Grimmfest Interview with Sleepless Beauty director Pavel Khvaleev

Grimmfest’s first Easter Edition kicks off on the evening of Thur April 1st, 2021 with our preview night, and then continues across the evenings of 2-5 April, with a series of feature film premiere double bills with supporting shorts and Q&As with the cast & crew of each feature. In addition, there’ll be an exclusive pass holder double bill and an ARROW double bill both of which can be accessed any time across the weekend.

There’s so much to watch you won’t have time to get bored this Easter!

A young woman, Mila, is kidnapped by a mysterious organization known as Recreation. Her abductors taunt her though a loudspeaker, and set strict rules: she cannot sleep and has to fulfil bizarre and violent tasks if she hopes to stay alive. At first, it looks like someone’s sick idea of entertainment but as the demands become more intense, Mila begins to realize that she is a pawn in a twisted and deadly psychological experiment.

How did you get into directing?

I got into directing from the world of music and had made several dozens of music videos before my debut film. And then a friend of mine suggested that we shot a full-length movie based on his script. So my first piece — THE RANDOM, mystery drama, was created. But after all, it is my second movie — III – THE RITUAL — that I consider my “entrance ticket” to directing. It was in the course of shooting this horror, when I realised the difference between video production and film-making.

What drew you to this project?

First of all, I got taken with the subject of sleep deprivation, i. e. sleeplessness. All known facts can be summarized by saying that the tested person gets mental disorders, hallucinations, both visual and auditory. In general, it’s the greatest torture to the brain. And also, the script used a real medical case, when contact with human fusiform gyrus resulted in face blindness. So, the idea seemed rather unusual to me, and having read the script I understood that I saw this film in a desktop format some way.

How would you sell SLEEPLESS BEAUTY in one sentence?

This is a story of a young girl, who became a victim of a dreadful experiment carried out for the purposes of a coup.

Were there any influences in how you approached SLEEPLESS BEAUTY?

Certainly, my team and I rewatched all series of SAW, CUBE, ROOM and many other films demonstrating the character in enclosed space. Because it’s an exceptional task — to make the audience feel how despair surges up. As for the visual part, I was inspired by Username:666 horror video put on YouTube by nana825763 in 2008 — it is a screen record in Internet Explorer. Refreshing the page, we see how it gets bloody, followed by rather weird video sequence. So, to create video content demonstrated to the lead character to break her mind in SLEEPLESS BEAUTY I found an artist working in a manner similar to Username:666 — his name is Jakov Burov.

What’s the best horror film you’ve seen for the first time recently?

It so happened that I kept putting off watching MOTHER! by Darren Aronofsky, damn, for almost 4 years! 🙂 And then this film had a tremendous effect on me, and what is interesting is that right after watching I’d “hated” it, while a day after understood that it was a work of art. It had been long since I felt such strong emotions about a film.

What have you got lined up next?

Right now the script writer and I are working on a new film, but in a different, fantasy horror, genre. As I’ve been saying in almost all interviews, I’m a great fan of PAN’S LABYRINTH and SILENT HILL, so it would be an ultimate goal for me to create something of this kind.

Has anything caught your eye in Grimmfest’s Easter Horror Nights lineup?

I got really fascinated by THE NIGHT — new film by Kourosh Ahari, Iranian director. The story outline and trailer seem truly intriguing. I guess it will be also thrilling to immerse into SWEET RIVER world created by Australian director Justin McMillan.

Interview by Sean Luby. Find out more and book your tickets HERE and check out the trailer below:



There is little that gets between Gremlin and a good news story. Except perhaps a late night snack followed by a dip in the pool.

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