Fantasia International Film Festival: Sleep (2020) reviewed by Jonathan Berk.

Sleep (2020) is a part of the Fantasia International Film Festival. Directed by Michael Venus and co-written with Thomas Friedrich, this horror film plays on dreams in a big way. Marlene (Sandra Hüller) has been suffering from nightmares of a specific hotel. When she discovers it is real, she is drawn to investigate. She leaves a trail for her daughter, Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof), to follow – which is fortunate, because Marlene is hospitalized the night after she stays in the hotel room. Mona finds herself needing a place to stay, and the hotel is the logical choice…but soon, she begins to experience her own nightmares. 

Yet another horror film that focuses on lineage as their connection to the horror…not all who have attempted this have been truly successful, but there was something about this one that simply works. Venus crafts characters that are quite interesting and Kohlhof’s performance works to sell her character’s growing uncertainty. There is a bit of comedy infused with this film that grounds it and makes it feel more believable, despite so much of it taking place in a dream state. 

Venus also utilizes the dream world to get some solid scares in places. One element that works with films that centralize around nightmares is blurring the lines of the dream world and the real one. Of course, sometimes this can feel like a copout, as a character can go through something only for it to be wiped away moments later – but Venus and Friedrich do a good job to make these moments still hold weight. The stakes in the film become grounded, and if you are invested in the characters, you’ll find yourself invested in the story. 

There are a few curveballs that come up and also add to another type of legacy the film is commenting on. In this later reveal, it is possible this could be the moment that wrecks the movie for some audience members. Fortunately, I found the quirkiness of some of the moments to work, and it never took me out of the story. 

Sleep impacted my dreams, but I guess that’s what I get for watching it right before bedtime. I was plagued by my own nightmares as I tossed and turned, but that didn’t change my take on the film. There is something about this film that I found really compelling, and while horror films sometimes come off as cheesy, the sincerity of the characters here endeared me to the project. Sleep earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.

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