J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Don’t Sleep: Alex Rocco’s Final Film

According to imdb, this is the ninth time Cary Elwes has played a doctor. Considering several of those times has been as Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw franchise, he hasn’t been a particularly helpful doctor. That is true again for Dr. Richard Sommers. Initially, he appeared to cure disturbed young Zach Bradford, but he really just kicked some seriously sinister issues down the road. The supernatural chickens finally come home to roost in Rick Bieber’s Don’t Sleep (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

Bradford used to have nightmares about a doppelganger inhabiting a fake-looking nightmare world, who would replace him in the real world once he gained sufficient strength. His memories of that period are hazy, but apparently the nightmares eventually went away. Everything seems fine now. He is in his final year of law school and about to move in with his girlfriend Shawn Edmon. They even find the perfect “love nest,” right across the street from the McMansion owned by their super-cool landlords, Vincent and Jo Marino.

The Marinos often have the kids over for dinner with his spry old father. Unfortunately, the jawa-like creatures that once haunted Bradford’s dreams have started tormenting Mr. Marino senior. When they get done with him, they will move onto Jo Marino, while toying with the increasingly freaked out Bradford. It gets so bad, he will seek out Dr. Sommers to ask, what the heck, dude?

Even though the film is called Don’t Sleep, most of the bad stuff happens while the characters are wide awake. It ought to be called Don’t Rent to Cary Elwes’ Patients. Logic is not real priority here. To be fair, extensive reshoots may not have been an option given the death in 2015 of co-star Alex Rocco. Of course, that also implies this film has been on the shelf for a while.

In addition to the late, great Rocco (Moe Greene in The Godfather), who is both creepy and tragic as Mr. Marino, Don’t Sleep also mind-blowingly features Jill Hennessy as Bradford’s mom. Wow, seriously. Rounding out the recognizable names, Drea de Matteo falls apart spectacularly as Jo Marino. Of course, Elwes is in his element playing Dr. Sommers, the cold fish child psychologist. The problem here is not weak support. In fact, you could argue Alex Carter has almost too much screen presence as Vincent Marino, given how drab and passive Dominic Sherwood and Charlbi Dean Kriek are as the young lovers.

Perhaps it is also partly due to the lackluster special effects, but the big climatic revelation does not land, falling somewhere between a face-palm and a head-scratch. However, the closing theme song, “Devil Inside,” performed Stacy Earl and Skipp Whitman is so wonderfully cheesy, we believe it deserves Oscar consideration. Don’t Sleep is not recommended per se, but it is the sort horror film indulgent fans might find themselves inadvertently defending for reasons that escape them. Regardless, it is definitely a film to stream later on Netflix or Shudder, but for now, it opens this Friday (9/29) in LA at the Laemmle Monica Film Center and releases day-and-date on iTunes.

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