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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Sleepless
Artisan // Unrated // December 18, 2001
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted January 11, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Story: A killer is on the loose, and the killings are eerily familiar to a case thought to be solved years ago. The case centered around a suspense writer who was a dwarf and who apparently committed a series of crimes that revolved around a children's storybook poem involving the butchering of animals at a farm; the killings ending when the dwarf found shot, dead. Inspector Ulysses Moretti (the great Max Von Sydow, charmingly phoning it in) was the man in charge of the case, now retired with his mind slipping, he finds himself unable to stay away from the case that haunted him so many years before, a case he thought was over. Likewise, as a child, Giocomo witnessed his mothers murder at the hands of the dwarf killer, and as the new series of murders dredges up his past trauma, he finds himself drawn back wanting to find the source of the slayings. Together the two men begin to gather evidence and examine the clues in order to solve the case. While the killers identity remains a secret, and the murders continue, is it the dwarf returning from the grave, a copycat, or was the killer never caught in the first place, just laying low and now returning to finish his crime?

The Film:My problem with Sleepless is two fold, but both concern repetition and general horror film stupidity. First, Sleepless is mired is some usual worn out clichés. You would think after Scream horror film makers would throw out the "killer on the phone" nonsense, but right there, at the beginning , in the opening twenty minute long thrill sequence, the killer calls the prostitute and heavy breathes that he knows where she is. Also, the film falls victim to another tired cliché, the "I know there is a psycho on the loose, but I have to go back to pick something up, so you go on without me." It happens, with the first two victims (and later). We've seen it all before, someone (okay a woman) gets scared, finds some stud to protect them, and then they turn around and return, alone, to the isolated, dark corners to retrieve their bags, phones, makeup, whatever, and they are inevitably killed- Honestly, its 2002, we are better than this...... I don't expect horror films to be logical, , but after awhile, if a film has too many inconsistencies and ridiculous things it wears me down and takes me out of the movie. You add up the fact that the police department didn't take color pictures during the first case in 1983. The dwarf writers pen name was McKeer but they write it Mc Keer (like he's a rapper or something). The rabbit victim is nicknamed "Rabbit" by her friends and proudly boasts that she'll walk home alone because the odds of her being a victim are low, she then of course panics and is killed. Plus the bipolar nature of Giacomo's girlfriend, who one minute says she'll never leave him and will always be there and then in the next scene is perplexingly pissed off at him and grumbling, even threatening to take off in the car and leave him. And, then of course, the film also falls prey to the inevitable, the lame revealing of the killers identity and their big speech about why they did it (some of the worst acting I've seen in an Argento film), something Scream also pointed out as being cliched and something Argento has a talent for messing up like in Opera and in Sleepless as well.

The other thing about Sleepless that is off putting is, although it has been heralded as Argento's return to the giallo, stalk and slash killer genre, it also copies elements from his previous giallo. Whether this was conscious or not, I don't know, perhaps in a better film it would seem neat, funny, but for me it just appeared lazy, like he had run out of ideas. Here we get killer POV shots like in Cat O' Nine Tails, a killer dwarf scenario like in Profondo Rosso (aka Deep Red), the theatrical occupation of Gloria reminds one of Opera, the curious duo investigators like in Tenebre and Nine Tails. We get Goblin returning as the music composers. One part really reminded me of Fulci's New York Ripper, something Dario no doubt lifted/was inspired by. At every turn we keep seeing reminders of Dario's glory days, days when he was so skilled at atmosphere one could forgive the story and acting fumbles. Days when he made better films than the one we are watching, and it just kind of makes you a little sad. Argento used to hold a sharp blade to the throats of his viewers and that blade has dulled so much the past 15 years, I bet it could scarcely cut butter. But, all things considered, Sleepless is still the slickest film he has made in a decade, and ultimately it ranks somewhere in the middle, a flawed work, with some unforgivable stumbles, some great thrills and okay kills, but entertaining nonetheless.

The last Argento film I watched was Opera and in my review http://dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=3002 I said it was the last really good Argento film. That still stands. Sleepless is close, but it just falls short of the thrills and vision that made Argento a horror master.

The DVD: Artisan Entertainment drops the ball... Picture- Now, I own around 40 full screen kung fu DVDs, and I don't really complain. I grin and bear it because I know that most of the time, tape is the only source kung fu DVD companies can get. However, Artisans full screen, pan and scan DVD of Sleepless is another matter entirely. Okay, it looks fine, image is sharp, good color, some minor spots and low contrast problems, but still.... A FULLSCREEN, PAN and SCAN transfer, in this case, is unforgivable. They could have very easily given us a widescreen print, but they didn't. They chose, for whatever reason, to give us a cropped copy of one of the most visually dazzling horror film makers out there, and for that, I just cannot support this disc. Its not fair to the film maker and its not fair to the viewer. If they want to make it a flipper with fullscreen on one side and wide on the other, fine by me, but fans shouldnt stand for a fullscreen only option. Sound- Artisan can give a nice 5.1 digital surround and a 2.0 Dolby Stereo, with optional English and Spanish subs, but no widescreen? It should be noted, that like most Argento films, the films was made with an international cast, so while some actors like Von Sydow are speaking English, most of the actors are dubbed, and the dubbing is not particularly good, but it is something one is used to when they are a Euro horror fan. Extras- 20 Chapters- Trailer for the film, which is in widescreen; how annoying is that? Its like being teased. Plus trailers for The Center of the World, Twin Peaks: Season One DVD, The Item, and Children of the Dead- And filmographies for Dario, Max Von Sydow (Inspector Moretti), Stephano Dionisi (Giacomo), Chiara Caselli (Gloria), and Gabrielle Lavia (Attorney Betti)

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