| By Amanda Nova |
If you are up to date with my horror/thriller pieces, you know that I have much appreciation for good scary movies that entail SMART decision making from characters. I mean, if there’s a genre that is littered with one-layered portrayals, it goes to anorexic cheerleaders in teen dramas… and to smart/attractive lead characters that still manage to fall when they definitely knows how their own feet work.
At the films core, the plot is actually quite interesting. After sending her mentally unstable father back to the hospital, a young actress, named Bianca (Eva De Dominici) and her rival Ceci (Natalia de Molina) join an experimental production set inside an abandoned asylum ran by notorious artist, Alma (Belén Rueda).
Alma convinces actors to deprive themselves of sleep in order to encompass their characters on a new level. Staying awake subverts them to fatigue, hallucination, and quiet literally becoming the people who died at the asylum doing the same exact play. A psychological thriller mixed with jump scares, you’d think would be half way enjoyable. However, I constantly found myself fighting desperately to stay involved and frankly, awake.
The film tries to befuddle the audience by having Bianca question if she’s actually going mad or if everyone’s plotting against her. Shelter Island, My Little Eye and Black Mirror’s Black Bear episode follows through with this idea of mind-fuckery. Though, You Shall Not Sleep does not make us confront whether she’s going insane or being toyed with, so we just assume the latter pretty quickly.
The audience’s mind could have been fucked with in a tangible way because what sleep deprivation does to the mind and body is scary in itself. But, just as they’ve done with Bianca, it feels they’ve brought us here under false pretenses.
The other actors in the play don’t seem to care that they’re losing themselves to disturbed spirits either. Their one dimensional dynamic only appears when the film want to conjure fear fear in Bianca. On top of that, Alma, the ring leader orchestrating this whole shindig is pretty malignant, but we get no sense of reason for her narcissistic psychopathy.
Even the big reveal at the end was so dramatized that it lacked the shock value it so desperately was looking for. It felt like they crammed multiple third acts into the last twenty minutes and even though I wanted to like this film and support amazing Spanish artists, I felt cheated.
The movie might as well have been a novela with the tulip effect of being ahead of its characters and obvious dialogue. I thought the main and supporting actresses did there best for what they were given, but they are all supposed to be a lot of things at once and it seemed a bit unfair. Bianca is the heroine that undergoes no climatic character change other than the fact she is now a superior actress which doesn’t seem all that important.
The ending is similar to SPLIT, where Casey Cooke is spared by Dennis for being tainted by painful circumstances, but it doesn’t land the same way. The obvious lines restated earlier are brought back without the emotional bind it so badly needs. I give this film kudos for trying to meta as fuck, but honestly, that too makes it all harder to be taken seriously.