Courtesy of TIFF
A Nightmare on Elm Street imagined sleep as a vulnerable and dangerous state of semi-consciousness in which our worst fears come to malevolent life. Sleep, Jason Yu’s chilling genre feature, takes that notion and wields it for inventive terror and comedy. The story of a young couple dealing with nocturnal behavior and phenomenon of a perplexing and petrifying sort, it’s a directorial debut of poised peril that should inspire both laughs and a few sleepless nights following its North American premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
South Korean director Yu proves himself extremely comfortable behind the camera with Sleep, if not quite as snug as Hyun-su (Parasite’s Lee Sun-kyun) is when lying in bed beside his pregnant wife Soo-jin (Jung Yu-mi). Nonetheless, it’s Soo-jin’s snores that open the film, which are interrupted by the discovery of her husband sitting upright in the dark. “Something’s inside,” he mutters before falling backwards into an unshakable slumber, leaving Soo-jin to investigate the ominous loud noises coming from somewhere in their cozy apartment.
The source of that banging is almost as mysterious as the fact that Hyun-su isn’t disturbed by it. It is, however, plenty bothersome to the couple’s fluffy Pomeranian Pepper as well as the building’s new downstairs tenant and her son, who aren’t shy about complaining about the constant clamor emanating from Hyun-su and Soo-jin’s residence—a problem that also, apparently, bugged their prior neighbor, whose grouchy and creepy conduct is routinely mocked by Hyun-su and Soo-jin.