"Half-cocked attempt at British horror"
Following its premiere at Frightfest last year, John Shackleton’s low budget Brighton-set horror THE SLEEPING ROOM makes its UK DVD debut courtesy of Second Sight.
Brighton prostitute Blue (Leila Mimmack) is sent by her pimps-cum-surrogate parents (well at least that’s how they behave) Freddie and Cynthia (David Sibley and Julie Graham) to a client called Bill Hepworth (Joseph Beattie). Bill’s busy doing up an old Victorian brothel, as you do, and he’s sufficiently distracted that he doesn’t quite manage to...er...get what he paid for. It probably doesn’t help that Blue isn’t exactly the most interested or enthusiastic purveyor of such entertainments (certainly not in movie terms anyway) but for some reason he asks her to stay and chat.
Together they discover a secret room hidden behind a two-way mirror - the ‘sleeping room’ of the title. That, combined with a Victorian mutoscope that Bill has already found, leads Blue to investigate the murky and murderous history of the house and her own murky family past.
THE SLEEPING ROOM isn’t an especially good film. In fact it was one of the least of the twenty eight movies I saw at last year’s London Frightfest, and time and a second viewing haven’t made it seem any better. The film opens well, and Shackleton definitely has some talent, but after about twenty minutes of some interestingly shot stuff the film starts to go downhill, with far too many scenes consisting of stilted dialogue to get the backstory across. The silent movie the mutoscope reveals should be a terrifying, scratchy black and white centrepiece to the picture. Instead it feels anything but authentic, and more like a comedy routine than the scene of two murders.
The best of THE SLEEPING ROOM reminded me of 1970s Italian horror - it looks great and the camera just glides over some fascinating production design. Sadly the script and the acting just aren’t up to maintaining interest, with Leila Mimmack’s central performance sadly one note and lacking any kind of characterisation that would make us care about what happens to her.
Second Sight’s DVD comes with a Q&A with the director recorded at Frightfest, the original short film that inspired the feature, and two behind the scenes featurettes.
I hate to do a British horror film down, and there is much worse than this out there. I’ll also be interested to see what John Shackleton does next. For now, though, running at only seventy five minutes and missing a whole bunch of opportunities to scare the audience silly, THE SLEEPING ROOM feels more like a half-cocked attempt at a horror film rather than an actual one.
Second Sight are releasing John Shackleton's THE SLEEPING ROOM via on demand and download platforms on 27th April 2015, and on Region 2 DVD on 11th May 2015