Directed by: John Shackleton
Written by: Alex Chandon, Ross Jameson, John Shackleton
Starring: Leila Mimmack, David Sibley, Julie Graham, Christopher Adamson, Billy Chainsaw
Running time: 78 Minutes
UK release: 11/05/2015 from Second Sight Films.
There is a certain quality that some films have. It’s intangible, ungraspable but sometimes it’s there. Potential.
Even though there is no such thing as a perfect film, sometimes we can look past the rough edges and unpolished corners to see something good in a film that is otherwise a failure. ‘The Sleeping Room’ is one of these films.
It follows Blue, a young call girl working in Brighton as she investigates a grand house, formerly a brothel, and the secrets that it holds. In a world full of two-way mirrors and peekaboo holes, Blue doesn’t know that the house she’s exploring is tied up to her family’s history. And sometimes that history won’t stay dead.
Now films like this aren’t exactly rare. Independent haunting horrors are a dime a dozen, and unless they bring something new to the game (Think Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity), they are almost never go mainstream. ‘The Sleeping Room’ is a great example of this phenomenon. If it had been made by a big studio, it would have become ‘The Woman in Black’; a decent but ultimately disappointing film that made MILLIONS. As it stands, it’s going to be swept under the proverbial rug, never to be seen again. Unless someone makes it big.
This film is the feature début of John Shackleton. Before this film, Shackleton had directed skateboard documentaries, short films and (somewhat unusually) an episode of ‘Escape to the Country’. But all of this has a point; Shackleton could be a great director. The way that tension builds at the beginning of the films is flawless, and the framing of the shots is so good that it demands attention. Hopefully, Shackleton will be able to use this movie as a launching pad to make more and more films.
Another up-and-comer to watch out for is Leila Mimmack, playing Blue. Although only twenty-one, and with a filmography consisting almost entirely of TV work, I could easily see Ms Mimmack blow up to be lifted and deposited into the Hollywood machine. Her innocent, youthful look belies an acting ability that is far beyond her years.
But no film is without its negatives. The action sequences, few as they are, are poorly coordinated which gives stretches of the film a murky, unclear feeling coupled with the unnecessary blending of some slo-mo action.
The dialogue, and in some patches the entire script, is paper thin. The actors seem to agree with me, because there are periods when any and all dialogue is delivered in a patchy monotone, devoid of expression or emotion.
‘The Sleeping Room’ also loves to incorporate tired clichés, including the ever popular ‘Beginning-at-the-end’ trope, a stab at the Shyamalan-esq plot twist and a deliberately obtuse ending, seemingly designed with the sole intention of annoying the audience.
All in all, ‘The Sleeping Room’ is a strong début for any director and showcases the talents of exciting new acting potential. However, the sloppy script, the weak secondary cast and the use of Instagram’s Sepia-tone filter (there’s a summons in the post) turns what could have been a compelling film into a mildly entertaining DTV.
But is it worth watching? Well ‘The Sleeping Room’ does have a certain independent style and charm to it, but with a lukewarm six out of ten, you should probably stick ‘The Exorcist’ in for the thousandth time instead.