What do you do if you can’t tell if you’re awake or still stuck in a dream? Michael Venus’ never-ending nightmare, Sleep (Schlaf), opens with Marlene (Sandra Hüller), a woman who suffers from horrible recurring dreams. When Marlene ends up in the hospital after attempting to get to the bottom of her dreams, her daughter, Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof), follows in her footsteps and uncovers a tragic family secret that will send her down the same path as her mother.

Nothing about Sleep is outright terrifying; rather, it feels more like a building tension from the very first scene that refuses to let up until the ending cuts to black. The score further adds to this—it starts off soft like the sound of wind chimes at the first onset of nightmares, then, as the film progresses, it turns more sinister as Mona is dragged deeper into discovery. There aren’t any cheap jump scares; the true horror in this film shows itself in Kohlhof’s slow descent into madness within a seemingly normal space in broad daylight, which only adds to the unease that the line between reality and nightmare is becoming blurred. 

There is a complete surrender into the unhinged and abstract in the second half of the film, and although this is admirable and quite visually stunning in many instances, especially as the mystery surrounding this family unravels and nightmare is interwoven with the waking world, it causes the final act to feel muddled.

Sleep is overall a compelling horror film that makes you eager to solve the mysteries within, featuring great lead performances from Kohlhof, Hüller and August Schmölzer, and has the ability to get under your skin with its impressively done dream sequences, despite its direction getting lost towards the end.



CAST: Gro Swantje Kohlhof, Sandra Hüller, August Schmölzer

DIRECTOR: Michael Venus

WRITERS: Thomas Friedrich, Michael Venus

SYNOPSIS: A woman plagued by terrible dreams suffers a breakdown in a remote village