Waking Nightmares: A Review of ‘The Sleep Experiment’

By: Liam Parker

Scary movies are supposed to keep us up at night.  Things that go bump in the night and lurk beyond the shadows rob us of our ability for a good night’s sleep.  John Farrelly’s The Sleep Experiment, however, has the opposite effect: it leaves you begging to close your eyes.  But wait, the movie isn’t bad!  You’ll feel the need to escape to slumberland in order to feel safe again.

The Sleep Experiment, inspired by true events and based on the popular internet creepypasta “The Russian Sleep Experiment,” is a simple premise: five incarcerated men are locked in a room with a constant supply of gas to keep them awake, and they must remain so for 30 days in exchange for their freedom.  What ensues is a cacophony of terror, dread, and unrest that will linger with you long after the credits roll. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Farrelly’s film.  The actors deliver masterful performances, with the standouts being Rob James Capel and Sam McGovern as test subjects Edward and Patrick, and Tom Kerrisk as Christopher, the architect of the twisted experiment.  But, what makes The Sleep Experiment resonate so strongly is its camerawork and script structure. The pairing of frenetic and spastic cinematography with Farelly’s unique and innovative narrative style causes the viewer to feel appropriately restless (much like the film’s victims).  You, as a viewer, are forced to endure the same discomforts, stresses, and anxieties as those on screen.  Instead of relying on cheap jump scares to create fear, The Sleep Experiment leans heavily into establishing an eerie atmosphere that’s dripping with dread to effectively scare the pants off of its viewers.

Despite some pacing issues along with some derivative and predictable elements within the third act, John Farrelly has crafted a solid horror flick (and the first movie based on a freakin’ creepypasta that managed to set me on edge).  The Sleep Experiment will leave you sick to your stomach, causing you to second-guess those impending all-nighters you’re planning for that last minute study session.

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