The emotional equivalent of a home invasion.

The emotional equivalent of a home invasion, “In Their Sleep” sets up an atmosphere of false safety and then ruptures it with a series of jarring killings as a sociopath roams the sleepy Alsatian countryside, slitting the throats of happy families. Neither a happy ending nor an it-was-all-a-dream twist (teased by several time-skipping flashbacks) would relieve the unnecessary psychological trauma inflicted by Caroline and Eric du Potet’s feature debut, not that the sadistic French sibs have any interest in making things bearable. Scathing reviews should relegate this reprehensible exercise to genre fests and extreme horror labels.

Still smarting from the death of her son (which the helmers have the poor taste to depict onscreen), a nurse (Anne Parillaud) runs down a young man (Arthur Dupont) during her latenight drive. With maternal instincts overwhelming common sense, she brings the injured teen home, inadvertently involving herself in a standoff with a bloodthirsty stranger (Thierry Fremont). Reminiscent of Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games” pics (without the meta-critique of so-called “torture porn”), “Sleep” manipulates implausible situations to inflict maximum audience trauma. Cleverness, the helmers mistakenly believe, is getting us to care about a killer.

In Their Sleep

France

Production

An Albany Films release of a Delante Films/BR Films production, in association with Banque Populaire Images 9, Uni Etoile 6, with the participation of Canal Plus, CineCinema, La Communaute Urbaine de Strasbourg, Region Alsace. (International sales: TF1 Intl., Paris.) Produced by Antoine Rein, Caroline Adrian. Directed, written by Caroline du Potet, Eric du Potet.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Pierre Cottereau; editor, Yann Malcor; music, Eric Neveux; art director, Valerie-Elder Fontaine; costume designer, Frederic Cambier. Reviewed at City of Lights, City of Angels Film Festival, Los Angeles, April 23, 2010. Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Anne Parillaud, Arthur Dupont, Thierry Fremont.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more