ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joseph Perry writes for the film websites Gruesome Magazine, The Scariest Things, Horror Fuel and Diabolique Magazine; for the film magazines Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope and Drive-In Asylum; and for the pop culture websites When It Was Cool and Uphill Both Ways. He is also one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast and can occasionally be heard as a cohost on Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast.
Writer/director Robert Adetuyi’s Trouble Sleeping is an entertaining near-miss on several accounts. Not chilling enough to rate as a suspenseful thriller and not biting enough with its dark comedy elements, the U.S./Canadian coproduction feels like it is staying safe in middle ground, walking a fine line between being predictable, which it is, and outright boring, which it is not.
Vanessa (Vanessa Angel) is plagued by visions of her deceased husband Charles (Billy Zane), who committed suicide. Having remarried to Alex (Rick Otto), a colleague of Charles in a university psychology department, she is troubled even more by the imminent return home of her stepson Justin (Kale Clauson), who has just spent four years in a psychiatric facility after having discovered his father Charles’ body — and who is a mere 10 days away from inheriting millions of dollars, on which Vanessa and Alex have dangerous designs. Adding to the intrigue is August (Ingrid Eskeland), a graduate student who moves in with the trio to research her thesis on Charles’ life.
To murder and be rich, or to not murder and live off of what Justin will give them? That is the question that the increasingly paranoid Vanessa and the id-driven Alex have to ponder.
Adetuyi’s direction is fine; stylish with flavors of neo-noir. The screenplay has some bumps, though, including, as mentioned earlier, being rather easy to figure out, and having some occasionally clunky dialogue.
The ensemble cast all give serviceable-to-commendable performances, though their characters never give the actors much with which to stretch. Justin, for example, is a somnambulist and isn’t far off from that emotionally when awake, while Vanessa may get miffed and jealous, but more often than not stays rather cool-headed while doing so.
Trouble Sleeping has been dormant since its completion in 2018. It’s certainly not bad enough to warrant waiting that long for a release, especially when compared to many films in its subgenre, but viewers will likely have more feelings of déjà vu from watching it than they will restless nights of insomnia.
Trouble Sleeping was released on February 15, 2022.