Don't Go to Sleep

Don't Go to Sleep ★★★★½

Haunted house movies can be extremely creepy and atmospheric when done right, the tension builds and builds, they grab you and don't let you go. They need to be precisely and brilliantly choreographed. They can also be a hell of a lot of fun. Don't Go to Sleep has all this in abundance. This lesser known TV horror classic made such an impression on me that still remember it as if I watching it right now. What Don't Go to Sleep is, is a quintessential made-for-TV horror movie from the eighties, that is surprisingly creepy and genuinely terrifying that possesses a thick atmosphere that you could almost drown in. There was some great TV movies made during the 1970's, and on the face of it, it would seem that that tradition carried on, at least, through the eighties. Don't Go to Sleep is an astonishingly creepy made-for-television film, and one of the best made for television horror films that I've ever seen.

The plot centres on an all-American family who a year previously were in a car accident as the father, Phillip (played by Dennis Weaver), was driving under the influence. The oldest daughter, Jennifer (played by Kristen Cumming), unfortunately gets killed due to a terrible prank gone wrong, played on her by her younger siblings. The family decide to move in with their grandmother, Bernice (played by Ruth Gordon) so they can care for her. It is in this house, where the younger daughter begins hearing things and experiences strange events. She seeks revenge on her family by using her sister as a medium for her diabolical revenge on her family. She carries out her revenge - by wiping out the members of her own family, one by one, in the most horrific of ways. There are some genuinely effective creepy scenes: like the creepy scene involving the younger sister, while sinisterly running the pizza cutter along the banister of the stairs about to attack her mother with it, who is upstairs, was truly scary. The ending to the film is quite possibly is the most terrifying ending to any film I have ever seen. While her mother is sleeping, Jennifer appears in front of her bed with an evil knowing grin on her face. When her mother screams, the movie abruptly ends. Try watching that before you go to bed!

Although restrained in terms of budget - which most TV movies are), the plot is the main theme which really makes this film very creepy and scary. Ruth Gordon, Dennis Weaver and Valerie Harper give great real performances, all too real performances at times. The story is tightly written, which builds a nice atmosphere to a chilling climax which will leave the viewer sitting on the edge of their seat. Don't Go to Sleep pulls no punches with suspense and shocks, but it never resorts to outlandish and pointless gore to get its point across, but instead it relies on old-fashioned suspense, which is refreshing to behold. It is up their with Burnt Offerings and its ilk for a slow burner haunted house chiller. If you have the chance to see it, see it.

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