Don’t Go to Sleep (1982)

dont go to sleep poster 1982 movie advertisement made for tv
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 7/10

Creepy TV movie

Probably not horrific enough

Movie Info

Movie Name: Don’t Go to Sleep

Studio: ABC

Genre(s): Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s): December 10, 1982

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

dont go to sleep oliver robins killed

First Carol Anne…now this. I hate sisters

Phillip (Dennis Weaver) and Laura (Valerie Harper) are moving to a new city with a new job for Phillip. They are taking their two children Kevin (Oliver Robins) and Mary (Robin Ignico) and moving in with Laura’s mother (Ruth Gordon). The family is in mourning with the death of their other child Jennifer (Kristin Cummings), but no one is to talk about what happened. Things begin to happen at the new house…mysterious fires, Mary begins hearing her sister’s voice, and deaths. What caused Jennifer’s death and has she come back?

Directed by Richard Lang, Don’t Go to Sleep is a horror thriller.  The film was an ABC made-for-TV movie that premiered on December 10, 1982. The movie was an Aaron Spelling production and was released at the end of the horror heyday of TV movies.

dont go to sleep robin ignico pizza cutter

The sharpest pizza cutter in the history of man apparently…

When I was little, this movie scared the crap out of me though it did teach me that pizza cutters can be dangerous and never listen to the radio in the bathtub. Despite the goofiness of parts of the movie, the movie does have some chills that last after the movie ends.  A ******spoiler alert****** exists for the rest of the review.

The movie works like many TV horror movies by not showing much. In the movie, you just assume that Mary is simply crazy and killing all the people who wrong Jennifer. The end of the movie reveals that Jennifer died in a car explosion caused by Phillip’s drunk driving when Mary and Kevin tied Jennifer’s shoe laces together.  The vindictive spirit of Jennifer actually curses Mary by abandoning Mary in the asylum where she’s been sent after killing her grandmother, brother, and father (all in shocking ways…sometimes literally).

The movie has quite a good cast. Dennis Weaver who of course did the other great TV movie Duel leads the cast with TV star Valerie Harper. Oliver Robins became famous in Airplane! and Poltergeist and here plays the bratty brother (guess he was typecast). Oscar winner Ruth Gordon plays the know-it-all and judgmental mother-in-law. Both girls are kind of generic though Robin Ignico was just in Annie.

dont go to sleep ending jennifer kristin cummings

Nope…nothing that would terrify a six-year-old here…

Visually, the movie is a TV movie and with a relatively basic set, no real supernatural elements, and “normal” story.  It has to work its scares in through development and mystery.  The movie’s final scene is well done and still creeps me out a bit (though it is an almost goofy “gotcha” with the real Jennifer revealing herself to her mother in her Princess Leia buns haircut).

Don’t Go to Sleep is one of those fun TV movies like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. The movie might be ok for TV, but makes the most of the thrills and chills it can without the gore and blood of an R-Rated horror film.  It is scary and spooky…like a long Night Gallery episode. I wish that this movie (along with a lot of the other classic TV horror movies) would get a good print…and I can keep hoping.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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