Chasing Sleep (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I thought this was a pretty good movie, a psychological mystery/thriller with an offbeat tone and irregular narrative technique.

A professor awakens to find out that his wife never returned from work. In the next days and nights he goes through a long spiral of mental degeneration, presumably caused by worrying about what happened to her. He experiences great gaps of missing time. He has problems with the house. He has hallucinations, or maybe they are real. He has visions. He can't sleep. He's losing his mind.

Or had he already lost it before the movie began?

The distinction between hallucinations and reality is never completely clear. The police follow up on his missing persons' report, but they seem to be finding clues that take the case in completely unexpected directions. A neighbor is also concerned about the missing wife because, we learn, he was having an affair with her. We also learn that the professor knew about the affair. Hmmm....  


Emily Bergl shows her breasts in a sex scene with Jeff Daniels
Although the entire film is quite confusing and verges into the surrealistic, that actually helps the story. It puts the audience into the professor's POV. His insomnia and guilt are compounded by his burgeoning insanity and his ingestion of drugs. We don't exactly know what's going on, and we don't know what's real because he doesn't know what's real. 

I thought it was effective storytelling. In some ways, it reminded me of Memento in its ability to place the audience in the first person perspective of the main character. The film also respects its audience and doesn't give an explicit resolution of all the tidy little details. You have to fill in the blanks.

Pretty good cast for a straight-to-vid, featuring Jeff Daniels in the lead, on screen nearly 100% of the time, and doing quite a good job in a dramatic role that requires him to be physically ugly and completely intense. I guess they felt thrilled to get a star of Daniels' magnitude for the project - enough so that they filmed it in Daniels' hometown of Chelsea, Michigan.

It's not a flat-out masterpiece like Memento, but is a very good effort from a first-time director. It's quite European - paced deliberately, using only natural background sounds. The film uses no incidental music. All the background sounds are the sounds inside the professor's head - flushing toilets, phones off the hook, the sounds in his visions. The point is that we don't hear anything that he doesn't hear. We're in his head.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no meaningful features


So who did kill the professor's wife?

He did, despite his final words, "it wasn't me". 

The writer wants us to wonder whether he did it physically or perhaps just blames himself for her disappearance, because it was related to the degeneration of their marriage. Either condition could cause the hallucinations he experienced, especially given his insomnia and his substance abuse.

Except for one thing.

The police told him they found her body in the woods. The very next person he talked to, he reported that they found her buried in the woods. No way he could have known that detail unless he buried her.

The Critics Vote

  • no reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.6 
  • With their dollars ... made for video
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Very good genre film which maintains surprising tension.

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