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The Sleeper – 5

Director – Justin Russell

Cast – Brittany Belland, Tiffany Arnold, Riana Ballo, Jessica Cameron, Jason Jay Crabtree, Ali Ferda, Jenna Fournier, Luke Frost, Beverly Kristy

Release Year – 2012

Reviewed by John of the Dead

After initially believing that I was going into this film “blind” (no trailer, no idea of the plot) I later learned after that film that I had actually read about this piece previously been told numerous times that this flick is utter crap. Well, it sure was awkward coming to that realization because I kind of liked this piece. It started off incredibly well and proved to be a devout homage to 70s/80s slasher films, but much to my dismay the experience eventually succumbed to mediocrity. Shot and executed like an Italian giallo ala Dario Argento, The Sleeper is not a film I can recommend to anyone, but those of you with a knack for giallos may find a little bit of joy in this one so long as you remember to forgive a bit.

It is 1981 and the girls of Alpha Gamma Theta sorority are going to learn the hard way that a college education does not always guarantee success…especially if you are killed by an insane individual. A sick and demented man, known as “The Sleeper”, is watching the sorority girls from within the shadows, and one by one he begins to pick them off in brutal fashion and at their most vulnerable moments. The police hunt for the missing girls and their killer, but the clock is ticking and the list of survivors is dwindling fast.

My first thought after The Sleeper‘s opening sequence was a literal “WOW”. It was mean, brutal, and haunting as we watch the killer smash a sleeping girl’s face in with a hammer – all shot and executed in the same vein as Dario Argento’s early works. The story is as simple as can be, consisting of the killer brutally murdering the sorority girls (and a few others who get in the way) and not much else. It is never explained why he is killing these specific girls nor why he is referred to as “The Sleeper” in the credits (I believe he puts the girls to “sleep”), and it was writing woes like this that kept the overall story a bland one. Sure it was nice to see him stalk and kill his victims, and the scenes of him breaking down in his lair were amazing, but even the simplest of slasher templates have at least some substance, but this one had zero.

Justin Russell’s direction far surpassed his writing and I applaud his effort in making The Sleeper unlike any other slasher film I have seen in a long time. As I mentioned earlier this effort is short like a true homage to 70s/80s slasher/giallo films, and with a $30,000 budget. The grainy cinematography mimics the look of such films and the excellent musical score by Gremlin mimics the amazing scores provided by Goblin for Argento’s classics. These elements were very important in selling the film to me but nothing could top the horror that Russell brought to screen. He executed the horror very much like Argento did, with crafty editing consisting of a close-up of the murder weapon in the killer’s hand and then immediately cutting to the weapon dug into the victim’s face. We are provided live-action gore and practical effects as well, but that should be a given for what this film is trying to be. The absolute best thing about this experience though is Jason Jay Crabtree’s performance as the killer, AKA The Sleeper. I was in absolute awe at how well he portrayed this sick being, especially during the scenes where he is in his lair fondling the pictures he took of his future victims. These scenes are genuinely creepy and his whispering voice, which was a tad bit unoriginal thanks to Argento, was astonishing in its effect on me. Sadly Russell’s direction is not able to save his story but it did make the experience a bearable one. I was sad to see the quality of the kills also decline as the film went on, bringing my initial excitement to a crashing low by the time the end credits rolled.

Overall, The Sleeper is an ambitious piece that gives you one hell of a first two acts, but after that the kills decline and you begin to realize just how bland the story is. I am still astonished at the look and feel of the film and appreciate Russell’s ability to give me a modern day take on the old school slashers/giallos I love so much, but sadly this is an experience that was a mediocre one at its very best.

Rating: 5/10

…Additional Stills…

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