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Directed by Rick Bieber
Written by Rick Bieber
Starring Cary Elwes, Dominic Sherwood, Drea de Matteo, Jill Hennessy, Alex Rocco, Marem Hassler, Andrew Caldwell, Alex Carter, Dash Williams, Charlbi Dean Kriek, Jason Alan Smith, Riley Lio, Sinclaire Schaefer, Muriel Minot, Ryan Cross, Joel McDonell
Find out more about this film here, @dontsleepmovie2017, and on Facebook here

A forgotten childhood comes back to haunt Zach (Dominic Sherwood) and his girlfriend Shawn (Charlbi Dean Kriek) when they move into his childhood home in DON’T SLEEP, a decent little thriller that utilizes the jump scare too much, but still manages to chill with some creepy imagery.

I don’t want to be too hard on “the jump scare.” It is a tool like everything else and when used nicely (see EXORCIST III: LEGION) it can make stuff squirt out of multiple orifices. Basically, the jump scare can be defined as a burst of both sound and imagery emerging suddenly from darkness/offscreen and silence, utilized to startle the viewer. Now, what infuriates most people and myself is the false jump scare which usually takes form of a cat jumping through a window or a friend grabbing someone’s shoulder from behind. It’s the type of fright that tricks you into thinking something bad is about to happen and then immediately, what is in the darkness comes to light and the threat is not there anymore. In a film that is full of tension, this is a fun way to get a giggle out of the audience so they can release some of that tension they’ve gleaned from the suspenseful situation. Still, as with anything, when overused, the jump scare can completely wreck a film.

Now, I don’t want to say this film is utterly decimated by the jump scare, but there are an awful lot of them in DON’T SLEEP. Revolving around sleep/dreams/and the weakened state we are in when our eyes are closed, DON’T SLEEP takes pages from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET from the mold of possession films like THE EXORCIST. While I feel the horrors in one’s dreams is a overplayed in horror, I rather liked the way the whole thing is fit into the realm of demon possession and those aspects are some of the most compelling parts of the movie. I think that’s because the relationship between Zach and Shawn is fleshed out pretty well with some solid acting from Sherwood and Kriek. Sherwood plays the tormented dude pretty well and Kriek plays the loving pixie who stands by her man convincingly. They play a couple worth rooting for. The film also features veteran actor Alex Rocco in his last role and while he is great here as always, he isn’t given much to do.

I do commend the film for actually delivering on the jump scares with some twisted imagery. While they aren’t false and do usually show glimpses of tortured and monstrous creatures, the music is what kills the suspense most of the time as it is too loud and overly dramatic throughout. Unfortunately, this underscores the effect of most of the film and even makes the creepy imagery less so. I’d recommend DON’T SLEEP because of the likable lead couple which provide a strong emotional core. The imagery is fun, though the creepy little kid in the hoodie (signifying Zach’s lost childhood memories) wavers from terrifying to goofy to scary depending on how long the camera lingers on him. If you’re looking for a low budgeter with some heart and some overly loud but effective moments of startlement, DON’T SLEEP is it.