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An Eerie Exploration Of The Land Of Nod – Sleep – Raindance 2024 (Film Review)

2 min read
A scene from Sleep

is right around the corner, and following the London event's brilliant opening evening with Tilman Singer's terrifying Cuckoo, something equally thrilling is among this year's line-up for attendees to enjoy. Jason Yu, the director behind Okja and Real, explores the horrors of something every one of us experiences but likely doesn't consider the potential terrors of – sleep. Nominated for Discovery Awards for Best Debut Feature, Best Debut Director and Best Performance in a Debut, Sleep offers a tense, eerie exploration of the land of nod with classic supernatural elements and something far more sinister.

The film follows the story of married couple Hyun-su and Soo-jin (Jung Yu-mi and Lee Sun-kyun), who begin to be disturbed by Hyun-Su's sleepwalking. As his nighttime behaviour becomes increasingly erratic, Soo-jin begins to worry her husband will harm their newborn son and the couple begin to delve into the horrifying cause behind his behaviour.

Sleep takes the traditional gothic horror story of a female protagonist terrified by the capabilities of her husband and modernises it with non-traditional gender roles, the ever-present buzz of modern city life, and the threat of our closely micromanaged lives being derailed by something you cannot control nor find the cause of. The film's skin-crawling atmosphere comes not only from the abject horror of being unaware of your actions but also from being so enveloped in our fast-paced, modern lifestyles that being unable to get everything back on track feels suffocating.

While this analogy can sometimes feel too glaring, Yu offers enough ambiguity as to Sleep's potential supernatural elements that it keeps the audience guessing – is Hyun-su possessed? Or simply psychopathic, driven to madness by his wife's success and his own inadequacy as a failed actor? The film is anchored by its captivating performances from the late Parasite star Lee Sun-kyun and Family Ties' Jung Yu-mi. Their fear is palpable and makes the film's darkly funny narrative feel appropriately bleak.

Though its commentary on the ills of modern society can often feel a little redundant, the stellar performances and a suitably twisty narrative carries Sleep into its head-scratching, bonkers final act. Hair-raisingly tense, heart-warmingly endearing, and laugh-out-loud funny, Sleep offers an intense exploration of trust, love and obsession when we should be at our most relaxed.

Sleep screens at 2024 on June 20.