Sleepless (2001)
By: David Michael Brown on February 23, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. 117 minutes
The Movie
Director: Dario Argento
Starring:Max Von Sydow, Stefano Dionisi, Roberto Zibetti, Chiara Caselli, Gabriele Lavia
Screenplay: Dario Argento
Country: Italy
AKA: Nonhosonno
It's become the Holy Grail of the horror genre, a new classic from Dario Argento, or even a decent movie. Ever since his attempts to crack America his output has been erratic at best. Phenomena was a great little movie but was almost derailed by the English spoken dialogue and the horrible use of the likes of Iron Maiden on the soundtrack. Opera followed this horrible aural tradition and Trauma, his first film shot in the States was just awful. The Stendhal Syndrome was seen as a slight return to form but the less said about The Phantom of the Opera the better. Sleepless had a lot riding on it and you can tell.

It plays like a greatest hits album. All the classic deaths and motifs are there; the black-gloved killers, kitchen knifes glinting in the moonlight, vivid close-ups, convoluted plots, gratuitous violence against beautiful women and a pounding soundtrack by Claudio Simonetti and Goblin. Even the murders are retreads; the films opening double murder desperately mimics Suspiria and almost every murder has been seen before in one of his movies. Then again, do you watch an Argento film for something original? No you watch his films for exactly what's in Sleepless and he delivers with style and panache.

The plot involving the Dwarf killer is a mere excuse to join the dots between the gory set pieces. Argento's whodunits have always been more about the crime than catching the criminal. The shocking revelation of the killer's identity left this viewer going "So What" rather than leaping out if his seat.

Argento's long time Special Visual Effects man, Sergio Stivaletti displays an evil ingenuity in the films murderous scenes, especially the gruesome death by clarinet. The Goblin soundtrack is fabulous, not quite matching their former glories but it sets the scenes of the film perfectly.

The best Argento film in years and for that we should be thankful. In returning to the Giallo genre he may have taken a step backwards but with Sleepless he has made a giant leap forward in quality.
The picture is clear and sharp, Argento's extreme close-ups have never looked better.
The thumping 5.1 Dolby Stereo mix is excellent but there is one glaring omission. The disc only provides the films badly dubbed English soundtrack. If memory serves me right recent screenings on Foxtel's World Movies have been broadcast with the original Italian soundtrack with English subtitles. It's a shame Umbrella didn't go the extra mile and provide both.
Extra Features
Anyone familiar with Umbrella's Argento collection will be familiar with the 60-minute documentary An Eye For Horror as it's been on every disc. Featuring interviews with Argento, Asia Argento, Michael Brandon, Daria Nacoldi, John Carpenter, Tom Savani and many more. It's a fascinating glimpse into Argento's world, probably not in depth enough for our readers but an entertaining introduction to the great man's work. We also get The Making of Sleepless, the theatrical trailer and a selection of vintage Argento trailers.
The Verdict
Not the victorious return to glory we were hoping for but still pretty darn good. Argento is at least returning to the Giallo thriller with which he made his name. He'll probably never give us another Suspiria, Deep Red or Bird with the Crystal Plummage but its good to see the director at least revisiting former glories. The addition of class acts like Max Von Sydow only adds to this. By all accounts his latest film, The Card Player, doesn't build on the good will but the hot news is that he is at last working on the final part of the Three Mothers trilogy started by Suspiria and Inferno, here's hoping that that will finally give us the modern classic we know Argento is capable of.
Movie Score
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