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Review: Sleep. How to get to the point in horror

  • Release year: 2023
  • Director: Jason Yu.
  • Producer: Lewis Taewan Kim.
  • Screenplay by: Jason Yu.
  • Cinematography by: Tae-soo Kim.
  • Sound Department: Tae-Won Gong.

Synopsis: what starts as a sleeping problem quickly becomes dangerous for a couple and their newborn baby.

Shotgun Commentary: if you like horror, watch this. WATCH. THIS. I cannot stress it enough

Soo-ji (Jung Yu-mi) and Hyun-su (Lee Sun-kyun). Source: Sleep (Jason Yu, 2023). Courtesy of: Raindance Film Festival.

Review

Sleep is one of the most original horror movies in the last few years. While the whole “sleep disorder turned possession” is quite common, the storytelling of this film transforms this premise into a brand-new, engrossing narrative. Soo-jin (Jung Yu-mi) and Hyun-su (Lee Sun-kyun) are a young couple with a dog. Soo-jin is expecting and everything seems to be going well until Hyun-su starts sleepwalking.

No nonsense

The feature immediately states its intention. During the first scene, the audience is already presented with the problem, and there are no empty spaces since. The pace is marvellous, the editing sparing you from any sort of innocuous scene that has no meaning. Unlike the traditional American horror movies, there are no montages of white picked fences, house decorating, or any other nonsense. You are there to watch a horror movie and your wishes are very much respected.

In addition to a strong beginning and a plot that sticks to the point at all times, the evolution of the narrative itself is terribly thrilling. There are many explanations to what could be going on, but nothing is revealed until the ending of the last scene, keeping you guessing on the edge of your seat for the whole movie.

Soo-ji (Jung Yu-mi) and Hyun-su (Lee Sun-kyun). Source: Sleep (Jason Yu, 2023).

Whatever your final theory is, disease, possession, him, her, whoever… You will find that it says a lot more about you than it does about the film itself. As a lover of chaos myself, I was very much down with the possession path, of whom? Who cares? Then again, it is fun to guess.

On your toes

This constant search for the right answer, paired with a constant drip of moments that hide more clues, can keep the most distractible of people with their eyes glued to the screen for the whole hour and a half that the movie lasts.

There are twists and turns every step of the way, and some very clever editing that encourages you to look left when you should be looking right and to expect the worst at all times without falling into stereotypes. Not even the classic, tense “closing the fridge door” scene, even though they have two doors in theirs! That is some serious directing self-restraint right there.

The final woman

Doubling on stereotypes, Sleep also breaks through them when it comes to its characters, their motivations and attitude included. When the medium visits the house and insinuates that Soo-jin is at fault of the whole mess for breaking lots of hearts in her youth, the whole thing reeked of the classic “punishment of promiscuous women” that is inherent to most horror films feature a female lead.

Soo-ji (Jung Yu-mi) and Hyun-su (Lee Sun-kyun). Source: Sleep (Jason Yu, 2023).

However, the actual truth, which of course won’t be revealed here, is anything but. The real explanation for the possibility of a possession can actually be seen as a commentary on patriarchal societies and how women are constantly harassed regardless of what they do or don’t do. It is so gratifying to finally hear an explanation for horrible supernatural things that has nothing to do with women’s sexuality.

It wouldn’t be fair to not make a tiny note here to say that not everything is perfect. Soo-jin does incur in some inexplicably dense behaviour like a complete lack of reaction at the sight of her husband eating raw food, shelled eggs included, amongst other actions that one wouldn’t connect to those of an intelligent woman, which she is.

Soo-ji (Jung Yu-mi) and Hyun-su (Lee Sun-kyun). Source: Sleep (Jason Yu, 2023).

Senseless or not, Jung Yu-mi delivers a fantastic performance as Soo-ji, as does Lee Sun-kyun as Hyun-su, and all the other cast members in their respective roles. It is so pleasing to see a cast completely in sync, where no one tries to get more protagonist than they should, and everyone works together to tell a great story.

All in all, Sleep is a film that I will recommend for years to come. It is engaging, tense, terrifying and unique. A great choice for any horror movie night!

Advice to take from this movie:

  • If your husband can’t help but be dangerous, maybe sleeping elsewhere is not such a bad idea.
  • Teach your dog to be quiet. Especially if you live in a flat.
  • If a neighbour claims to have heard some noises coming out of your flat, investigate, just in case.
Soo-ji (Jung Yu-mi) and Hyun-su (Lee Sun-kyun). Source: Sleep (Jason Yu, 2023).

What’s your take? Have you watched Sleep? What do you think of the ending? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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