SLEEP aka SCHLAF (2020) reviews of German sleep demon horror


Sleep is a 2020 German horror feature film about a sleep demon that threatens the inhabitants of a village. Original title: Schlaf

Directed by Michael Venus from a screenplay co-written with Thomas Friedrich, the movie stars Gro Swantje Kohlhof, Sandra Hüller, August Schmölzer and Marion Kracht.


The idyllic village of Stainbach is being haunted by a mysterious demon. It turns out that the nightmares of Marlene (Sandra Hüller) are responsible for the dark events. She is driving some of the inhabitants of the village insane during her terrible dreams. When she discovers her nightmares are about a real place, she tracks down the village of Stainbach to get to the bottom of the mystery. There, she learns about the consequence of her dreams and suffers a nervous breakdown.

Soon after, she is admitted to a psychiatric ward. Her daughter, Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof), journeys to Stainbach to find out the reason for her mother’s breakdown and the demonic nightmares she suffered from. She comes into contact with the peculiar villagers and discovers the dark history hidden within the quiet village. Perhaps the nightmare isn’t the demon that threatens the town after all, but rather – the past…


“Whoever else Michael Venus is, he’s someone who feels that too much of a good thing is a better thing: dreams, drugged schnapps, creepy pig-masked men in tuxedos, incubi, and revenge, revenge, revenge. That, it appears, is a dish best served with strobe lights flashing, meat tenderizer in hand, and a surprise knife to the neck.” 366 Weird Movies

Sleep is a complex beast which delves into folk horror and the demons of Germany’s past to create a starkly original art-house film. Michael Venus takes the audience to uncanny valley and into an existential nightmare. At times, it’s not easy to follow and it will require all your concentration to piece all the elements together.” Backstreet Mafia

“With haunting performances, and a sense of warmth created by friendship over family, and the strength of allies that permeate time, space and planes of existence, Sleep is a stunning tale of inherited trauma manifesting as nightmares and the work one has to do to conquer what cannot be physically escaped.” CGM Backlot

“There’s a lot to digest here and at times it feels as if Venus has added more ingredients than he really needs, then taken a little too long to bring it to the boil. Nevertheless, it’s a stylish attempt to address issues that remain taboo for many Germans. It invites us all to look directly at what lies in the unconscious, to address it there before it takes physical form.” Eye for Film

“From its urgent, tense opening scenes to its disturbing and vivid conclusion, Sleep is a vital slice of Lynchian dream-horror […] Venus’s film plays with these liminal states of consciousness and is often visually arresting, with repeated, terrifying images of flaming destruction and people in pig masks.” Sight & Sound


Schlaf premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival on 25th February 2020. It will be released in Germany on 29th October 2020.

Cast and characters:

Gro Swantje Kohlhof … Mona
Sandra Hüller … Marlene
August Schmölzer … Otto
Marion Kracht … Lore
Agata Buzek … Trude
Max Hubacher … Christoph
Martina Schöne-Radunski … Franzi
Katharina Behrens … Bille
Andreas Anke … Wolfram
Benjamin Heinrich … Junger Otto
Josefine Schäferhoff … Junge Lore
Samuel Weiss … Arzt
Stefan Böth … Uwe Fahle
Yun Huang … Alex
Bianca Riebow … Krankenschwester

Filming locations

Hamburg and Harz, Germany