Horror is one of my favourite genres. You can insert a deep message into a beautiful little bloody package that will manage to please both the critical artists and the creep-factor aficionados. These emerging film-makers manage to create a spooky, female-focused short, while also leaving the audience wondering if there is a deeper meaning to take away.
First off, I would like to congratulate the Sleep No More team on their casting choices. Not only was the genuine performance of Rachael Miles (Bri) a pleasure to watch, but the bond between the two sisters was a lovely focus point. The “Final Girl” trope is too often used in horror, and usually, there is some kind of romance involved. The love expressed in this short is family-focused and a breath of fresh air.
I would like to draw attention to the many carefully calculated artistic choices used throughout the film. Colour (or lack thereof) is very symbolic. The apartment walls are barren and Bri, who is haunted by the “Dark Figure”, is usually seen dressed in dark or dull colours in comparison to her sister. Lighting was also strategically used to create ambiance, though, at certain points we lose out on the wonderful facial expressions of the actors due to it being too dark in certain areas.
In addition, the simplistic shooting style really allows the creative shots to shine, for example, time index 6:34 really caught my eye. I was also very surprised by the quality of audio mixing and foley, though I would caution post-sound to be careful with tinnitus as it can get painful to listen to after more than a few seconds.
Now for the horror element: the Dark Figure. I enjoyed how the character was teased throughout the first half of the film, ever-looming and creating a sense of foreboding. The choice of costume was very smart, particularly for the long shots with the character in the background.
That being said, the close-ups gave away certain elements that threaten to break the immersion, which may have been counteracted by keeping the figure blurred. However, if the film-makers had chosen this direction, we may have missed the stroking of the hair, which furthers the character arc. If given the choice between the two, the story always comes first for me.
I am personally torn between the two interpretations of this film. The first being that Bri is struggling with a recent breakup (a possibly abusive situation) and has shut herself off from her life, leaving herself open to a malevolent presence. The second is the underlying message, that this could be a narrative about mental health, and the pain of what she is going through is personified as the “Dark Figure”. In the latter of these, more artistic details spring to mind to further the overall message and story. For example, the paintings could serve as a desperate attempt to heal herself instead of reaching out to her family for help.
Regardless of which way you see it, be it a young woman struggling with her inner demons, or an actual demon taking advantage of her fragile state, this short was an overall creative success. Well done to the entire team!