Don’t Go to Sleep Movie Review
Mary thinks there is something alive under her bed. Mary is right. That’s the tagline for this movie, an American made for TV haunted house film produced by Aaron Spelling back in 1982. So let’s find out what is hiding under Mary’s bed shall we? Like most other haunted house movies, Don’t Go to Sleep starts out with a family moving into a new house. This family consists of the father, Phillip played by Dennis Weaver, the mother Laura, played by Valerie Harper and their two children Mary and Kevin, played by Robin Ignico and Oliver Robbins respectively. Phillip has gotten a new job opportunity and they felt a move would be good for the family as it would mark a new start for them as they are still in mourning of the tragic accidental death of their third child Jennifer.
There is a lot of tension in the air as they get to their new home. Laura’s mother Bernice, played by Ruth Gordon, is waiting for them as she is also moving in with them and not everyone in the family is all that happy about sharing their home with this old lady. While they are trying to get accustomed to their new house, strange unexplainable stuff starts to happen around Mary. She starts to get haunted nightmares, hear voices and her bed even mysteriously sets itself on fire.
These supernatural events starts to take the shape of her deceased sister Jennifer, who comes to Mary promising that she wants to be her friend. But if Jennifer are going to be able to stick around, then Mary needs to do whatever Jennifer tells her if she wants to keep their friendship. But why has Jennifer returned, what does she want and is this really the spirit of Jennifer or is this a sinister spirit out to bring even more destruction to this poor family? I guess it wouldn’t be a big spoiler to say that this spirit isn’t there to improve the life of this family as Don’t Go to Sleep is of course a horror movie and friendly ghosts wouldn’t provide us with much entertainment or scares. But unlike what we are used to seeing in the haunted house movies of today, the spirit isn’t there to pop up and provide jump scares.
This ghost will not be satisfied by only terrorizing these people, it wants to destroy them. It is a surprisingly evil entity and I would have liked to see more modern films take some pointers from this. Hell, I’d even be welcoming to a straight up remake of this with more resources available than what these guys had on this made for TV production, as the story is strong enough to be retold today. And it would fit well in with what is going on in the genre today in 2019. Ned Wynn was the screenwriter for Don’t Go to Sleep and I think he deserves a lot of credit for how good this film turned out to be. Haunted house movies tend to be a bit formulaic story wise, relying a lot of good performances and a great director to make them stand a part, so it was refreshing to see one were I was more impressed with the ground work that was done before it went into filming.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the acting in this. I didn’t expect all that much from this and while they do a bit too much over the top emotional television at times, it still works. You might not like everyone in the family at first, but once the story reveals itself, all their character traits starts to make sense and you turn from not liking them to understand why they lash out at each other so much. It’s an impressive and interesting travel we as viewers get with this family. The standout for me was young Robin Ignico as Mary. She starts out as an innocent little girl but manages to actually become scary the more influence the evil spirit gets on her. Ignico is better than 90% of the other child actors I’ve seen in horror movies, regardless if they were small or big productions.
They could even have taken out all the supernatural elements and Mary would still work as a psychological damaged child turned evil. As mentioned, the production is low, as expected on an early 80’s made for TV movie. It might be a bit too bland for some and take them out of the movie, but if you are used to seeing low budget movies, then I doubt it will do to much damage to your viewing experience. There isn’t much of special effects either and some of the horror scenes might come off as too cheesy for some.
That being said, there is some clever, unique stuff here. In one of the most memorable scenes, a regular knife is switched out with a pizza cutter. Pretty cool stuff. Don’t Go to Sleep is an emotional, bleak and tragic story of a normal family that has been through a lot and has more terror awaiting them. I do recognize that some might find it to be a bit too slow and dramatic for their liking or that they get taken out by the basic visual look, but stick with it and let it the story unfold and you might find yourself a hidden gem here like I did. This is one of my biggest finds of 2019 and I can’t wait to revisit it again soon. Don’t Go to Sleep gets the great score of 4 out of 5.
That was my review of Don’t Go to Sleep. Have you seen this one? What did you think of it? And which other made for TV horror movies do you enjoy and think more people need to check out? Let me and others know your thoughts in the comment section below.