Sleep // Overlook Film Festival Review: This Will Wake You Up

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I love Korean horror movies, so I rearranged my festival schedule to catch Sleep at Overlook Film Festival. All I knew about the film was that it would be one of Lee Sun-kyun’s (Parasite) final roles. I also noted that it was described as a mystery, thriller, horror-comedy. So, I didn’t know what to expect but assumed we were about to get some baby horror from the image the fest was using. However, I was delightfully wrong.

Sleep follows a young couple expecting their first child. As the due date nears, the husband begins having bizarre and dangerous sleepwalking incidents. This leaves his pregnant wife to try to keep their small family safe from his nocturnal excursions while getting to the bottom of what is happening in their home. 

She’s A Mother, After All

Writer-director Jason Yu gives the actors so much to work with that it’s almost an embarrassment of riches. Both our leads Su-jin (Jung Yu-mi ) and Hyun-su (Lee Sun-kyun), are fantastic and charming. They immediately draw us in from their first scene and never let us go. However, it was so damn refreshing to see an expectant mother not written as if being pregnant is an entire personality. She’s smart, resourceful, funny, and importantly relatable.

While my immediate impulse would be to leave, Su-jin clocks these nighttime dangers have to be something supernatural. After all, during the day, Hyun-su is an amazing and caring partner. However, the longer she goes without sleep, the easier it is for people to assume she’s the unstable one and that her theories must be part of some psychotic break. This is interesting because not only is her home no longer a safe space at night but there aren’t many people she can turn to for help with this issue. 

Don’t Sleep On These Performances

Not only is Su-jin impossible not to root for, but Jung Yu-mi infuses her with so much final girl energy that you feel bad for whatever is coming for her. She knows she’s right even when no one believes her. She knows that she is the only person who can protect her family. However, she is also a tired new mom trying to solve this mystery by herself.

Jung makes the frustration, exhaustion, and loneliness during what was supposed to be a happy occasion for this couple palpable. Her chemistry with Lee is also off the charts, and I’m sad they will never get to work together again. They cleverly spin their characters away from the formulaic horror couples we are constantly bombarded with. This duo is actually engaging enough to keep us interested the whole journey. They both also navigate all the comedic, scary, and chilling beats so effortlessly and expertly that their performances deserve to be considered for acting awards.

Are There Ghosts In This House?

One of the things I like about this movie is that it doesn’t give away everything up top. I’m tired of movies that spoonfeed us everything in the first five minutes and expect us to stick around. This script beautifully peels back the layers of the who, what, why, and how as we watch Su-jin being pushed to the brink of madness. I love that it’s a proper mystery and allows the audience to piece it together alongside the protagonist. I’m still in awe that this is Jason Yu’s first feature. I look forward to seeing many more from him because this is my kind of party. My advice would be to go in knowing as little as possible. You’ll thank me once you’re done trying to untangle this web.