Blue is a teenage call girl working in the seaside town of Brighton (which has rarely looked as beautiful and gothic as it does in this film). When she’s called to meet a client at a rundown apartment house with a sinister history, Blue quickly finds herself – quite literally – on the other side of the mirror, drawn into the sordid web of an ages-old murder mystery that takes violent hold of her dreams and her life and forces her to confront a nightmare from her own past.

Everyone involved with ‘The Sleeping Room’ should be very proud. This modest but stylish and (for the most part) very atmospheric little movie, which is receiving its World Premiere at Frightfest and is the first feature film ever to equity crowdfund online, isn’t without its faults but scores enough goodwill in the first three-quarters of its runtime that the lacklustre too-generic ending can mostly be forgiven.

Leila Mimmack is a revelation as Blue. From the first moment she appears on screen, we like her and want to follow her the whole way through this journey and see her come out safe the other side. Whether she does or not – especially given the kind of twisted supernatural terror she’s pitched against – I’m not going to say, but the road has as many twists and turns as there are pebbles on Brighton beach. Mimmack has a terrific onscreen presence and makes a wonderfully vulnerable (but ballsy) ‘girl in peril’.

Blue’s client, a shy young man called Bill who has been brought down from London to renovate the apartment house and introduces Blue to a disturbing world of secret rooms, hooded ghosts (there’s a great early jump-scare that works a treat) and probably the world’s only snuff-movie-playing ‘What the Butler Saw’ machine, is very nicely portrayed by Joseph Beattie, who adeptly walks the fine ‘can we trust him / can’t we trust him’ line for most of the film and is the perfect complement to Ms Mimmack’s terrific female lead.

As for the rest of the cast – well, it’s such a small hard-working ensemble that it seems unfair to single any of them out individually but Julie Graham as Blue’s boss Cynthia, and David Sibley as their very unpleasant pimp Freddie, are particularly strong in roles that could very easily have been hammed-up into oblivion.

John Shackleton’s direction is also very striking (as is Simon Poulter’s cinematography, particularly on exterior location in the day and night of the Brighton seafront) and together they capture the mood perfectly right up until the story wobbles off the rails in the final Act. Paul Saunderson’s impressive musical score also deserves a big mention.

It’s that last part of the screenplay that lets ‘The Sleeping Room’ down, when the story nosedives into horror film-cliché and loses direction and / or faith in itself, abandoning all the carefully constructed slow-burn suspense and character development of the first half hour for a climax that is rushed, incoherent and ultimately disappointing. It’s a genuine shame but it’s also a familiar trap that a lot of more experienced writers and directors have fallen into and in no way does it unravel all the good work done beforehand. Personally, I’d rate this over the very similarly-themed ‘The Canal’ any day, and ‘The Canal’ seems to be appearing on a lot of reviewer’s ‘Best of Frightfest’ lists (I am making no comment…)

‘The Sleeping Room’ might not keep you awake at night, but you may want to avoid your reflection for a while.

 

VERDICT: [rating=3]

 

 

About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white