A prostitute discovers that one of her clients perpetrated a series of murders, but is herself killed, along with her friend, before either can reach the police.

News of the deaths soon brings Commissioner Moretti (Max von Sydow) out of retirement and Giacomo Carlo, the son of the murderer's last known victim, to the city.

Copy picture

But can the infamous dwarf killer, Vincenzo de Fabritiis, really have returned from the dead, 17 years later? Yet, who else could know the nursery rhyme that de Fabriitis claimed inspired the murders?

Sleepless's strengths and weaknesses are soon apparent. The set-piece murder scenes are executed with considerable elan, but the procedural and investigative sequences are hampered by perfunctory writing, awkward dialogue and shallow characterisation.

In other words, it's back to business as usual, a typical Dario Argento giallo.

Critics will see such weaknesses as being inherent to the genre and its director, while apologists will point to constraints imposed by dubbing, conscious intent on the film-maker's part or to the fact that gialli have been playing the same self-reflexive, "postmodern" games since Mario Bava's 1962 entry, The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

Of the cast, Max von Sydow imbues Moretti with dignity and gravitas surprising for an Argento film. Whether this is von Sydow rising above what Argento gave him or Argento having a great actor to work with is unclear. It would be true to say, nevertheless, that more partnerships like this would benefit his films, especially when one considers the obvious awkwardness of many of the younger and less experienced actors.

Long time Argento collaborators, Goblin, provide an effective score, although those familiar with their earlier work, on the likes of Deep Red and Suspiria, will find it surprisingly anonymous.

All things considered, Sleepless is an effective exercise in giallo style. It will appeal to Argento cultists and horror enthusiasts in search of an alternative to Scream If You Know What I Did Last Halloween Part VII, although, at the same time, it is unlikely to win the director many new fans.

Reviewed on: 29 Mar 2002
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A police commissioner comes out of retirement to hunt a serial killer... with the help of a victim's son.
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Director: Dario Argento

Writer: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini

Starring: Max von Sydow, Stefano Dionisi, Chiara Caselli, Gabriele Lavia, Rossella Falk, Paolo Maria Scalondro, Roberto Zibetti, Barbara Lerici, Massimo Sarchielli, Roberto Accornero

Year: 2001

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy


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