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Michael Venus
Gro Swantje Kohlhof, Sandra Hüller, August Schmölzer
Writing Credits:
Thomas Friedrich, Michael Venus

When Marlene suffers from terrifying nightmares, she discovers their horrifying real-world repercussions.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
German DTS-HD MA 5.1
German DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 1/18/22

• Audio Commentary with Film Historians Kim Newman and Sean Hogan
• “A Strange Dark Magic” Visual Essay
• “Sleepwalking Through National Trauma” Visual Essay
• “Dream & Folktale In Sleep” Featurette
• “This Is No Dream” Introduction
• “Talking In Their Sleep” Featurette
• “A Dream We Can Dream Together” Featurette
• “Making Dreams Come True” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Sketches
• Trailer
• Image Galleries


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-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver;
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Sleep [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 2, 2022)

While Arrow usually concentrates on reissues of older films, they occasionally put out modern affairs. In that vein comes 2020’s Sleep, a horror film out of Germany.

Marlene (Sandra Hüller) suffers from horrific nightmares. In these, she envisions a village she doesn’t know.

Eventually Marlene learns that her dreams relate to the quaint burg of Stainbach. She visits in an attempt to find the connection between her visions and the actual location.

However, Marlene suffers mental trauma and winds up hospitalized in a stupor. Her daughter Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) follows her to Stainbach, where she tries to help her mother and also get to the bottom of the town’s old mystery.

As you go into Sleep, expect to see a lot of pretty obvious influences. The movie comes from a general “Brothers Grimm” vibe and packs in clear links to David Lynch, Shining, Nightmare On Elm Street and other efforts.

Despite these clear influences, Sleep manages to largely develop into its own entity, one with more of a political influence than anticipated. Sleep reflects on Germany’s fascist past with allusions to the modern rise of authoritarian “populist” movements as well.

All of this comes packed in a “slow burn” tale of terror that doesn’t opt for obvious fright scenes. Oh, it tosses out the occasional “jump scare”, but these remain blissfully infrequent.

Instead, Sleep opts for a disturbing undercurrent more than overt horror. We see the dark core underneath the idyllic outward appearance, and the movie develops the creepiness inherent in that setting.

It also delves into the shadowy world between sleep and consciousness. That’s where the Nightmare on Elm Street influence seems most prominent, but Sleep manages to put its own stamp on that side of things, and it gives the movie a tenuous vibe, as we often question reality vs. dreams.

If forced to pick a flaw here, I would indicate that the pacing can seem a bit too gradual at times. While the “slow burn” side works fine, the story can keep us a little too distanced from its ultimate goals during its first half.

Nonetheless, Sleep eventually delivers a pretty evocative horror drama. It melds its influences into a creative endeavor that usually provides an unsettling, creepy affair.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Sleep appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a good presentation.

Sharpness largely seemed positive, as the majority of the movie offered appropriate delineation. A few mild instances of softness occurred, but most of the film looked concise.

I saw no jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. I also noted no signs of source defects.

As expected, colors remained restrained, with a definite orientation toward a light form of teal and amber, though we got some greens and reds at times as well. These hues served the production’s choices.

Blacks seemed fairly deep and firm, while shadows offered pretty good clarity. This came across as a “B+” presentation.

I felt the same about the often subdued DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, as it focused on the usual scope one associates with creepy horror films. This meant a lot of spooky ambience and not much more.

That said, the mix did kick to life at times. Some of the stabs at scares worked well, as did more action-oriented beats and music provided nice utilization of the channels. The track tossed in nice localized dialogue at times, too.

Audio quality seemed solid. Music was lively and full, while speech appeared natural and concise.

Effects also appeared accurate and dynamic. All of this led to a generally positive soundtrack for a subdued horror tale.

A bunch of extras appear here, and we start with an audio commentary from film historians Kim Newman and Sean Hogan. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/characters, cast and crew, genre connections, themes and interpretation.

Though veterans of multiple commentaries, Hogan and Newman acknowledge that Sleep differs from their usual subject matter. Normally they handle older films, not new releases.

This leaves them without their usual “film historian topics” to discuss, and they seem a bit at sea through a lot of the commentary. Because they can’t offer the usual retrospective notes about cast/crew and the production, they struggle to find content.

For the most part, they do lean back on their wheelhouse and discuss how they feel Sleep relates to other movies in its genre. Some of this becomes informative.

However, a lot of the commentary comes across as two guys vamping to fill space. Sure they’re two guys who know enough about movies to cover this ground acceptably well, but Newman and Hogan just don’t appear to possess the information necessary to make this a particularly engaging or enlightening chat.

Next we find two visual essays. “A Strange Dark Magic” goes for 16 minutes, 38 seconds and features critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, as she discusses themes, meaning and symbolism in the film,

“Sleepwalking Through National Trauma” spans 22 minutes, 13 seconds and offers comments from critic Anton Bitel as he covers other aspects of the movie’s symbols and interpretation. Both Heller-Nicholas and Bitel contribute some useful insights.

Dream & Folktale in Sleep occupies 11 minutes, 13 seconds and provides film professor Louise S. Milne’s notes about folktales and interpretation of the movie. Some of this feels redundant after the two “visual essays”, but Milne provides some worthwhile material.

With This Is No Dream, director Michael Venus and actor Gro Swantje Kohlhof give us a two-minute, 17-second introduction to the Blu-ray version of the film. Nothing substantial occurs, but it comes with some comedic value.

Venus and Kohlhof return for Talking In Their Sleep, a 26-minute, four-second discussion of the movie’s roots and development, influences, cast, characters and performances, some story areas and themes. They offer an engaging chat.

A Dream We Can Dream Together lasts 16 minutes, seven seconds and brings a collection of introductions created for film festivals over the COVID pandemic.

Across these, we see Venus, Kohlhof, writer Thomas Friedrich, and actors Marion Kracht, Andreas Anke, Max Hubacher, and August Schmölzer. Most of these play for laughs and they work well.

Next comes Making Dreams Come True, a two-minute, 46-second glimpse of the movie shoot. It includes some good clips but it’s too short to add up to much.

Four Deleted Scenes take up a total of four minutes, 42 seconds. These essentially provide minor character moments, so don’t expect anything momentous.

One nice touch: text that precedes each scene tells us where the clips would fit into the final film.

Under Marlene’s Sketches, we find 83 frames that show Christoph Vieweg’s art created for the film. It’s good to get a better look at the drawings.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we finish with two Image Galleries: “Promotional Stills and Posters” (23) and “Behind the Scenes” (19). Both offer passable compilations.

A slow burn horror film, Sleep does not consistently satisfy. Still, it creates a fairly evocative tale that keeps us involved until the end. The Blu-ray brings good picture and audio along with a nice array of bonus materials. This turns into a reasonably compelling horror story.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
1 3:
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