Well-Made Russian Torture Porn

From Russia comes Sleepless Beauty, a nasty thriller with haunting visuals and enough realistic sadism to satisfy the most demented exploitation fans. Inspired by movies such as Saw and Hostel, a young woman is hopelessly terrorized in a locked room while her unseen captors prevent her from sleeping. More grounded than its Hollywood forebears with a frighteningly plausible scenario, Sleepless Beauty approaches a ruthless compliance from an unforgettable angle.

The raw filmmaking from Pavel Khvaleev has a grit and edge often lacking in today’s exploitation scene, aided by the unfamiliar Russian setting and starkly memorable set pieces. The mind-bending ride integrates body horror with the excesses of torture porn in a newly original mold.

Few so-called “torture porn” movies have such a memorable narrative and brutal plot twists as Sleepless Beauty

Can extreme sleep deprivation and psychological torture turn an ordinary person into a cold-blooded killer? That is what director Pavel Khvaleev attempts to answer in his dark and twisted movie.

An assassination attempt on a Russian ambassador fails and soon an ordinary blogger will find herself in a waking nightmare. Mila (Polina Davydova) is kidnapped and wakes up in a locked basement by herself. Given strange and threatening directions by a voice over the loudspeaker, her captors won’t let her fall asleep. The young woman doesn’t understand why she was chosen for this terrible experiment.

Under constant surveillance and mentally tortured beyond exhaustion with dehumanizing techniques, Mila begins experiencing disturbing hallucinations. Hopeless and alone, Mila’s grim situation has been designed by her captors to completely warp her perception of reality.

Sleepless Beauty doesn’t pull its punches, either emotionally or visually. The visceral gore and relentless sadism go hand in hand as Mila endures repeated assaults on her mental state. Mila’s captors hope to break her psyche down and shatter it, reshaping her personality for their own designs. The torture sequences are fresh and rather creative for the genre, certainly a new twist on what has now become a rather rote corner of the horror market.

The Russian film isn’t for everybody with its extreme violence but the stylish direction and capable acting mark it as a cut above for the genre. Few so-called “torture porn” movies have such a memorable narrative and brutal plot twists like Sleepless Beauty.

Video

Sleepless Beauty has decent enough picture quality for Blu-ray. No one will confuse it with videophile material. The gritty aesthetic is often dingy with coarse noise and the cold glare of harsh garage lighting. Think the lighting of Saw brought forward with today’s modern digital cameras. Epic Pictures provides a decent transfer for the Russian production, derived from the movie’s 2K digital intermediate. There isn’t much color in the limited palette except when blood is present.

The main feature is shown at its intended 2.35:1 aspect ratio with an AVC encode that occasionally falls apart. Hints of banding and chroma noise are common. Sleepless Beauty runs an uncut 84 minutes. Definition is respectable, if a tad flat and lacking pop. There are scenes which look inferior, often with limited shadow delineation and poor detail.

While the movie isn’t a looker, Sleepless Beauty receives a 1080P presentation largely faithful to the filmmaker’s intended grim aesthetic.

Audio

The gritty Russian thriller sounds fantastic in its native Russian audio with a polished 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. Mildly disappointing a BD in 2020 includes lossy audio, but Sleepless Beauty features a pulsing electronic soundtrack with thump. The imposing techno score delivers ample bass and energy.

Dialogue is cleanly rendered and the overall soundstage has extended dynamic range. Regular immersion from the excellent industrial sound design will keep listeners on edge. The surround mix is active in the rears with discrete noise.

Most foreign indie productions usually offer up poor English dubs. Sleepless Beauty is the exception to the rule. Offered up in 5.1 Dolby Digital, the smooth English dub has superb voice acting perfectly matched for each character. The sync job is nigh perfect. There is a case to be made that most viewers will barely realize they are watching a Russian-made film if they only hear this English audio. You aren’t losing anything by skipping the subtitles and watching this English dub, something I rarely say.

Both English and Russian dubs are also offered in 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtracks. There are a plethora of optional subtitle choices. English (for the Russian dub), English SDH, Russian and Spanish subtitles play in a yellow font inside the scope presentation.

Extras

The region-free Blu-ray from Epic Pictures includes limited bonus material.

Behind The Scene Film (05:56 in HD) – A glimpse at director Pavel Khvaleev working with other cast and crew members from the set. The biggest issue is that everyone is speaking Russian and no subtitles are provided, limiting its utility for English speakers.

Deleted Scene: Day 3 (01:40 in HD) – An interesting failure that wisely was removed from the movie. The masked man tortures Mila by singing a hideous rendition of “I Will Survive.” Possibly the most frightening thing ever.

Alternate Scene: Hallucination (03:08 in HD) – Alternate CGI/graphics for the trippy hallucination scene suffered by Mila.

Sleepless Beauty: Russian Trailer (01:58 in HD)

Sleepless Beauty: English Trailer (01:42 in HD)

Epic Pictures Trailers (09:23 in HD) – Five other trailers for Dread releases are included such as The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Sleepless Beauty
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

A raw, nasty thriller from Russia that explores the devastating effects of sleep deprivation with vivid terror.

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4 (1 vote)

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