Sleepless (2001)
Directed by Dario Argento

Starring Chiara Caselli Gabriele Lavia Max von Sydow Roberto Zibetti Stefano Dionisi

After following up the disappointing "Stendhal Syndrome" with an even bigger disappointment - "Phantom of the Opera" - Dario Argento finally returned to his giallo roots in 2001 with "Non Ho Sonno" ("Sleepless"), a movie about (you guessed it) a leather-gloved psychotic killer and attempts to find out who he is.

Like his 1970s movies, "Sleepless" has a straight-ahead mystery storyline with, thankfully, no supernatural overtones. But the film is quite bloody, particularly given the fact that most studios in the new millennium are shying away from gore. Plus, Goblin reunited to add a prog rock score to the movie.

Von Sydow headlines the cast, but he is notably absent from much of the movie. He plays a retired homicide inspector who promises a boy that he'll one day track down the killer of his mother. The killer who's blamed for the brutal murder (performed with a musical instrument) is dubbed "the dwarf." Police think they nailed the killer. Years later, however, when a prostitute uncovers evidence linking one of her clients to the murders, she turns up dead (after a pretty thrilling sequence aboard a train) and the killings start happening again. The murderer leaves small cut-outs of animals at the scene of his/her crimes.

No, this isn't one of Argento's best movies, but it is at least close enough to the style of his earlier work that it almost could have been directed in the 1970s. The least that can be said about it is that it's his best since the underrated "Trauma." There's the usual bad dubbing (although Sydow performed his role in English and is not dubbed). Goblin's music isn't anywhere near as good as it was for films like "Suspiria," "Dawn of the Dead," "Deep Red" or even "Alien Contamination." But it's nice to see they're still at it.

Aside from Sydow, no performance is remarkable. The special effects are sometimes impressive. The mystery is actually a pretty good one, although I was able to predict who the killer was. In conclusion, it's a solid effort from Argento and probably one of the best fear films of 2001. But if you haven't seen his other classic films -- "Deep Red," "Suspiria," "Tenebre," etc. -- you owe it to yourself to see those first.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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