The Sleeper DVD Review
Written by Ilan Sheady
DVD released by Safecracker Pictures
Written and directed by Justin Russel
2012, Region 2 (PAL), 90 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 17th June 2013
Brittany Belland as Amy
Tiffany Arnold as Rebecca
Riana Ballo as Stacey
John Bloom as Dr. Briggs
Jessica Cameron as Cindy
Jason Jay Crabtree as The Sleeper
I strongly believe that all films should be judged on their own flaws and own merits and not compared with other films of their ilk so I'm going to do my very best to refrain from mentioning Black Christmas or Ti West's House of the Devil.
A girl's sorority house is taunted by a series of disturbing, threatening phone calls, but this is the least of their problems as a killer moves unnoticed around their home as they sleep.
...not unlike Black Christmas.
Set in the Eighties, much effort has been made to simulate the look and feel of the films of that decade. From costumes and set pieces to the garishly vintage credits, this seemingly mundane tale of a young woman trying to get through college takes an unexpected turn as her decision to respond to a flyer puts her directly in the crosshairs of death.
...not unlike House of the Devil.
I admit the latter is bending the facts a little but let's call a spade a spade and say The Sleeper isn't going to be remembered for originality.
Even the title could have been a little more imaginative. The Sleeper? Why not something a little more retro? Don't go to Sleep, Before I Wake, or even Mr Sandman. The Sleeper doesn't even make sense. It's a killer who sneaks into bedrooms at night and kills his victims as they sleep, though later appears to change his M.O. to killing people absolutely anywhere, supposedly so they WILL fall asleep, but either way it's not even a correct use of the word. A sleeper refers to the person who IS asleep (as in H.G. Wells' novel The Sleeper Awakens), not the person who puts people TO sleep.
Now that that is out of my system I feel I should stress that this is actually a pretty good horror movie. This is mainly due to several extremely brutal death scenes taking full advantage of in-your-face, traditional, low budget, prosthetic effects. The music (by Gremlin) creates some impressive levels of tension and once you see the extent of the violence any time somebody becomes isolated you genuinely worry about what brutally tragic fate will befall them. It is disappointing then that the victims, an entire sorority of women, have absolutely no character, personality or background. Short of being given a name I imagine very little was written to separate them other than Cindy (Jessica Cameron) is a very weak-willed virgin and Stacey (Riana Ballo) is happy to be locked in a swimming pool overnight and flaunt her boobs. Looking back at the film the only way to distinguish really is to define them. There's the girl who's face is caved in with a hammer as she sleeps (particularly unexpected and disturbing), the girl who's hammered through the eye socket (also disturbing), a girl who's decapitated, a girl who's nose is torn from her face and another with a knife through the ear to name a few. Amazingly the only characters that have any REAL defining roles and any emotional attachment are killed off screen. This leads me to believe that The Sleeper is actually a string of death scenes wrapped up in a second hand storyline, which in itself is nothing new and so can't be criticised for it. Maybe this is it's homage to the 80s slasher; the misogynistic 'bad' ones like Pieces and Slumber Party Massacre. That said there's no justification to have a synchronised dance number in the middle of the movie and believe me, you'll know when you see it.
Video and Audio:
The film plays in 1.78 : 1 aspect ratio and has a DD2.0 soundtrack.
In support of independent movies there are a number of trailers before you get to the main DVD menu and then there's the option of seeing The Sleeper's trailer. That's unfortunately it. No outtakes, no making of, no production stills, nothing. Sorry to make a big deal out of it but I really can't remember the last time I watched a film that didn't have any genuine extras. It's a rare sight these days; like white dog poo.
The Sleeper isn't director Justin Russell's first film. Previously he released Death Stop Holocaust, a grindhouse homage by the looks of the trailer and previous to that a film called The Gremlin that has to be seen to be believed. After watching the trailers though there is a distinctive pattern emerging where special effects, gore and dramatic death scenes are the stars of the show. I believe in all sincerity that someone should pay Justin £6mil to go out and do a horror. It will be totally unimaginative and star all of Justin's closest friends but my God it will be one of the most violent, most gory and most brutal films ever released.