Have you ever had one of those nightmares where, no matter what happens when you’re awake, you’re forced to revisit it again and again? Eventually, you feel yourself wearing down to the point of delirium. All you know at a certain point is fear and a paranoia that takes hold of your veins and digs ever deeper still.
Now, what if those nightmares were something more? Something far more sinister? These are the questions we’re faced with in Parker Finn‘s latest short film, LAURA HASN’T SLEPT.
We meet Laura (Caitlin Stasey) in the middle of a session with what appears to be her therapist (Lew Temple). She is on edge, shaking, and her eyes dart every which way as fear takes a hold of her. You see, she hasn’t slept in a couple of days. She’s afraid that her nightmares and will lead to her death and she’s scared.
The therapist tries to make Laura dig deeper as to why she’s so fearful. However, hysteria grips her. Emotions are heightened as she explains the nightmares, the man’s appearance who changes with every dream. She knows him but doesn’t know him. And the giveaway in each dream is the look in his eyes and the smile that isn’t a warm, friendly smile. He wants to show her his true face but she knows that if she sees it, she will die.
This all plays out like a legitimate therapy session. All seems normal up to this point until something shifts. I dare not say more as the second act of the short is super-spoiler filled.
As a short film, writer and director Parker Finn wastes no time tossing us into the deep side of the pool. Full of tension from the get-go, the decision to make viewers meet Laura days after these nightmares have started is a smart one. Reminiscent of Nightmare on Elm Street and pulling from classic sleep-related folklore, by the time the second act of LAURA HASN’T SLEPT begins, the viewer knows what is to come. All we can do is watch and wait for the inevitable to happen. And, while knowing what will happen instinctively, we are compelled to watch in part due to the framing of shots, the intense acting, and the tight script.
The acting itself is strong. It is easy to believe that Caitlin Stasey’s Laura hasn’t slept as her every mannerism is of someone who is in the grips of sleep-deprivation related paranoia. Not that I’m speaking from experience (but I am), but it was all too easy to find the believability in the performance. Lew Temple’s therapist oddly reminded me of Hannibal Lector. Whether due to the cadence of the voice or what have you, I was immediately on edge. By the time we entered the second act of LAURA HASN’T SLEPT, I knew shit was about to go down with him and was immediately clutching my pearls when it did.
The set design work from Noah Dains was effective for what needed to be accomplished. While LAURA HASN’T SLEPT itself takes place inside a therapist’s office, the transformation the office undergoes throughout the course of the short is quick and staggering. By the time we reach the film’s end, you wouldn’t have believed that it was once a bright, vibrant office. One particular shout out I have to give is for the practical falling apart effect seen with a bookcase as we transition to the second act. I’m a sucker for practical set effects, so seeing that happen as a transitional nod to what was about to go down really was great.
LAURA HASN’T SLEPT is a film that you could arguably watch again and again, especially if you’re like me and like taking in the transitional, story elements. However, I would not recommend the film if you’re having problems sleeping. Just take it from someone doesn’t sleep well in general. It is a doozy.
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