“Don’t Go To Sleep” (1982) is a pretty cheesy made for TV thriller that conjures up all kinds of great memories for me. When I was a kid I would watch ANYTHING that was promoted as remotely frightening. As a kid from suburbia there wasn’t much excitement going on so basing my entire night around a movie that was showing on TV wasn’t unheard of. Luckily my big sis was usually as motivated as I was to watch something scary so it made it more fun. Don’t get me wrong I was completely obsessed with horror icons from Frankenstein to Freddy, but I took what I could get if my mother hadn’t taken me to the video store to rent a tape that weekend. Local stations like WPIX 11 and others would show horror movies all throughout October. (See Matt at X-E for a great article on this) Other times even when it wasn’t “Shocktober” they would have Saturday Night Cinema or something to that effect. As a kid television played a much bigger role for me as “must see TV” than it did at any other point in my life. Damn, my whole family gathered for shows and movies and even Married With Children!
It was time for my sister and I to check out this thriller they were promoting for a week. Don’t Go To Sleep starred Valerie Harper who many know from Rhoda and Valerie’s Family and Ruth Gordon from Rosemary’s Baby. The synopsis goes like this: After the death of one of their daughters, Jennifer, a family moves into a new home (what was the house #? = 13666, I swear!) now joined by Valerie’s cranky mother. We’re not seeing gory blood and guts or SFX monsters here, this one’s all psychological. It’s cliche’s galore including bad dreams, shadows, moving dolls, and sinister voices. In her dreams, Valerie’s (I’ll call her Valerie from now on) daughter Mary is haunted by her sister that was killed in a car accident. Her dreams continue and she’s even caught talking out loud to her. Mary’s parents send her to a psychiatrist to see if they could stop these dreams. The shrink doesn’t do much good because Mary’s certified nutso and her dead sister Jennifer is basically telling her to eradicate the entire family.
To get revenge on her grandmother for loving Jennifer more than her, Mary steals her brother Kevin’s iguana Ed. We then see the the camera follow Ed and it looks as if it’s floating, but we know it’s being carried by Mary. She then puts Ed under grandmother’s sheets as she’s sleeping. As she wakes up, poor Ruth Gordon was literally scared to DEATH! It was now time to get rid of that imp Kevin. While playing a fun, non-threatening, opposite of murdering someone game of Frisbee, Mary “accidentally” threw the Frisbee with so much force that it landed on top of the roof near Mary’s window. Oops! Kevin, trying to be the macho, zabka–esque hot-shot of the family didn’t want to wait for dad to get home to get it so he climbs up on the roof himself. Next thing you know the windows mysteriously open up while Kevin’s standing up there and he loses his balance causing him to plummet to his death. Now, Jennifer, the grandmother, and Kevin are all dead. Then, in possibly the creepiest scene in the film that has nothing to do with horror, Mary is in the bathroom while her father is drinking martinis in the bathtub! Yes, you read that correctly. The father (Dennis Weaver) couldn’t hear the ballgame over Mary’s blow dryer so she moves it closer to the tub filled with water. Who can guess what happens next? Mary pushes the radio into the bathtub and electrocutes poor ol‘ Dad who works hard so they can live in a nice huuuge house and have nice things. That ungrateful little bitch! At the very least she could’ve let the man hear the end of his ballgame!
What this movie is really known for is Mary’s attempt on her mother Valerie’s life. It is by no means an average attempt at murder. Mary wigs out and ravages the pizza that was ordered with a pizza cutter. Did Mary get a chance to have a slice or did she just leave it to get cold? Obviously the director didn’t think that was important because the camera then follows the pizza cutter as if the utensil was floating up the stairs and rolling it’s blade on the railing. Clearly the pizza cutter had a mind of it’s own. They loved that shot! What do you expect from a movie co-produced by Aaron Spelling? Back to the pulse pounding conclusion: Trying to call 911, Valerie was mortified to find her daughter holding…A PIZZA CUTTER. The line was disconnected because Mary cut the phone line! The havoc this Mary has wreaked merely with a pizza cutter! Can we send her over to the middle east with that pizza cutter? No one would even try fucking with her!
I’ll leave the rest to you since I know I’ve scared you out of your gourds already. That’s enough scary for one night. I don’t want to send you into cardiac arrest. If this masterpiece doesn’t make it’s way to your must see list I don’t know what will! haha. I must say that there are some decently frightening scenes but you won’t be disappointed in the eerie final scene. Check it out and you’ll see why Valerie shrieks and possibly soils the bed.