Director Phillip Guzman, known for Dead Awake (2016) creates another sleep theme nightmarish tale set back in the 80s, originally entitled 200 Hours, rather than Sleep No More (which, sounds eerily similar the themes carried over from A Nightmare on Elm Street), released by RLJE Films. One aspect for not using the 200 Hours, likely avoid connection to the 127 Hours (2010) film and it sets a limit, although if used properly it works as a thriller movie more than a horror, following the rules of Alfred Hitchcock’s playbook suspense versus surprise. Regardless the movie, from screenwriter Jason Murphy, holds to a theory of achieving this threshold means one longer needs sleep aided by a drug, and of course to good doctors think of the intellectual benefits, while others clearly seek military benefits.
One thing that always bothers audiences is the simple little technical aspects, such that the 200 hours (8.3 days) nothing in the world of staying awake records. For example, a quick Google search finds the scientific record in 1964 without sleep achieved 264.4 hours; while Guinness World Records record is 449 hours. Therefore, a quick change to 500 Hours works, shows that the research went into creating the fictional story with some effort to comfort the viewers, remember it’s often the little things that make or break a movie.
The film opens with a student named Carter (Lukas Gage (Sickhouse ) a test subject, on an experimental drug, Dr. Whatley (Yasmine Aker) has been monitoring and administrating to resist sleep, his answers through an interview are vague. Later Carter walks in a zombie-like state to his dorm room, when he sees shadowy figures and he gouges out his eyes and slices open his throat. This dreadful accident causes the dear doctor’s experiment near shut down, as the school semester closes finish, the final opinion rendered at a later date. Dr. Whatley and her student Frannie (Brea Grant (Bad Apples ), Joe (Keli Price), Holly (Christine Dwyer), and Dale (Stephen Ellis) decide to roll the dice, staying to continue the experiment with the Cognifan (a made up drug name) on themselves, achieving the crucial mental state at 200 hours, by forgoing sleep thinking both mind and body perform better without it. Dale, selected as the control, attempts to stay awake for the 200 hours without the drug, while the rest take regular doses required. Joe, Holly and Frannie experience normal sleep deprivation symptoms, though begin seeing Carter’s monsters they independently draw what they saw and make startling connections. Joe sees this creature transform into his dead mother (Charlotte White), while Frannie sees the creature with a burning skull, nothing as speculator as in Ghost Rider (2007), along with whimpers of her beloved dog struck by a car. Lastly, Holly sees a burning face, and hears tormenting name-calling from her past. The students observed the creatures feeding on Dr. Whatley while she sleeps, they discovered the beasts had always been there feeding off our dreams, especially night terrors, it seems a tad like the children’s animation film Monsters, Inc. (2001). In fact, these creatures, as the viewers learn, need our dreams to survive hence this experiment threatens their existence, the film borrows from Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) namely the Dream Demon and a little bit from The Tingler (1959). However, none them nap and try to fend off the fiends as they deal hallucinations, paranoia and other fits of rage.
First, Guzman, made sure to nail the 80s feel from certain key elements, such as VHS machines, a Walkman, to the clothing and even the often-overlooked dialogue (certain words and culture references). Then extending to snippets of music from Duran Duran ‘Hungry Like a Wolf’ and Bananarama ‘Cruel Summer’ among others which this reviewer isn’t familiar with at all, this all amounts to great detail observed. However, the major downfall comes in the form of the creatures, so much more achieved if used practical creations found in the eighties rather than a CGI version which showed in a digital smoke and cloud, it just wastes everything done up to this point, even a shadow figure silhouetted in the background a lot better or even the monsters taking the identity of loved ones.
This movie seems to make references to numerous movies, from a few from A Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise, Monsters, Inc, The Tingler, and one can’t omit Flatliners (1990) which is a group of medical students trying to find what exists beyond death and complying their twisted research data. Sleep No More, might never achieve the status of Halloween scares, but also won’t lull you into restful nap.
IMDb Rating: 5.7/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.0/10