During my short time as a Bloody Disgusting contributor, I have seen some incredible throwback films. These have ranged from campy (Blood Junkie) to serious (House of the Devil), yet they all have one thing in common: they never seemed aware of themselves.
Sadly, this is not the case with The Sleeper.
Back in June, two posters were revealed that immediately sent me back to the terror of standing in the brand new video store, staring at boxes of early 80’s classics – long before I’d watch each one years later when I worked at said store. These posters for The Sleeper, along with the trailer, gave me very high hopes for the film.
Disappointing is the pompous aura that this film is completely unique. In all actuality, it’s not horrible; yet, there are three or four very distinct moments that make me think that it’s too aware of itself. And they all include music. Bad pseudo-wannabe 80’s music.
To get an idea of the film’s plot, take Black Christmas and roll it around with a dash of Slumber Party Massacre – but without the overabundance of boobs.
Are we good? Ok.
Now, every 20 minutes throw in a 2-5 minute music sequence. Perhaps make one of them a sports montage (complete with knee high socks and short shorts), and another an overly long line-dancing number. Wait…what the hell is going on?
There is little explanation as to why a gloved, stocky guy with what looks like extremely bad cataracts is calling sorority girls on a rotary dial phone and whispering and giggling like a little girl – after which he stalks and kills them. To add eeriness, while he slaughters them, he tells them to sleep. Did I mention the rotary dial phone? The filmmaker really favors it with close-ups throughout the film. In fact, anything “80’s” is favored, as they appear to be adamantly trying to establish the year.
Perhaps the film could be atmospheric enough without the constant reminders that it’s set in 1981. The lack of a motive or explanation makes it less of what could be a perfect homage to the creepiness and unease of the original Black Christmas. With a senseless killer, it’s just trying too hard to be so. And I find that it’s actually missing that little unique something that could make it grand, and replacing it with too many in-your-face 80’s references!
To keep in a somewhat positive realm, the simplicity of the production is pretty great. The kills are not overly bloody, but they are unnerving because of their surreal feel. All of them focus on the head and face, and the effects are old school, using dummies that personally creeped me out.
As long as you don’t expect your mind to be blown, The Sleeper is worth watching.
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