While We Sleep (2021) Review
While We Sleep is the latest film from director Andrzej Sekula (Cube²: Hypercube, Fait Accompli). He’s best known as a cinematographer, having worked on Reservoir Dogs, American Psycho and Vacancy among other titles and hasn’t directed a feature since Pleasure Drivers back in 2006. I’m not sure what made him decide to direct again, but after watching the results I wish he’d thought twice about it.
After playing a macabre prank on everyone at her thirteenth birthday party Cora (Lyra Irene Gross) begins acting strangely. Her parents, Jennifer (Jacy King, Killer Island) and Derek (Brian Gross, Dream Killer) take her to the hospital to be checked out.
Nina (Darya Tregubova, Stranger, My Beloved Ghost) is shocked by the results of the CAT scan she performs on the girl. Suspecting Night Terrors she moves in with the family to observe Cora. What she finds is something a lot worse than a sleep disorder.
While We Sleep feels like a film that wasn’t sure of what it wanted to be. It starts out with a scene that made me think of The Omen for a moment, then tries to become a generic creepy kid film before turning into The Exorcist. Or more accurately, it becomes one of those cheap European knock-offs of The Exorcist. At least it doesn’t try to pass off its Ukrainian setting for the US.
Unfortunately, after the party scene very little happens besides Cora acting strange. And any attempt to create suspense as to why is ruined by two early shots of a shadowy CGI figure. We know a demon is involved, it’s just a matter of waiting for it to make itself known and actually do something. Most of the Exorcist rip-offs had something going on to keep the audience from falling asleep. Some blood, someone taking their clothes off, the possessed individual vomiting, swearing, etc. Most of the time Cora just silently mopes around, acting like an angsty teen girl, that’s only scary if you’re their parent.
When it finally does, While We Sleep trots out the same things we’ve already seen a hundred times before. There’s levitation, spider walking, talking in a deep voice and revealing secrets Cora would have no way of knowing. None of it gets more than a few minutes of screen time. Even the exorcism by Father Andrey (Oliver Trevena, Out of Death, The Reckoning), who looks so much like Jason Statham I expected him to try to beat the Devil out of the girl, is over in about five minutes. It’s all rushed through in order to tack on a twist ending. But by that point, it’s the audience who will be sleeping.
Overwhelmingly dull with almost nothing happening until the last few minutes, While We Sleep suffers from a script by star Brian Gross and Rich Ronat (Grand Isle) that spends too much time on talk and not enough on scares. I doubt the film could really have been saved, but if it had gotten to the point sooner and spent more time on the exorcism it might not have been such a disaster either.
While We Sleep is available on Digital and VOD platforms from VMI.