While I’d seen the collections Todd Sheets (Bonehill Road, Final Caller) had contributed to, Hi-8 and Hi-Death for some reason I hadn’t gotten around to Sleepless Nights. That’s the anthology which he produced and directed the wraparound segment, The Unexpected Guest. After running through a pile of new releases figured this was as good a time as ever to check it out,
Sleepless Nights opens with the first instalment of our wraparound, we find a babysitter being told scary stories by the girl she’s watching on Halloween Eve. As she tells them, we see them played out.
“The House of Profane” from writer/director Brad Twigg (Milfs vs. Zombies, WrestleMassacre) is a fairly plotless Evil Dead style gorefest about a demonically haunted house. The mostly young cast run around and die quite enthusiastically making for a fun segment.
Next Up is “Divine Rituals”, a tale of exorcism that starts out serious before Jonnie Reed does a 180 and turns it into a comedy. I found this one to be a bit too silly but it benefits from appearances by Antwoine Steele (Catacombs, Dreaming Purple Neon) and Jack McCord (Xenophobia).
“Love Me in Pieces” from director Tony Masiello (Frames of Fear) and writer Matt Hill (Killer Campground) is something of as #MeToo moment as a roofie loving creep gets the tables turned on him. This one has a nice little epilogue as well.
Antwoine Steele returns to not only write and direct but resurrect his most famous character Durville Sweet in “It Hits the Fan”. In this blaxploitation zombie short Durville has to venture into a dimension filled with zombies and finds himself a Zombie Ho (Dilynn Fawn Harvey, Clownado, Backwoods Bubba).
Dilynn returns in “The Crawler”, a bloody tale about the perils of public toilets. Amanda Payton delivers a Cronenberg-inspired story of domestic violence, parasites and bloody mayhem. The title creature is a bit on the unconvincing side but the gore more than makes up for it. Ms. Harvey in a skimpy waitress’s outfit doesn’t hurt either.
Jeff Chitty’s “Night Drive” is a tale of karma in the form of road rage as a hit and run driver finds another car harassing him on a dark road.
The final segment, “Unnatural Attraction” sees a pedophile kidnap the wrong little girl. Wayne Whisenant gives us an entertaining if predictable final story. Antwoine Steele appears yet again with a cameo in this segment.
Back at the house, the Unexpected Guest has arrived, but he has a surprise coming as well.
Sleepless Nights was shot on a low budget, or several low budgets if you prefer. Several names in both behind and in front of the camera roles appear in the credits of multiple segments. While the love of filmmaking and horror definitely shows through, the results are a mixed bag.
At the one end, there are watchable but very average segments like the one-note Night Drive or the silly Divine Rituals. The latter does at least have an amusing solution for the problem of the persistent possessor.
At the other end, The House of Profane is a high energy short with plenty of gore and zombie-fighting. It’s a nice little tribute to Raimi’s film and gets Sleepless Nights off to a wild start. And The Crawler does a great job of building up the tension before letting the blood flow. It’s a genuinely excellent short with a great central performance by Dilynn Fawn Harvey.
Overall Sleepless Nights is a solid collection of stories, though at just under two hours it’s a little long. None of the stories are actually bad, but a few too many hover around average. Though considering most of them were made by filmmakers other than directors it could have been much worse.
Wild Eye Releasing has Sleepless Nights available to stream and on DVD. I caught it on Tubi, but it’s available elsewhere if you’d rather pay than put up with ads. The film’s Facebook page is here.