The Sleep, originally titled The Sleep: Survival Horror (Part One), opens with the following message, “The director recommends that you watch this film as BIG as you can, as LOUDLY as you can, and in a dark room…”. That is followed by another message “WARNING This film contains true psychological terror… that can lodge in your mind without you knowing it… Some have likened this film to being a patient within an insane asylum. If you are mentally frail, we advise you to stop the movie immediately.” Sounds like someone is trying a bit too hard, doesn’t it?
After yet a third message about The Sleep being a work of fiction that could happen to anyone we finally get to the actual film. A news anchor talks about mass shootings followed by a commercial for Paxoloft, an anti-anxiety and depression medication. Then we’re thrust into a ham-handed “debate” on gun control with both sides taking extreme positions. I’m just six minutes in and I’m ready to turn it off.
It’s Halloween Eve and several friends including Stacy (Giselle Torres, Misfit, I Want You Back), Jack (Casey Leach, Pam & Tommy, Sodom & Gomorrah), and Brandon (Devin Rice) have gotten together for a party. However, it seems to have gone down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories instead.
Writer/director/star Devin Rice (Being Black Enough, A Demon’s Destiny: The Lone Warrior) runs us through a litany of conspiracies that doesn’t stop until everyone suddenly passes out only to wake up with weapons taped to their hands and a message, “Keep it on or die.” and the doors and windows boarded up. I guess The Illuminatti didn’t like what they were saying about them.
If The Sleep wasn’t already heavy-handed enough, the TV suddenly starts showing footage of experiments in brainwashing people to react violently to triggers by way of psychiatric meds prescribed for non-existent mental illnesses. Yes, it’s another conspiracy, and Lily (Samantha Jean, Beyond Skyline, Beneath the Black Veil) appears from the footage on the television to confuse us even more.
Now, properly done, this could be an enjoyably trippy film along the lines of Death Warmed Over and Strange Behaviour or a fight to the death like Triggered or Battle Royale. But that would have required The Sleep to show a bit of subtlety and talent. Instead, the house suddenly becomes the corridors of the asylum mentioned at the film’s beginning, and everyone runs around screaming at the top of their lungs. Not only are the characters screaming at each other but what appears to be their inner monologues are put on screen to make ludicrous facial expressions and scream about killing each other or themselves.
As The Sleep goes on it keeps going deeper down the rabbit hole but never even tries to make sense or give the audience a clue as to what’s going on. One of the men behind this experiment, The Superintendent (Chris Cleveland, Deadlock, Gasoline Alley) has a miniature henchman who wears a blank white mask. Why? Probably for the same reason, one of the weapons that gets handed out is a working magic wand.
Just to put the final nail into its coffin, The Sleep rambles on for a totally unnecessary hour and fifty-five minutes. Nearly half an hour of that is psychobabble about government experiments in mind control and psychic powers. And unlike The Pizzagate Massacre, which intelligently explored conspiracies and people’s belief in them, The Sleep seems to be one hundred percent serious about it all. To the point, I was expecting Alex Jones to turn up and start ranting about false flag attacks performed by gay frogs.
If Rice had used a lighter touch and explained a bit more of what was going on he could have had an enjoyable action/horror film along the lines of Scanners and The Mind’s Eye. That would have let him put his point out there and still been entertaining. Instead, The Sleep is a heavy-handed, headache-inducing mess.
The Sleep is available on Digital platforms. You might find something to help you understand what is going on on the film’s website or Facebook page, but I wouldn’t count on it. Indeed, given what the film has to say about social media it’s a bit hypocritical for it to have a Facebook presence at all. And if you wish to avoid The Sleep’s presence FilmTagger has some alternative suggestions.