(18) Running time: 103 minutes
Director: William Malone
Writer: William Malone
Cast: Dylan Purcell, Patrick Kilpatrick, Cherilyn Wilson, Sean Young, Jeffrey Combs
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
William Malone is the man responsible for one of the biggest guilty pleasures in horror, House on Haunted Hill (1999). We know we probably shouldn’t like it, but damn it’s so much fun it’s impossible to dislike. He followed it up with the disappointing Feardotcom in 2002, but with Parasomnia the director found his feet again, and sadly hasn’t directed a film since.
For all its dodgy acting, cheesy script and b-movie shocks, Parasomnia is actually a very impressive horror film, and again sits in the bracket of “I know I shouldn’t really be liking this, but I can’t help it!” It moves along at a great pace, constantly delivering some great horror moments, and with it comes two lead characters you actually want to root for, and a villain that is up there with some of the best horror villains of the noughties.
Parasomnia see’s the rather fine looking Laura Baxter (Cherilyn Wilson) suffering from a sleep disorder where she is literally sleeping her life away, only waking up for brief moments. Art student Danny Sloan (Dylan Purcell) falls in love with her, and breaks her out of the asylum she is being treated in, but unknown to him this sets off a chain of horrific events. Laura is actually being controlled in her mind by a crazed killer who is locked up in the asylum cell next to her, the totally bonkers Byron Volpe (Patrick Kilpatrick), and now that Laura is out, he can control her mind and go about murdering innocent people.
With the police closing in on Danny and Laura, and the bodies mounting up, Danny must figure out how to stop Volpe once and for all, before he too breaks out and takes his beloved Laura for his own sick pleasures.
The film has a great set up that more often than not delivers, and Kilpatrick as Volpe is seriously a superb villain, and it is a shame we don’t see more of him in horror features. Wilson is incredibly sexy as Laura, and spends the majority of the film in her nightgown, which is something we used to see plenty of in 80’s and 90’s horror. Purcell does a great job as Dylan too, so the cast deliver where they are required to.
However, it is the horror moments that really sell this film: once in Laura’s dreams, we turn to nightmares as Volpe enters her mind, warning her of The Clouded Man, and that he can protect her. The visuals here are reminiscent of Hellboud: Hellraiser 2, and they make look cheap and tacky, but that is part of the immense charm of this horror feature. Sudden creepy faces appear on screen, and they too are great designs worthy of any nightmare.
The finale delivers in spades, as Malone let’s rip with some great visual treats and some awesome music which serves the horrific visuals well. Puppets, sexy girls with violins, a detective constantly trying to shoot himself in the head, and all sorts of macabre devices all come together for a rip roaring twenty minutes of sheer horror brilliance. Some great visual effects are also used on Volpe’s eyes as he attempts to control people minds, and the design team came up with a terrific torture chamber-like finish involving Laura being turned into a sort of Angel for Volpe’s pleasure.
Never a film to hold back, Parasomnia simply goes for broke, and is all the better for it. It certainly doesn’t break any new ground, and will never be considered a classic, but for a Friday night horror feature to enjoy simply because you love horror, you can’t go wrong with this one.