SLEEPLESS **** Italy 2001 Dir: Dario Argento. 112 mins
A triumphant return to the pure giallo territory of his career defining movies, SLEEPLESS reunited Argento with Goblin for the first time since the 1980’s – their bombastic music providing a suitably relentless accompaniment to a thrilling opening 15 minute sequence in which a hooker is stalked, assaulted and bloodily murdered on a train during an intense SUSPIRIA-like storm. She is the latest victim of a killer whose modus operandi uncannily resembles the handiwork of “The Dwarf”, a deceased maniac from 17 years earlier. Wily retired detective Max Von Sydow was on the case back then, and assists the contemporary cops with the new mystery, joined by the son (Stefano Dionisi) of an earlier victim. The busy, suspenseful script incorporates a shoal of red herrings and deceptive backstories to keep the audience guessing right up to the bloody climactic reveal of the black-gloved killer. When unmasked, the antagonist is marvellously twisted and unnerving, while make-up effects artist Sergio Stivaletti gives him one of the most spectacular deaths in the whole Argento canon. Indeed, the breathtakingly brutal murders throughout SLEEPLESS confirm the filmmaker’s return to vicious form: a night porter stabbed in the head with a fountain pen; a floor-level tracking shot culminating with the still-blinking severed head of a dancer falling to the floor; a genuinely nasty flashback in which a character gruesomely gets the (English) horn. Von Sydow is typically convincing as the veteran detective whose hazy memory is assisted by a pet parrot, while Dionisi and waifish love interest Chiara Caselli are pretty but bland as the young protagonists. Asia Argento wrote the nursery rhyme that forms an integral part of the murder-mystery plot.
Review by Steven West