your thesis? Is risking your life, or the lives of others, worth having your work published? Are human experiments a moral dilemma? Heartless, yes, but also completely legal. This, again, adds to the realism hidden in the horror of Sleep No More. And it was an overall high quality production. The slower moments were filled with character breakdowns and the “attack” sequences were bizarre. I loved Sleep No More as the disturbing confessional that it was, but I would have enjoyed a little more horror and a little more explanation at the end. A worthy addition to your digital library, and a different kind of fun for the Halloween season, you can find Sleep No More on home media now! Final Score: 7.5 out of 10.