The Sleep Experiment
Dir. John Farrelly (2022) Two detectives are investigating a military experiment wherein five prisoners are promised that their records will be expunged if they stay awake for thirty days in a sealed chamber.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
While the film initially teases that it was based on a true story, in reality it is based on the popular Creepypasta The Russian Sleep Experiment, one of the most famous of those amateur scary stories and, honestly, one of the scariest. The film alternates between the experiment, which happened in the past, and a present-day police investigation trying to uncover the real events that happened during the experiment, which eventually becomes a bloodbath. Director John Farrelly does an excellent job of crafting a slow-burn, psychological horror by creating a 12 Angry Men consisting of criminals instead of jurors, along with a taut procedural consisting of the police officers and their questions.
The entire movie is an exercise in tension, threatening to boil over at any second as the prisoners begin to turn on each other, mirrored by the detectives as the question the lead researcher behind the events that occurred in that room. The actors do a fantastic job and the film is very well written, with each line of dialogue adding something to the overall mystique of what’s occurring on-screen. If there was a knock against the film, it is that it is perhaps too slow of a slow burn, a film that can be a chore to get through at times simply due to the lack of excitement on-screen. The film still manages to increase the dread throughout, however, though the payoff doesn’t feel as worth it as it should. It’s a nice twist, for sure, but there’s a lack of emotion that is necessary for it to strike the necessary chord within the audience.
There’s more to the story than meets the eye, of course, and the experiment is not quite as straight forward as it may appear. The material is handled deftly, and the audience can feel the paranoia building within the men locked in the room. We don’t always get to see what they’re seeing, which may be a blessing if you’re familiar with the original story. What we do get to see doesn’t push any boundaries, giving us the bare minimum of gore in a story that, by all rights, should be full of it. It’s a decent film, but it will be a disappointment for people who are huge fans of the original story.
Who this movie is for: Creepypasta fans, Slow-burn horror lovers, Twist ending aficionados Bottom line: A slow burn that is slower than most, The Sleep Experiment definitely contains enough dread to hit the mark amongst slow-burn horror lovers, but it lacks a lot of the excitement necessary to get some through to the payoff. It leaves a good bit to the imagination, which isn’t always a bad thing, but it does leave you wanting more than what the film ultimately delivers. The ending is decent, but you’re left wondering if it was worth the journey to get there.