Don’t Sleep – USA, 2017

‘Some dreams should never be remembered’

Don’t Sleep is a 2017 paranormal horror film written, co-produced and directed by Rick Bieber (producer of Flatliners [1990]). The movie stars Dominic Sherwood, Drea de Matteo and Jill Hennessy.

Young lovers Shawn (Charlbi Dean Kriek) and Zach (Dominic Sherwood) find the perfect home to rent, with friendly couple Mr. and Mrs. Marino as their landlords.

Their future seems bright until Zach begins to experience nightmares of his hellish past. These memories, once erased by electroshock therapy, slowly return, causing Zach to question his sanity.

As he struggles with his psychosis, strange things start happening at the house. The threats become increasingly deadly and Zach must face the reality that the problem is no longer in his psychology.

Once the threat of psychotic behavior turns into the possibility of demonic possession, Zach is confronted with a horrific reality he never could before have imagined…

Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“Bieber never stops announcing his intentions to take on heavy subjects, whether it’s in the way that this characters baldly over-state their concerns without elaborating on them, or the way that his generic boogeymen antagonists allude to traumas without ever convincingly carrying them out. Dont Sleep could have been a great horror movie. Too bad a great topic does not necessarily make a great film.” Simon Abrams, RogerEbert.com

“But even with a solid cast at his disposal, Bieber can’t make Don’t Sleep anything more than a disconnected compendium of time-tested shock tactics. An opening epigraph from Nietzsche about loneliness and demons suggests a deeper character study that never materializes. Instead there’s just one familiar jolt after another.” Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times

“Bieber (The Fifth Quarter) isn’t a sharp horror mastermind, trying to get by on loud scoring by Andy Mendelson and louder sound effects, which try too hard to jolt viewers, making authentic scares few and far between in Don’t Sleep. It’s not a lazy directorial effort, as Bieber does invest in mood, hitting a few sweet spots of grim activity as Zach is confronted by his nightmare enemies, even pummeled by one during an attack inside his car.” Brian Orndorf, Blu-ray.com

“Rick Bieber – whose fingerprints are all over this movie as he wrote, directed, and produced it – has created a jumbled mess. Don’t Sleep does not have any redeemable qualities and the movie just spirals out of control as it progresses. The concept is convoluted and it is never really clear what the hell is going on or why. This all leads to an ending that somehow manages to be even more of a disappointment than everything that preceded it.” G.J. Sokolsky, Punch Drunk Critics

“Zach and Shawn see some scary things in cowls and Zach becomes (briefly) sexually aggressive, Shawn thinks she sees sweet Mr. Marino’s face turn demonic-looking, and Zach’s funny fat friend (every horror movie needs one) disappears—but he’s given to doing dumb stuff like that, so Zach barely notices. Shawn takes a steamy shower because, well, of course, she does.” Maitland McDonagh, Film Journal International

“Perhaps it is also partly due to the lackluster special effects, but the big climactic revelation does not land, falling somewhere between a face-palm and a head-scratch […] Don’t Sleep is not recommended per se, but it is the sort horror film indulgent fans might find themselves inadvertently defending for reasons that escape them.” Joe Bendel, J.B. Spins

“To say that plotting is not the film’s strong suit is putting it mildly. It has something to do with menacing hooded figures popping up periodically, looking not so much demonic as badly in need of dental work and acne medication. Zach also begins acting more than a little strangely, finally demonstrating that he’s truly possessed by a malevolent force when he and Shawn have sex and he takes her from behind, standing up.” Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

” …the final scene introduces a whole new level of silliness that has to be seen to be believed. Though not in itself an unusual narrative device, it’s pasted into this film like a sticking plaster over a gushing wound, and the effect is less horrific or romantic than unintentionally hilarious. Don’t Sleep is a film that works so hard to make an impression that it risks being remembered for all the wrong reasons.” Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film

Whatever Bieber’s gifts to the cinema as a producer — and his name was all over that abortion Radio Flyer — here, he’s working by formula, attempting straight exploitation. And he doesn’t have the knack. Don’t Sleep is heartless, fright-free and, yes — sleep-inducing.” Roger Moore, Movie Nation

“There’s some solid elements here for sure (a genuinely unpredictable endgame, some decent structural work, Sherwood‘s charisma and dedication to the role) but it isn’t enough to pull Don’t Sleep out of the ditch it finds itself in very early on. It’s frequently so underwhelming that it crosses over into being flat out boring.” Ryan Morris, Film Inquiry:

Main cast:

  • Dominic Sherwood
  • Cary Elwes – Ghost Light; A Haunting in Cawdor; Hansel and Gretel Get BakedSaw; Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  • Drea de Matteo
  • Jill Hennessy
  • Alex Rocco – Lady in White; Return to Horror High; The Entity
  • Andrew Caldwell
  • Alex Carter
  • Marem Hassler
  • Charlbi Dean Kriek
  • Dash Williams
  • Chloe Noelle
  • Jason Alan Smith
  • Riley Lio
  • Muriel Minot
  • Sinclaire Schaefer

Trivia:

The film was formerly known as The Other

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