"He killed my mother. It's not the same for me as it is for you.
Not just a routine case. Or a hobby."

Seventeen years ago, in 1983, little-person serial killer Vincenzo Fabrizi murdered three people in Torino – including the mother of young Giacomo (Stefano Dionisi) – before his body was found, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot. Now, in the year 2000, someone is killing the same way and leaving trademark paper animal cutouts at the crime scenes. Retired detective Ulysses Moretti (Max Von Sydow), who worked the original case, is drawn to the investigation once again, joined by a grown-up Giacomo. Is this just the work of a copycat killer? Was it really Fabrizi's body they found all those years ago? And how do the murders tie in to a violent nursery rhyme that the killer hums? 

By the dawn of the 21st century, the world had mostly forgotten about giallo, but its greatest auteur, Dario Argento, kept the fires burning with Sleepless. Here, he borrows not only from his own catalog (The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, Deep Red), but makes reference to the classics (Blood and Black Lace) and borrows from some of the lesser entries of the genre (a major third act plot point is lifted directly from The Pajama Girl Case).  But Argento's main inspiration for Sleepless seems to be David Fincher's 1997 thriller Seven, with its low-key lighting, grimy rain-soaked aesthetic, and a serial killer who commits ironically-themed murders based on a work of literature.
  • The title ostensibly comes from Moretti's insomnia, but only a passing reference is made to the fact that he has trouble sleeping.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot.
  • The creepy nursery rhyme at the center of the story was written by Argento's daughter, Asia.
  • Goblin is back, hooray! Argento movies just aren't the same without the eerie synth-rock sounds of Claudio Simonetti.
  • It's weird to see giallo characters use cell phones. So many movies from the 1970's and 1980's hinge on the fact that the characters can't readily communicate from anywhere they want.
  • Two of the murders listed in the body count occur before the prologue and another (Vincenzo's death) occurs between the prologue and the main action of the film.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

Seriously – what the hell am I watching? Because the "moody" lighting is so low most of the time that I can't make out what's going on.

If that blue file is so important, why do people keep forgetting it or leaving it alone or dropping it in the street? It's infuriating!

Police round up little people as suspects to the sound of wacky bassoon music. It's kind of insulting and off-putting.

Giacomo reunites with his childhood friends at a bar where his romantic rival, Fausto (Roberto Accornero) keeps bringing up the fact that Giacomo's mom was brutally murdered. Even when they change the subject, he keeps bringing it back and wonders why everyone is so sensitive. Also, they talk about the fun times as kids when they all murdered animals, as if it's just something every kid does growing up.

The gang meets up a few days later at a mime bar. As in a bar for mimes. Wearing striped shirts and white facepaint, pretending to be trapped in a box. I swear to God, this is a thing that happens in this movie. What's most bizarre is that it goes completely unremarked-upon. No one makes reference to the fact that they're in a bar full of mimes. This might be a visual reference to the movie "Blow-Up," one of Argento's early influences.

Fashion Moment

As a clever callback to the hitman in Argento's The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, the murder of a nightclub dancer is committed by someone in a yellow jacket -  literally a "giallo killer."

1 comment:

  1. Sleepless refers directly to the nursery rhyme the killer kills by. In the rhyme a farmer can't sleep because animal sounds are keeping him awake and he kills the animals one by one until he can sleep. The Italian title Non ho sonno means I Can't Sleep.