The difference between those two definitions is not that one is proactive, and the other is neutral. No, the difference is which definition you respond to more. Depending on where you land on the horror spectrum, you’ll either enjoy writer-director Rick Bieber’s latest genre entry, Don’t Sleep, or you’ll be frustrated by it. All the pieces are there for a creepy tale- impressive special effects makeup for the various nightmare visions, a crazy twist, solid acting, and an excellent score. But it is never frightening, lacking even a most basic jump scare. While jump scares can be lazy, the fact that this doesn’t even attempt them does say something about the intentions of the movie.
“…it is never frightening, lacking even a most basic jump scare.”
Those intentions are laid out with the engaging and original plot. A young man, Zach (Dominic Sherwood), is having recurring nightmares, making him afraid to sleep. These intense and creepy dreams are similar to things that happened to him when he was 12 years-old. This lack of sleep is wreaking havoc on him, and the evil dreams of fantastical demons in the woods bleed into his waking moments. He seeks out help from the same professional that helped him out all those years ago, Dr. Richard Sommers (Cary Elwes). As the mystery of what he is seeing comes to light, things come to a head, Zach becomes convinced that the doctor and Zach’s girlfriend, Shawn (Charlbi Dean Kriek), know more than they have let on. Is that the case, or are the nightmares overwhelming him and causing him to lash out at those closest to him?
The twists and turns it takes, especially at the end, are unexpected and keep the audience engaged to the very end. Certain elements should have been introduced a bit sooner than they are, so the audience could feel their full impact when the movie comes full circle at the end. But that they aren’t put to use right away, doesn’t hurt the story too much. Plus, the ending will rattle around in your head for days after the movie is over. That is in part thanks to the well developed characters, all of whom have multiple dimensions and feel realistic. Bieber has an excellent grasp on these people and the horrors they are experiencing. He is helped along by a stellar cast, all of whom deliver splendid and appealing performances; Elwes hasn’t been this strong in years.