SLEEPLESS NIGHTS * USA 2016 Dir: Todd Sheets, Jeff Chitty, Tony Masiello, Amanda Payton, Johnnie Steed, Antwoine Steele, Brad Twigg. 119 mins
Here’s another poorly linked bunch of unrelated short horror films pretending to be an anthology movie and opening with the now officially over-used faux-Grindhouse “Feature Presentation” logo. The wraparound story is lamer than most, with a pair of godawful child actors exchanging “It happened to my friend…” type scare stories on Halloween night as links into the home movie-quality horrors that follow.
The inexcusably poor sound quality of the framing scenes and the dreary look of all the individual films may or may not be a deliberate bid to emulate the look, feel and sound of the kind of particularly shitty VHS horror experience that no one around in the 1980’s truly wants to revisit. The stories present a half-assed blaxploitation homage, Cronenberg-pilfered body-invading parasites, an embarrassingly overplayed horror “comedy” possession story and a just plain dull tale of an amateur pornographer who meets his match. The opening episode – though almost as weary and annoying as those that follow – at least displays a degree of affection for Lucio Fulci’s splatter movie heyday. Unfolding in a house built upon one of the seven gateways to Hell and menaced by the soul-seeking “Skull Face”, it opens with a tribute to CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD’s famous extended vomiting sequence before some notably jaded-looking “teenagers” show up. It’s self-conscious and totally lacking in atmosphere, though by managing to be slightly less obnoxious than the following episodes, it qualifies as (whisper it) the movie’s “highlight”.
Review by Steven West