Sleepless Nights (2003)



Starring Jacqueline Anderson, Richard Ryan, Matthew Thomas, Bart Shatto

Directed by William Hopkins


I HATE vampire melodramas. I cannot stand all of the depressing, angst ridden undead romps in night and blackness. Ever since I read Anne Rice‘s Interview with the Vampire and then saw Neil Jordan's film version, I've been trying to stay away from the subgenre as a whole. It is not that I disliked the book or film version of the story; on the contrary, I thought it was fresh and compelling. Apparently, I was not the only one.

Next to zombie films, it seems that the next most popular style of film for independent cinema attempts is the vampiric soap film. We can count ourselves as lucky that there has not been an even higher glut of these films on the market. With the relative ease of the effects and the simplicity of the stories, we should be swimming in discs choked with tales of undead unrequited lust, bad dialogue, and corny, corny, corny storylines.

So, it was with great distress that I sat down to watch a copy of Sleepless Nights, as it already had one strike against it. Then I realized it was shot on digital video. Strike two. Rarely does a digital video film have anything other than a austere amateur feel to it, and to me it just makes the whole production feel cheap. I was prepared for the worst. The first scene did little to dissuade my judgment.

We are thrown into a scenario where a man is prepping to go and fight the hordes of vampires. He is filling a backpack full of wooden stakes, natch. As he does this, a woman appears and has a quaint discussion with him. During which we learn two things: 1. The two of them are in love, and 2. She has just joined the ranks of the enemy. The man is so distraught over this shocking revelation, he allows her to bite him on the neck.

Cue, Halloween shop fangs and a lot of blood coming out from the corners of her mouth..

YAWN...

This is what I hate about these movies. They are just so predictable, and they make such pansies out of vampires. Vampires are supposed to be scary, they're supposed to invoke fear and dread. We're not supposed to feel sorry for them, we should be afraid, or at least in awe, of them. Movies like Sleepless Nights are exercises in the de-monsterfication of the vampire. The whole movement, which even extends to television ("Angel"), is literally destroying one of the most hallowed of horror icons while we sit helplessly by on our sofas and eat popcorn.

From this point in, I am really not looking forward to the next 90 minutes of my life. Yet, to its credit, Sleepless Nights began to weave a story that was able to keep me from condemning it, despite its horrid pedigree. A convoluted series of events and characters begin to interweave in a way that was a most welcome departure from the normal boring character studies that have latched their fangs into the subgenre.

Yes, the acting is nominal and the dialogue is thickly awkward at times. The effects are bad or just uneven in spots. Again, I have to give a nod to the film for at least trying to be more than a group of bite scenes surrounded by bad pseudo sexual tension. Sleepless Nights is actually trying to do something. The plot goes on from the initial scene to detail a group of government (?) covert agents who are in line to defend humanity from the "necromorphs". Interesting way to say "vampire" without the cliché of actually doing so.

There are double crosses. The bad guy is always a step ahead. People die, and we find out why the first scene was so important. In the end, Sleepless Nights is not the worst movie ever made. It is a bad movie, but an enjoyable one, and that's a hard thing for me to say. I LOATHE films like this but this one won me over, even if it was just a little bit.

I guess if you are a fan of this sort of vampire stuff, then be sure to check out the film. The work here is above average and far better than I was expecting --or dreading.

2 out of 5

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