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THE SLEEP EXPERIMENT (2022)
Directed and written by John Farrelly.
Starring Rob James Capel, Will Murphy, Tom Kerrisk, Barry John Kinsella, Anthony Murphy, Owen Colgan, Sam McGovern, Rob Earley, Brian Moore, Rob McCarthy, Steven Jess, Paul Fitzgerald, James Penderville, Gwynne McElveen, Moya Farrelly, Rachel Walshe
Five inmates are chosen to do a sleep deprivation experiment for a secret scientific institution. If they make it through 30 days without sleeping, with the aid of a specific gas that prevents sleep, their prison stays will be shortened. The experiment was to be used for the military if proven to work. Left with enough food to eat, books to read, and a journal each to process their thoughts, the subjects find that staying away is a surefire way to go stark, raving bonkers.
THE SLEEP EXPERIMENT is a full length feature based on the popular creepypasta “The Russian Sleep Experiment” which I can assume most have already seen, but I will provide a link to the video below if you haven’t. It’s a fun, creepy bedtime story about a group of prisoners experimented on to see what happens to someone when they go too long without sleep. For a good long portion of THE SLEEP EXPERIMENT, the film follows the same format almost beat for beat, depicting the descent into madness of these five men as they struggle without sleep. The performances are strong and even though I didn’t recognize any of the actors, all of them seem like actors who will most likely go far after this movie. They depict the drama going on in that cell well, selling the isolation and chipping sanity every step of the way. The film does a good job of truncating what turns out to be around 15 days into about an hour and fifteen minutes without feeling like large gaps of the story has been leapt across in order to get to the dramatic, grueling, and violent end. For the most part, the segments in that locked room with those five inmates is tense, enthralling, and downright horrifying.
Unfortunately, THE SLEEP EXPERIMENT tries to be more than just the experiment and I think that’s where the whole thing goes sideways. THE SLEEP EXPERIMENT spends an awful lot of time answering questions that I, and I don’t think anyone, wanted to know the answers to. It sets itself up as some kind of mystery, but unfortunately, that mystery simply doesn’t live up to the real interesting part—that being what sleep deprivation does to someone. Instead, the film tries to venture down the avenue as to why someone would want to do this to a group of people. We know back in the day, scientists used to do some very callous and horrible experiments on innocent and unsuspecting people. That’s horrible, but it’s not some kind of revelation about the human condition that this thing occurred. This being set up as a horror movie about a descent into madness, paired with the film’s similarity to the Sleep Experiment CreepyPasta that most everyone has watched before, questioning how someone could be so cruel isn’t really any kind of question that feels like it was set up. But the final moments attempts to have a usual suspect sort of end that is supposed to blow the mind, but it ended up leaving me underwhelmed.
Despite the misguided ending, I recommend this film for fans of single location films and mad science horror such as THE STANDFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT. It dares question how strong the human mind really is by putting a huge strain upon the test subjects with terrifying results. This one gets gory and violent, but unfortunately, shies away from the supernatural ending of the Creepypasta, which is what makes the story so iconic in the first place. It’s a bold move by filmmaker John Farrelly, but one I think ends up steering the film off course by the end. Expect strong acting performances across the board with this one and some downright brain-rattling moments. But this one makes a few decisions that keeps it from being a full recommend.