featured Film Review

It Comes at Night: A TIFF Review of ‘Sleep’

September 7, 2023Ben MK

The importance of a good night's sleep is something that's been emphasized by sleep professionals and medical experts for decades. Yet, while some people may have no trouble getting that much needed shut-eye, there are countless others in the population who experience sleeping disorders that prevent them from getting the essential rest required to live a healthy life. It's a very real plight that affects millions of people in North America alone. But what if your partner was suffering from a sleep disorder that not only made you question their sanity, but your very own as well?

In Sleep, that's the bizarre situation facing pregnant office worker Soo-jin (Jung Yu-mi), who actor husband Hyun-su (Lee Sun-kyun) has recently begun experiencing a REM disorder that's been causing him to sleepwalk. What starts out as Hyun-su talking in his sleep, however, quickly escalates into more disturbing episodes that include him scratching his face bloody and eating random foods out of the fridge while unconscious. It's a dilemma that has the couple consulting with a sleep specialist to determine the best and most logical course of action. But when Hyun-su's unpredictable nighttime behavior begins to grow more and more dangerous and out of control, especially after the birth of their new baby daughter, Soo-jin finds herself left with no other recourse other than to take matters into her own hands. Consulting with a shaman by the name of Madame Haegoong, Soo-jin even attempts to find a supernatural solution to her and her husband's unsolvable predicament. But when nothing seems to work, will she be able to take the most extreme of measures to protect herself and her infant child?

Written and directed by Jason Yu, Sleep is sure to get under the skin of viewers with a soft spot for the psychological and supernatural horror genres. Yet, despite the trappings of its premise, it's new parents who will be most rattled by its characters' struggle against an invisible foe. Suffice to say, this is one spooky story that will have audiences guessing till the very end. And while horror veterans might not bat an eye at the movie's eerie goings-on, genre newcomers, on the other hand, may find it difficult to get a decent night's slumber afterwards.

Sleep screens under the Midnight Madness programme at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 35 min.

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