Sleeping Room (The)
R2 - United Kingdom - Second Sight
Review written by and copyright: Matthew Crossman (10th May 2015).
The Film

Judging the film from the cover art, the average consumer may feel that they are in for a rollicking good horror film. Leering out from the box is a man with a scarecrow type sack on his head. He looks like he might have wandered in from a episode of Doctor Who or even off the set of a Friday the 13th flick. The quotes from review sites litter the cover with phrases such as ‘terrifying and compelling’, ‘sends shivers up the spine’ and ‘will crawl right under your skin’, it is plain to see at whom this film is being marketed, but looks can be deceiving.

As proudly noted in the film’s end credits ‘The Sleeping Room’ was the first British feature film ever to be successfully funded by money raised using the equity crowd funding scheme. John Shackleton makes his feature length directorial debut.

The film tells the story of a young woman called Blue (Leila Mimmack), who works as an escort in Brighton. She works for the vicious pimp Freddie (David Sibley) and his partner Cynthia (Julie Graham), who acts as madame to the girls in Freddie’s employ. Blue is sent to a client in the Victorian mansion known as ‘The Pells’. There she meets Bill (Joseph Beattie), who is staying in a large room of the building whilst he renovates it for a client of his. Bill is not from Brighton, hailing from London instead, and admits that hiring prostitutes is not something he does a lot. Bill then shows Blue a Victorian Mutoscope, which he had discovered in the building once he had started the renovations. The Mutoscope is an early motion picture device that worked on the same principle as flick books in so much that when a coin was dropped into the machine the handle could be cranked and as series of still images would be ‘flicked’ within the machine to reproduce a crude film of sorts.

The film that Blue sees is of a film called ‘Dance with the Devil’ in which a bare-chested man, with the same ‘scarecrow’/burlap bag mask, frolics with two scantily clad Victorian ladies. After the Mutoscope film we see Blue getting dressed and giving it the ‘Don’t worry, it happens all the time’ speech after Bill fails to perform sexually with Blue. Leaving the room Blue then sees or thinks she sees the same man with the same mask from the Mutoscope film in the vestibule of the apartment and then discovers that the room contains a two way mirror. After some investigation a secret room, ‘The Sleeping Room’ of the title, is discovered. A room where prostitutes would go to sleep when they were not ‘on duty’. This is where the film starts to veer towards the supernatural and I think it is fair to say that for a large portion of its fairly scant running time it plays out as a kind of ‘Mona Lisa’ (the Bob Hoskins film) meets M.R James. As the film progresses it veers away from the ghostly, although that still plays a part, and into a psychological thriller. The final twenty minutes are played out in the dark as Blue is chased from one room to another by a demented mad man who has a link to Blue’s family history.

Whilst the film cannot seem to decide whether to be an out-and-out ghost film or something a bit more cerebral the cast are uniformly good. Leila Mimmack is particularly excellent and has more than a touch of the Keira Knightlys about her. Mimmack’s bored expressions when meeting Bill for the first time ring true as does her behaviour when she starts to become attracted to Bill and intrigued by the mystery she finds herself in. Beattie as Bill turns in a good performance as well, as his character evolves from bookish renovator into something far more sinister as the film progresses. Dibney and Graham are excellent as the pimp and the madame and lend a real air of quality to the proceedings.

The direction from Shackleton is always interesting and his views of The Brighton Wheel and the derelict West Pier are particularly haunting and apt. The musical score by Paul Saunderson is understated but lends itself to the film well without ever overpowering the action on the screen.

The film is an interesting one with characters that the audience will care for. Where ‘The Sleeping Room’ fails is in it’s convoluted plot, especially when the family element is added in. It feels too false and the audience is asked to swallow too many coincidental incidents that are meant to deepen the mystery, but, in this reviewer’s opinion, bog it down instead. The Mutoscope films, of which there are two, are supposed to be strange and terrifying, but are nothing of the sort and they look exactly what the are. Filmed in 2014. Overall it’s a decent watch and the first forty minutes drag the audience in with excellent three dimensional characters that are ultimately wasted in the final thirty minutes of the film as the ‘The Sleeping Room’ devolves into standard thriller/horror film cliché.

Video

The original ratio of 2.35:1 is well used. The colour scheme throughout the film is muted and grey and gives a good reproduction of what a British seaside town looks like during the winter/autumnal months. The daylight scenes are crisp and clean and the colours are sharp. For a recent film (2014) the on screen presentation is exactly what you would expect and I imagine accurately represents the Director’s artistic vision.

The feature runs 75:02 PAL.

Audio

A choice of two sound set ups are available in the menu; English Dolby Digital Stereo and English Dolby Digital 5.1. Both systems are crisp and clear. The 5.1 set up disperses the sound of traffic and waves from the sea adequately and does not overcrowd the dialogue from the centre speaker. The rear speakers are used to good effect, especially during the more creepier moments of the film and are used well to build suspense.

No subtitles are included.

Extras

"6th Sense" is a short film (run time 3:14) starring Julie Graham who plays an estate agent in a spooky flat. Made in 2013 for Shortcuts To Hell film competition and as a taster for his screenplay of ‘The Sleeping Room’. I found myself wishing that this short film was longer and the main film was shorter. Atmospheric and creepy and quite enjoyable.

Frightfest 2014 interview With ‘The Sleeping Room’ Director John Shackleton (run time 9:47) - Director John Shackleton talks with interviewer Billy Chainsaw (who also appears briefly in the film) about the genesis of the script behind the film, the journey from scrip to screen and Shackleton’s next project ‘We Are Monsters’.

"Visual Effects" featurette (run time 3:50) - Olaus Roe Limited visual effects artists Dan Hedger, Cerri Howe and Andy Bourne talk through some selected shots from the film and how they were achieved using composites and green screens.

"Behind the Scenes" featurette (run time 2:04) - A selection of black and white photographs showing the cast and crew at work on location for the film whilst the soundtrack to the film plays in the background. The stills were taken by producer Gareth I Davies.

Trailer (run time 1:31)

Overall

A creepy thriller that, in the end, over extends itself script wise. Whilst the opening forty minutes are of a good quality with a very capable cast the film falls down in the final twenty minutes by trying to be a bit too clever and a bit too deep. The ambiguous ending does not help much either. Still, at just over seventy minutes long it’s worth a look for the well photographed location work in and around Brighton and for the two leads Mimmack and Beattie, who are very good indeed.

The extras are nothing to write home about, but do provide useful snippets of information about this unique and very British film.

The Film: B- Video: B- Audio: B Extras: C Overall: B-

 


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