SLEEP NO MORE: Majoring in Mad Science at Mary Shelley U.

Frankenstein casts a very long shadow over science fiction, and the common theme is always that scientific advancement is seldom in our best interests. In Sleep No More, five graduate students are conducting a study to prove the theory that once you’ve passed 200 hours without sleep, you will never need sleep again. Why anyone would think this was even a good idea is the first question that would come to mind, other than having a work force you can push even harder than they already are. But the students in Sleep No More apparently go to Mary Shelley U., and Mad Science is the number one major.

At the outset, the sleep no more study is already in trouble after the messy death of one of the participating students. The study’s faculty sponsor, Dr. Whatley (Yasmine Aker) testifies before a school board of inquiry that the student in question didn’t take the experimental drug being used during the sleep deprivation sessions, and she’s very convincing. It turns out, however, that she’s lying. And when the board of inquiry shuts down the project, she suggests to the other students that they should continue the experiments secretly during a school vacation when the campus is shut down.

Courtesy RLJE Films 2018

Needless to say, they’ll be testing the drug on themselves. Probably because that’s worked so well for scientists in other movies, and afficianados will probably be comparing this movie to Altered States, Flatliners and Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly.

Your mad scientist alarm should be going off like crazy at this point, put the students actually agree to this, partly to the prodding of their classmate Joe (Keli Price), who’s sleeping with Dr. Whatley. Might a young man having a sexual relationship with a beautiful older woman with an entrancing British accent be less than completely objective and rational where her agenda is concerned?

Don’t be silly.

Yes of course fabricated lab reports and inappropriate relationships between faculty and students are the sorts of red flags that would have people running for the door in the real world, but horror movies seldom take place in that happy place. And since the difference between dreams and reality is an ongoing issue in this movie, it’s easy to overlook.

In any event, director Phillip Guzman manages to barrel over the script’s occasional logic lapses with mounting momentum and slick production values that belies the movie’s micro-budget. And if Jason Murphy’s script has some issues with logic (it would be silly to pretend it doesn’t), it also has some dandy twists and jumps along the way.

Sleep no more
Courtesy RLJE Films 2018

The largely unknown cast is excellent, particularly Aker and Price, but Brea Grant, Stephen Ellis, Christine Dwyer and Lukas Gage also turn in likable, sincere performances. Guzman also manages some respectable special effects on his modest budget.

The movie is set in the eighties, a possible advantage the movie does not perhaps fully exploit, despite some homages to seventies and eighties slasher movies. More period detail and atmosphere would have upped the nostalgia appeal, though it would likely be lost on younger audiences.  

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