17th Sep2014

Frightfest 2014: ‘The Sleeping Room’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Leila Mimmack, Joseph Beattie, David Sibley, Julie Graham, Chris Waller, Christopher Adamson, Lucy Clements, Billy Chainsaw, Mike Altmann | Written by John Shackleton, Alex Chandon, Ross Jameson | Directed by John Shackleton

SLEEPING-ROOM-MIMMACK

The feature-film directorial debut of John Shackleton, one of the producers at Movie Mogul, the company behind 2011′s fantastic Panic Button (which also debuted at Frightfest the same year), if there’s one film I was looking forward to seeing at this years Frightfest it was The Sleeping Room. I was one of the few the extolled the virtues of Media Mogul’s first foray into filmmaking and I was eager to see what they’d bring to the table with this film.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

The polar opposite of Panic Button’s “Social Network meets Saw” story, The Sleeping Room is the type of film Britain used to be known for, the type of film that, for all intents and purposes, could be labelled a Hammer Production and no one would bat an eyelid. I’d even go as far as saying that Shackleton’s film is more in the spirit of Hammer, more in the spirit of “British Horror” and a darn sight more entertaining than Hammer’s last effort, The Quiet Ones.

When 19 year-old Brighton call-girl Blue meets her latest punter Bill, little does she know the horrifying impact it will have on her wayward life. For the seaside house he’s renovating once used to be an infamous Victorian brothel with a murderous history. Together they uncover a mysterious annexe behind a two-way-mirror that prostitutes of the day used as a clandestine resting area known as a Sleeping Room. Further investigation exposes the habits of a cruel serial killer who recorded his most unspeakable crimes on the media of the era, the Mutoscope, the end-of-the-pier coin-in-the-slot peep show machines, and a connection to Blue herself…

I can’t go any further with this review without singling out actress Leila Mimmack who is a revelation as call-girl turned “final girl” Blue. I’ve no doubt audiences will be enthralled by Mimmack’s performance from the very first time she appears on screen, she has truly terrific onscreen presence. The characters mix of vulnerability and strength, and her affable personality drives the film throughout it’s brief run time – even through some of the movies weaker moments.

Speaking of weaker moments, The Sleeping Room does have some problems, mainly surrounding Blue’s pimp and his violent tendencies – I felt the role could easily have been cut with no detriment to the film or the story (although kudos to actor David Sibley for nor really hamming up the role). Plus there’s the odd jump in logic to keep the story moving forward. But both are minor qualms that in all honesty don’t really harm what is a fantastic British production.

Making the most of its Brighton location, with some gorgeous tracking shots of the town, including a couple that were apparently captured using drone-like flying devices, there’s a real feeling of “kitchen-sink drama” to The Sleeping Room – which only works in the films favour: helping to keep the characters and events grounded in reality whilst all the supernatural ‘craziness’ goes on.

A superb example of modern British horror, The Sleeping Room, like fellow Frightfest movie The Forgotten, marks a new bright future for genre filmmaking in the UK that, in a perfect world, would be held in the same esteem as Hammer’s prolific output.

**** 4/5

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