In Their Sleep (Dans Ton Sommeil) (France, 2010)
Starring: Anne Parillaud, Arthur Dupont, Thierry Frémont
A year after her son died from a tragic accident, Sarah's life is in shambles and her depression is taking over, robbing her of sleep and sanity. In this one night however, while driving home from work, she almost ends up hitting Arthur, a young man around the same age of her late boy who appears to be stalked by a car not too far off. After hearing from the boy that his family was murdered, Sarah sees herself responsible for Arthur's safety and allows him to stay at her nearly empty abode until they can sort everything out.
But when the mysterious driver shows up and starts hunting down Arthur, the truth to his story begins to unravel and it seems Sarah will have to use her best judgement to determine what is real and who is the real threat among these people.
Written and directed by duo Caroline and Eric du Potet, In Their Sleep (2010) may lack a capricious plot but it's intriguing enough as a watch for how overwhelmingly bleak it is to follow through from beginning to end. Emotional and intense, it walks a rather devastating stroll down grief and anguish from the eyes of its relatively small casts, may it be the victims or perpetrators, though a good brunt of this is mainly from Anne Parillaud's character Sarah; from the very start, she is dangerously desperate to find happiness in her current emotional and psychological state and is willing to make decisions that go over her better judgment. This, in turn, has us observing a silent breakdown of Sarah's psyche as she tries to make sense of what's happening in this one night, her doubts and tumbles further marking her for a fate bound to happen no matter how hard she tries going against it.
The catalyst to all of this is basically a home invasion scenario that's simply chilling; without giving away much, a killer made their way through a house that appears empty, helping themselves to whatever is around and enjoying the bounty until the owners return. From there, they hide and wait until everyone in the family is asleep before murdering them all one by one, everyday box cutter in hand. There's a sense of routine to the massacre that's just upsetting to think about, especially when it is eventually implied this wasn't the killer's first rodeo for this modus. Though, given the situation for this one night, it seems this is the first time things didn't go as per the usual plan and seeing the survivor's powerful reaction to their murdered family is just heartbreaking to sit through.
With its narration interwoven with flashbacks, dreams and everything in between, In Their Sleep (2010) toys with how it illustrates and deploys its character's motives and tragedies, compounding weight upon weight of dread and anticipation as we see more of the bigger picture, albeit in foreboding pieces. This effectively raises the tension between each character's relation with one another the further the story goes, giving us pieces of the past that only we're aware of and hoping highly that gets to be brought up. It's a plot-building tactic that's paced modestly (thus giving this movie quite the slow trot despite the short running time), even having its occasions of being a bit upsetting when it teases us outcomes that may or may not go the way we anticipated.
Filled with lush cinematography and artistic flair, there's an underlying reservedness with this movie's execution compared to other French home invasion shockers such as High Tension (2003), Inside (2007) and Martyrs (2008). It's shock factor relies less from kills that borderlines into body horror and more on emotional impact, in which the stellar performances of its three leads graciously provided as they strongly impassioned all the sorrow and woe that would come from broken hearts and damaged minds. In Their Sleep (2010) may not be all that perfect, but it understands terror and loss by tapping (or cutting) a vein or two and, sometimes, that's quite enough to make a horror thriller that terrifying and distressing to watch. A guaranteed viewing for genre fans like you and me.
1 male found impaled on rebars
1 female had her throat cut with a boxcutter
1 girl had her throat cut with a boxcutter
1 male ran through with a sharpened lumber
1 male found with his throat cut with a box cutter
1 female seen dead from a throat cut