Shut Eye


“Any Questions?”

Main Cast: Daniel Holme, Haley McGee

Director: Lauren Cooney

This is your brain.

This is your brain on the most potent sleeping pill in Mexico.  “Last one to fall asleep wins.”

This is the premise of the 2016 short film SHUT EYE from writer/director Lauren Cooney (with Isaac Tomiczek co-writing).  A bunch of friends (played by Daniel Holme, Haley McGee, Georgia Murphy, James Robert-Moore, and Keith Thorne) gather for a party in someone’s upstairs apartment.  One of the nameless attendees hands a pill around, claiming it’s the most potent sleeping pill in Mexico and the last person to fall asleep wins.  Wins what?  Bragging rights, most likely.  But that’s when things go south as everyone at the party begins to hallucinate brutal scenes of murder and violence.

This goes on for about three-and-a-half minutes, then the credits roll, and the audience is left to fend for themselves.  My assumption, what I gather from the last few shots, is that all those shots of someone bashing someone else’s face into a wall or someone walking through a room strewn with dead bodies were all just hallucinations brought on by the drug.  I’ve seen the effects of Ambien; my cousin wasn’t allowed to have her phone anywhere near her after popping one of those things.  I can only imagine what some black-market pill from Mexico would do to the untrained mind.

I like the idea here, but I think the idea is way bigger than the execution.  We’re only given three-plus minutes in this world, to see what happens to these people, but then it all ends with nary a word said from any of the characters like, “Holy crap, is anyone else seeing these dead bodies?”  And we keep going from person to person, seeing their hallucination, then on to the next person.  In one scene, a woman is bleeding, then cut to the next scene where she’s downstairs, whole and hearty and having fun at the party, but no one says, “Hey, weren’t you just dead upstairs?”  Which lends credence to my theory this is all in everyone’s head, but, again, then SHUT EYE just ENDS.

I think there’s way more story here, much more to explore about the pill and what happens when you take it.  Hell, the effects could be globe-spanning.  I can easily see this being the opening to a longer apocalyptic story, a zombie outbreak where the zombies are replaced by people hallucinating death and destruction, and then we see the affected get in on the action themselves.  Hey, no one wants to be left out.  Yeah, this idea is way bigger than what we get here.

But I understand, this was a short film, and the point there is to get in, say what you gotta say, and get out.  The problem was nothing was really SAID here.  SHUT EYE is, basically, a series of shots of people getting hurt while other people are partying around them, but there’s no STORY, no through-line because in the end there are no consequences and no character development.  This isn’t a story.

So we turn away from “plot” and move on to visuals.  SHUT EYE was well-shot and well-produced.  It LOOKED like a good-quality movie.  I can’t really comment on the acting because there wasn’t much of it.  None of the characters had names that I noticed, and there wasn’t much dialogue that advanced any idea of a plot, just mindless party chitchat.  So there wasn’t much chance to judge their performances based on ACTING other than when one person attacked another.  And even those were shot in a way where you didn’t see much in the way of facial expressions or reactions.  In fact, there weren’t many reactions at all to the violence and death going on around them.  And maybe that’s a fail from the actors, or maybe it’s another detail in the effects this drug has and how it lulls the people into this crazy world of death and mayhem—all grist for the mill in that longer end of the world version of the story they didn’t tell that I totally made up and would have enjoyed more.

In the end, SHUT EYE said nothing and went nowhere.  It all seemed like someone said, “Hey we have a camera for a couple nights, you guys doing anything?  Wanna make a short film?  About what?  Hell, I don’t know, we’ll think of something when we get there.”  Is it recommended?  Meh.  It’s three-and-a-half minutes, sure: knock yourself out.

Watch SHUT EYE free on YouTube.

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