Director John Shackleton fondles his way through the dark of the “The Sleeping Room” is this underdeveloped, convoluted and infuriatingly one-note supernatural tale of Victorian revenge.
While the limited budget of director John Shackleton’s film is clearly a handicap to this supernatural tale of Victorian revenge, it is not its biggest problem. Indeed, the messy nature of a convoluted script, with its one-note characters and infuriating rendition of overused horror tropes, weighs on the film’s shoulders like a lead brick. It means Shackleton never knows whether to stick or twist leaving The Sleeping Room engaging the wrong gears like a premature learner driver behind the wheel for the first time.
The film does have one thing on its side – the performance of British actress Leila Mimmack as call girl Blue. The talented lead from Leamington Spa is no stranger to movies and TV but this is the first time she’s bagged the starring role in a feature film and she’s as good as the script allows her to be. Perhaps that’s a bit unfair as she brings plenty of feisty steel to her emotionally scarred hooker, but it’s in vain. Like the mountains of testosterone struggling to pull articulated trucks at the World’s Strongest Man competition, Mimmack can’t quite get the wheels moving despite her best efforts. It means any sympathetic clout she brings to the film is haemorrhaged amidst its overarching amateurishness.
Whether it’s some indifferent performances from her fellow cast members, implausible and artificial plot development, the director’s distracting obsession with a flock of birds, the odd intrusion of cliched cheap shocks, or the complete absence of any discernible scares, Mimmack is the undistinguished bright spot in an overpowering smog.
As ideas go, The Sleeping Room’s modern day setting for a paranormal mystery steeped in the past is nothing new. But this isn’t helped by its most interesting elements – that being the discovery of a hidden room, once used as a rest area for prostitutes in between their “Johns”, now filled with dusty Victorian trinkets, and it’s backdrop, the faded seaside glory of its coastal setting in Brighton – unforgivably shifted to the back-burner. Instead our concern centres around Blue’s haphazard mission to reveal secrets of her family’s past, hidden within the confines of a decaying Victorian townhouse.
There’s otherworldly powers at work but they’re too underdeveloped. Thus, Blue’s mysteriously impotent client comes across as an improbable distraction, the fortuitousness of her coital transaction feels artificially forced, while her madam’s East End hard man Freddie (David Sibley), a role perfect for a geriatric Vinny Jones when he turns bus-pass age, is just plain implausible.
It’s usually at this point I bemoan how a film missed an opportunity to deliver on the promise of some good ideas. But sadly there’s nothing that worthy in The Sleeping Room.
Written by Daniel Stephens
Directed by: John Shackleton
Written by: Ross Jameson, Alex Chandon, John Shackleton
Starring: Leila Mimmack, Joseph Beattie, Julie Graham, Christopher Adamson, David Sibley, Chris Waller
Released: 2014 / Genre: Horror
Country: UK / IMDB
The Sleeping Room is available now on DVD in the UK courtesy of Second Sight