Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Amateur paranormal investigators stay overnight in a possibly haunted house at the behest of the owners. While there, the group is descended upon all manner of odd noises, inexplicable sightings, and a general feeling of eeriness. Now, the investigators just hope to escape the abode with their lives.
The Sleepless Unrest follows this formula to a T. It somehow achieves this narrative stagnation while being a documentary. Sadly, directors Kendall and Vera Whelpton, despite having 14 cameras constantly recording for two weeks, squander most of their sophomore film’s scare potential by having the characters talk about what they saw without ever really showing that much. This makes the entire production quite dull, despite some good elements.
For one, the Whelptons, along with their fellow paranormal investigators, Brian Murray and Richel Stratton, are smart, articulate people. As such, their beliefs in the supernatural help more skeptical viewers buy into the possibility that the house is haunted. It should be pointed out that the house in question is the very one made famous from The Conjuring franchise.
“Amateur paranormal investigators stay overnight in a possibly haunted house…”
Secondly, the filmmakers are also able to achieve several drone shots that showcase just how isolated they are while staying at this house. This helps with the stakes, as if something were to go pear-shaped, help is not nearby. Plus, they also really show off the infamous home, taking audiences on a guided tour so that every nook and cranny is known once the hauntings happen… if they ever do.
But The Sleepless Unrest fails to engage on most levels. The amount of research done to figure out if this was even a documentary (note: the movie’s site calls it such) and not a found footage narrative is almost laughable. Why the research? Because the plot is so cliched, hitting trope after trope, it felt like poorly written fiction. The fact that the Whelptons do not delve much into the history of the house at the outset, mainly only citing it from its well-known connection to the blockbuster horror franchise, is a missed opportunity. Explain past hauntings, go into how the current owners acquired the house and why they’d even want it. Mentions of such things are made, but only in passing.
Is The Sleepless Unrest irredeemably bad? Not even close. The cinematography is mostly strong, and the investigators are enthusiastic and engaging. However, very little of interest happens, as the solid visuals are misappropriated on stylistic landscape shots, not highlighting the potential shadows creepily dancing across the walls. This, combined with its predictable nature, ultimately makes the production not worth one’s time.
"…the cinematography is mostly strong..."