The Sleep Experiment
by Tori Hanes
Ah, to relive the youthful, sleepless nights of scrolling mindlessly through Reddit, Creepypasta, hell- even Wikipedia, desperate for a fresh scare. And which tale is more infamous among those fabled threads than the Russian Sleep Experiment? A story so desperate to pass as real to susceptible pre-teens- now, it’s one of the most revered spooks by internet-savvy horror lovers.
Director John Farrelly’s The Sleep Experiment takes vast inspiration from the Russian Sleep Experiment, even down to the use of scientifically enhanced gas to keep the participants awake for 30 consecutive days. Unfortunately, The Sleep Experiment ultimately inherits about as much cinematic charm as its internet forum predecessor.
The story awkwardly jilts from point A to B, relying on an uneven present-day police interrogation to clumsily place the narrative into the actual storyline. This left-footed rehashing of the experiment steals time away from what both fans of the Creepypasta original and audiences of the film want: disturbing images inside a sleep-deprived human mind.
However, the moments inside the experiment ultimately fall flatly down predictable paths. Some characters lose their minds, others die – none are interesting. It’s impossible to say if the film would have reaped the benefits from investing its time differently, but ultimately, the audience is left starving for more unnerving content.
The performances are, unfortunately, a particularly sore spot. They are largely stilted and awkward. Actors often have difficulty connecting the characters to the overarching – and loose – themes.
The performers sometimes seem to disagree with their dialog – their connection to it is almost nonsensical. A particularly grating example is one character’s long-winded monologue highlighting the joys of psychopathy. At a point, the hyperdramatic rhythm of the words becomes almost comical before sharply turning into confusing irritation.
Ultimately, if you want a similar scare with more room for imagination, do as we did in the good ol’ days. Log onto your Reddit app after your parents have gone to bed and scroll r/horror until your eyes bleed.