Producer: Jan Kwiecinski Director: Bartosz M. Kowalski Screenplay: Bartosz M. Kowalski, Jan Kwiecinski and Mirella Zaradkiewicz Cast: Julia Wieniawa, Michal Lupa, Wiktoria Gasiewska, Stanislaw Cywka, Sebastian Dela, Gabriela Muskala, Michal Zbroja, Miroslav Zbrojewicz, Piotr Cyrwus, Olaf Labaszenko, Wojciech Mecwaldiwski and Malgorzata Szczerbowska Distributor: Netflix
If you’re a horror movie buff looking for a trip down memory lane, you might try this dubbed Polish flick on Netflix. “Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight (W Lesie Dzis Nie Zasnie Nikt)” is a 2020 release, but as directed (and co-written) by Bartosz M. Kowalski it resembles a bad dupe of a typical slasher movie from the 1980s.
The setting is a remote camp for kids; the “modern” twist is that the place specializes in providing a tech-free environment for youngsters addicted to devices like smart phones and computers, all of which are strictly forbidden during their stay.
Among the newcomers the script focuses on a typically diverse bunch. These are Julek (Michal Lupa), the plump, bespectacled nerd; Daniel (Sebastian Dela), the hot hunk; Aniela (Wiktoria Gasiewska), the “easy” blonde bombshell; Bartek (Stanislaw Cywka), the nice guy who turns out to be a closeted gay; and Zosia (Julia Wieniawa), the pleasant, cautious girl.
It doesn’t take long for Daniel and Aniela to hook up and go down by the lake for a bit of fun. She leaves and he settles down in a sleeping bag on the shore, but his bedtime check on his forbidden phone is cruelly interrupted. When his absence is discovered the next day, his friends are commissioned to go into the woods and find him, accompanied by camp counselor Iza (Gabriela Muskala).
It’s not long before the screenplay reveals the culprits, via an explanation provided by Tarman (Miroslav Zbrojewicz), an erstwhile postman who, as we’ve seen in a prologue, was attacked by them and now lives as a recluse in the forest, looking to get his revenge. They’re a pair of horribly disfigured twin brothers (both played by Michal Zbroja), who were beautiful boys but made the mistake of investigating a meteor that left a crater near their home. The thing infected them, turning them into creatures that developed a craving for human flesh. So long as their loving mother (Malgorzata Szczerbowska) lived she kept them under control, but since her death they have gone their own murderous way.
The plot progresses as you would expect: the remaining youngsters are targeted by the gruesome twins and picked off in grisly ways, though one meets his fate not at their hands but as a result of unfortunate encounters with adults, including the camp’s slimy resident priest (Piotr Cyrwus), who winds up a victim himself. The extended finale also involves an ineffectual cop (Olaf Labaszenko), whom the proverbial last girl standing—you can guess who that is—asks for help.
The acting is about on a par with what you’d find in one of the “Friday the 13th” movies—in other words, pretty bad.
Though in basic technical terms the picture is okay (cinematographer Cezary Stolecki manages some decent drone shots, and Lukasz Trzcinski’s production design is suitably shabby), the visual effects are mediocre. When the killings are shown up close, they’re mostly risible (one involves a tongue being pulled out, and another a woodchopper, “Fargo”-style), and the makeup on the mutated twins is poor. The editing by Jakub Kopec and director Bartosz M. Kowalski isn’t as trim as it should be—fifteen or twenty minutes (or more) could have been jettisoned without any loss. The background score by Jimek blasts away in a effort to gin up excitement, but doesn’t help.
Watching “Nobody Sleeps” is like stepping through a time warp—there’s not much here that horror movie buffs won’t have seen many times before, in films made as long as forty years ago. But some will want to take the trip, just for nostalgia’s sake. Caveat emptor.