Horror Movie Review: The Soviet Sleep Experiment (2019)

Have you heard the story about a Soviet experiment in the late 1940s that was designed to test the limits of the human mind and body when deprived of sleep? Supposedly, using a stimulant gas, the Russians conducted this experiment on several subjects and the results were horrific.

Chances are, you have heard this story, but is it true?

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No, it’s not. It’s a story that originated on the Creepypasta Wiki, posted in 2010, by a user named OrangeSoda.

It’s not impossible to believe though, is it? Which is where The Soviet Sleep Experiment comes in, turning the effective Creepypasta into a dull, bland, and unimaginative horror watch.

From writer Michael Patrick McCaffrey and director Barry Andersson, The Soviet Sleep Experiment tries to tell the same Creepypasta story, but from a more psychological point of view. Dr. Anna Antonoff (Eva De Dominici) and her husband Dr. Leo Antonoff (Rafal Zawierucha) are two scientists tasked with conducting the secret Soviet experiment.

In an underground bunker, a group of test subjects are placed inside a small, sealed tank-like structure where they will be deprived of sleep for 30 days. During this time period, they will be tested by the doctors to see how their mental state deteriorates. All under the watchful eye of Captain Yegor Sokolov (Evgeny Krutov).

What they hope to achieve from this experiment is a bit of a mystery to Anna and Leo, but they understand not to ask too many questions. That is until Leo starts to suspect that he knows one of the patients, Subject 3 (Chris Kattan) and his paranoia, made worse by his own issues with sleep, result in him suspecting that something far more sinister is going on.

There are so many different routes that The Soviet Sleep Experiment could have gone in to make for a much more interesting watch. Routes that involve a more psychologically damaging experience, routes that involve a more visceral level of horror, and routes that involve a real sense of control from the Soviet military. Every so often, it feels like it might be exploring these avenues in interesting ways, but it always pulls back and refocuses on the blandness of the overarching experiment.

The lack of imagination here is quite something, and while some aspects can be forgiven because of budget, the film really doesn’t do anything with the blank slate it has to hand. This should have had some extreme gore, but it’s surprisingly tame. The same goes for the psychological aspect, where no-one ever feels like they’re actually mad.

It’s a character issue and an acting issue, with many of the cast putting on bog-standard Russian accents, and ‘sleep-walking’ their way through the empty dialogue. There’s nobody to care about, nobody to get invested in, and nobody who lights up the screen. This, when combined with its unimpressive story and total lack of creativity, results in a film that is not worth staying awake for.


  • Carl Fisher

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The Soviet Sleep Experiment (2019)
  • The Final Score - 4/10
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