Sleepless cast: Max Von Sydow, Stefano Dionisi, Chiara Caselli, and Gabriele Lavia director: Dario Argento 117 minutes (18) 2000 widescreen ratio 16:9 MIA DVD Region ‘0’ retail RATING: 6/10 reviewed by James Starkey

In every possible respect, Sleepless is Dario Argento’s attempt at returning to his traditional roots. Obviously stung by mounting criticism of his recent works, the Italian maestro has set out to win back those disillusioned within the ranks of his fan base. Reaction appears to be mixed, although this is more a reflection on the attitudes of Argento enthusiasts rather than the general opinion amongst critics. Most of who deem Sleepless as a welcome return to form for the director.
Max Von Sydow takes up the role of retired cop Moretti who is disturbed to find a spate of recent murders being pinned on an individual he had attempted to apprehend some 17 years earlier. All the signs were that this particular criminal had subsequently died after the event. What made the case so infamous at the time was that the prime suspect in the inquiry was a dwarf who became notorious for his violent temper through years of taunting. Morreti is unconvinced by rumours of the dwarf’s survival but begins his own amateur investigation, as the bodies mount up.
Moretti is soon joined by Giacomo (Stefano Dionisi) who, as a child, witnessed the brutal murder of his mother – allegedly by the infamous Dwarf. Now a grown man, he persuades Moretti to allow him to contribute to the investigation. Both men dismiss the idea of the dwarf and believe the killings to have been committed by a copycat. What follows is a stylish giallo thriller reinforced by a script that thunders along at breakneck speed. All the old Argento hallmarks are present, from glove-wearing killers to awesome Steadicam action sequences, and some extended murder set pieces. Probably the most effective of these is the first where the killer stalks a girl on an empty train.
Unlike much of Dario’s earlier work, his cast delivers solid and reliable performances. Both Von Sydow and Dionisi are convincing – as is the story that builds up around them. Furthermore, the whole delivery of the plot and its subsequent development smacks of a director back to his best. The audience is treated to a mental image of the killer that slowly develops as the mystery unfolds. With every twist of the plot, the reality that Moretti and Giacomo are close to unravelling the mystery becomes more and more terrifying. Argento succeeds in building the movie up to a climatic crescendo – and then pulling the proverbial rug from underneath us all.
It’s unclear whether one could deem this piece a horror film in the traditional sense. It is primarily a highly charged suspense thriller. It also has some of the hallmarks of the genre-defining pieces the Italian has produced down the years such as Deep Red and Bird With The Crystal Plumage. Although it cannot be placed within the same confines as those two legendary films, Sleepless is however a solid effort, and after much thought and deliberation… a welcome return to form.
The DVD that this review was taken from is a quality effort. A double-disc presentation features Dolby Digital 5.1 sound as well as stills galleries, biographies, a making-of’ short, and the famous An Eye For Horror documentary. This fascinating insight into the career of the legendary director is a good hour long and perfectly compliments proceeding. Print quality on the movie and feature disc is exceptional, as is the clarity of sound.