Coming to VOD on November 4, 2022 from Terror Films, Sleep. Walk. Kill. is the inaugural film from writer/director Justin Miller. The premise of this low budget horror/comedy is simple enough: a “sound anomaly” (lasting 2 minutes and 11 seconds, as reported by the news) has affected the East Coast of the United States. As a result, anyone who falls asleep immediately becomes a bloodthirsty, murderous creature. The film follows a small group of neighbors in a quiet suburban town while they try to survive the experience, ostensibly by trying to stay awake to avoid becoming a facsimile of a zombie.
Following an opening sequence, in which a couple introduce us to the premise of the effects of the sound anomaly, we meet our primary protagonist Edgar (Bill Reick), a divorced man in his thirties who will soon find himself in the unfortunate situation of hosting his doddering parents (Ellen Boscov is mom, Bob Quintana is dad), cognitively unstable uncle Pat (The Legendary Wid), along with his ex-wife and a slew of neighbors thrown in to keep the plot moving. The acting is amateur but consistent. Nobody here is trying to win an Oscar, but they clearly took their jobs at portraying these characters seriously, and I laud them for it.
Indeed, the weight of the film falls largely on the dialog, as very little is done to expand the story beyond Edgar’s small home where the bulk of the movie takes place. Exposition heavy and laden with dry, snarky quips between various members of the cast, the film is more of a low budget character study than the horror/comedy it’s being marketed as. While to me, the experience felt like a miss on the comedy front (our first victim being inexplicably clad in bondage gear, because…out of the ordinary?), the film’s one consistency is the commitment to it’s tone of delivery. For this reason, I suspect there are folks who will gravitate to the zero-budget cringe fest the movie becomes.
In terms of the horror, it is again shallow and dryly delivered. While there are victims and blood, it’s sparse, taking a backseat to the squabbles of strained interpersonal relationships under the duress of the plight our characters find themselves in, even if the weight of that experience is never really felt as an audience member. Characters are introduced, have inordinately long conversations, make decisions that made little sense to me, and then occasionally die off or are killed with little fanfare or emotional repercussions. It isn’t until the final sequence that Miller takes off the gloves and gives us some bombast that hints at the original Evil Dead, giving us a horror sequence that would have done well to have occurred much earlier as a tone setter than waiting until the wrapping of the story.
To be fair to Sleep. Walk. Kill. It’s important to point out that despite all of it’s shortcomings, it’s strength is in seeming to know what it is. This is as near a no-budget film as one might find, and other than the misleading cover art, the film never efforts to portray itself as anything other than what it is, a nonsensical ninety minute romp through a Night of the Living Dead inspired story. As a viewer, I questioned nearly every turn of what I was watching. The movie never trailed off into truly gonzo territory, but it also didn’t feel like a portrayal of any potentially realistic reaction to circumstances. Unfortunately for my taste, it would have presented better as a community theater piece than marketed as a feature film.
- SLEEP WALK KILL - Shawn Parks