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Don’t Sleep Review

Don’t Sleep is a 2017 horror film about two young lovers who confront the horrors of a forgotten childhood after moving into a cottage together.

Dreams have long been a playground for spectres in horror films, the place a perfect breeding ground for the real to merge with fantasy. The genre is packed with titles that use sleep as a stepping stone to introduce demons, ghosts, and more, the trope so common it’s created an entire subgenre. The latest is Rick Bieber‘s Don’t Sleep, a curiously ambitious effort that supersedes its B-grade style with some unexpectedly effective moments in a film that dabbles in the psychological before devolving into a classic blend of clichés that eventually underwhelms.

Zach Bradford (Dominic Sherwood) is a young successful law student who, with his beautiful girlfriend Shawn (Charlbi Dean Kriek), rent a home from neighbors and kindly landlords Jo (Drea de Matteo) and Vincent (Alex Carter), who also take care of Jo’s elderly father (Alex Rocco). Zach grew up with a near debilitating case of night terrors where insatiable demons sought to ruin him, but through the care of Dr. Richard (Cary Elwes), overcomes his past. Now though, having his real dreams come true, things begin to take a strange twist as the visions return, they no longer confined to his dreams, and as he fears for his sanity, begins to explore his past to find some answers.

The larger problem with Don’t Sleep is its lack of innovation, clinging to the standards long played out in other movies like it. Doors mysteriously open, ghostly images pop up in windows and (on laptop screens) and all around are jump scares and musical jolts that populate the whole thing in the familiar. These all begin with Zach as a boy, but as an adult it has spread to others, where they fall under the terror of demons comes to roost. We get clues about a lonely fisherman/soldier during the Crusades who went insane after his wife was repeatedly attacked and raped in his absence, though the films isn’t all that interested in the origin more than its effects on the present. Bieber, who also wrote the screenplay, has some good ideas here and has plenty of potential at the start, but can’t overcome the obvious, playing into the safety of horror has-beens rather than taking us somewhere new.

On the other side of the coin, there’s not a bad performance from the cast, even if the script lingers in some mediocre dialogue here and there. Sherwood makes for a good lead and Kriek does well playing the obligatory troubled girlfriend with a twist, though Bieber can’t help but linger on her in states of non-nude undress that seem exploitive rather than necessary. There’s some compelling moments that do actually keep things ticking with some decent momentum that almost make this worth a look. Bieber looks to give it all a defining hook by coming full circle and going for a broader message at its end, and admittedly, it has some intrigue to it, though it veers hard left into a strange bend that for me, didn’t have the impact I’d hoped for. Don’t Sleep is rarely scary, more atmospheric that terrifying though die-hard genre fans will surely find good things to root for.

Don’t Sleep Review

Movie description: Don't Sleep is a 2017 horror film about two young lovers who confront the horrors of a forgotten childhood after moving into a cottage together.

Director(s): Rick Bieber

Actor(s): Cary Elwes, Drea de Matteo, Dominic Sherwood

Genre: Horror

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