THE SLEEPING ROOM (2014)
Directed by John Shackleton
19 year old Blue works for pimp Freddie and his partner Cynthia as a call girl in Brighton. Sent to a client living in a grand Victorian terraced house, which used to be a infamous brothel during the reign of Queen Victoria, Blue is as intrigued about the house as she is her punter, Bill, who’s renovating the house. After watching a Victorian movie of a sack headed gentleman dancing with two women via an old, winder-operated mutoscope viewing machine, Blue begins to see things in the house. Fearing that the house is haunted, she investigates the history of the previous occupants and realises that they may have awakened the house’s dark past.
Horror thriller THE SLEEPING ROOM is the first feature length movie from director John Shackleton who’s previous work includes documentaries on skateboarding legends Tony Hawk and Rodney Mullens. THE SLEEPING ROOM is a supernatural tale which plays out in modern day Brighton. Blue (a fantastic Leila Mimmack) spends her days hanging out by the beach with best friend Glenny (Chris Walker), who’s living out of his camper van, and working as an escort for the violent Freddie (an initimdating performance from David Sibley). With both of her parents dead, mistress Cynthia (Julie Graham) is the closest thing she has to a mother but she’s also her boss. Managing to convince Cynthia that she should take on the client at the Palls, Blue heads straight round to the house where she meets Bill. Good-looking and young, Bill (Joseph Beattie) is quite the catch despite being a bit quiet and edgy. Blue begins to question why he’d have trouble finding female company but soon enough, the house and its Victorian secrets begin to catch Blue’s attention.
There’s something about Victorian objects and themes that creep me the hell out. Even the fashion back then is spooky and don’t get me started on Queen Victoria! The use of the peep show machine at the beginning of the film is a clever one. Showing the coin drop into the slot and all the cogs and mechanisms working inside, the movie sheets flip to present our first look at the eerie ex-brothel’s past. With a sack hood on his head, we know straight away that the man in question is of a dubious nature especially as he appears on the front of the DVD cover! The house itself is creepy enough with secrets of the horrible history littered around, just waiting to be uncovered. The house even becomes an evil character of its own.
THE SLEEPING ROOM has quite a gritty style to it with its domestic abuse and escort service angle. This plays out in a drama of its own alongside the storyline of the Victorian house. When we do get to the history of the house, it feels a bit rushed, leaving me confused over who’s who in the family tree after it was described quickly during a scene where Blue is digging through old records. A storyline like this is one that needs time to settle and root and I feel as though it was skimmed over too quickly, therefore if you missed it being mentioned in one scene, you wouldn’t really fully understand the film’s motives as a whole.
I often comment on how films can lack originality but THE SLEEPING ROOM doesn’t suffer from this problem. It’s got fresh ideas and a suitably creepy plot that crawls under your skin. The set design of the house in the film is fantastic and is enough to give you nightmares. The only pitfall is the development of the story. A longer running time with a slower-burn would work much better, I feel, with key plot details drip-fed rather than splurged in scenes.
With great performances from all involved, THE SLEEPING ROOM is one eerie British horror worth checking out.
The Sleeping Room is released on VOD 27 April and DVD on 11 May courtesy of Second Sight Films