A group of graduate students unleash a deadly evil in Sleep No More, a 1980s-set horror movie that does a solid job of attempting to recapture the feel of such films from that decade as A Nightmare on Elm Street, with a dose of 1990’s Flatliners mixed in for good measure. Impressive performances and keen building of suspense are the highlights of this chiller.
Dr. Whatley (Yasmine Aker) supervises a team of graduate students in a study about sleep deprivation. They are trying to prove, using an experimental drug, that once humans reach 200 hours without sleep, it is possible to live without it altogether, and achieve a high level of mental alertness and clarity. When a student involved in the experiment gouges his own eye out, the university suspends the experiment, but Whatley and her charges elect to conduct clandestine human testing on themselves during summer break. They uncover a sinister force that seeks out the group members for deadly purposes.
Director Philip Guzman, working from a screenplay written by Jason Murphy, does a fine job of building suspense and creating an eerie, claustrophobic atmosphere. He also gives an authentic eighties vibe to the proceedings that feels real, without being overdone, and the soundtrack, which includes songs by Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys, and Bananarama, adds to that. Guzman is aided by a crackerjack ensemble cast that includes genre favorite Brea Grant (Beyond the Gates, Dead Night) and Stephen Ellis.
Sleep No More offers some interesting takes on science-gone-wrong and sleep-related terrors, but unfortunately falls short in its depiction of exactly what is pursuing the students. Without giving away spoilers, this reviewer will simply state that this aspect of the film may have come off a bit stronger had the film sported practical effects in keeping with its 1980s tone, rather than the CGI presented.
Overall, Sleep No More serves up intriguing concepts with an intense atmosphere, brought to cinematic life by a director skilled in suspenseful storytelling and an ensemble cast that features some fine talent.
Sleep No More, released by RLJE films, is now available on VOD, digital HD, and DVD in the U.S.A.
Joseph Perry is one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast (whenitwascool.com/up-hill-both-ways-podcast/) and Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast (decadesofhorror.com/category/classicera/).
He also writes for the retro pop culture website That’s Not Current (thatsnotcurrent.com), Diabolique Magazine (diaboliquemagazine.com), Gruesome Magazine (gruesomemagazine.com), Scream Magazine (screamhorrormag.com), Ghastly Grinning (ghastlygrinning.com), and several other print and online film critique and pop culture magazines.
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