Stars: Ethan Peck, India Eisley, Natalie Hall, Bruce Davison, James Adam Lim, Scott Alan Smith, Zack Ward, Mim Drew, Dallas Hart, Madelaine Petsch, Anna Harr | Written by Pearry Teo, Josh Nadler | Based on the comic by Everette Hartsoe | Directed by Pearry Teo
If there’s one director whose films I will watch without hesitation or question, it’s Pearry Teo. In fact his filmic career is actually one that is key to mine. His second film, the 2009 fear flick Necromentia (which I still think out-Hellraiser’d Hellraiser itself), was one of the first films I ever reviewed professionally; and I’ve reviewed each and every one of his films since. Why? Because of the impact his twisted vision in Necromentia had on me and because no matter the story, no matter the budget, Teo always finds something interesting, admittedly often dark, to do with the subject matter.
Teo’s fascination with the darker side of life came to its most interesting fruition in 2013, when Teo debuted a fantastic novel based on Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz – which he created along with writer Christine Converse. Entitled Bedlam Stories, it was (expectedly) a dark take on the familiar fairy tales. However Teo’s fascination with the darker side of fairy tales continues with his latest film, The Curse of Sleeping Beauty, an entirely new vision of the classic Brothers Grimm adventure which brings back that dark, monstrous Clive Barker-esque vision that caught my attention back in 2009.
The Curse of Sleeping Beauty tells the story of Thomas Kaiser (Ethan Peck), who inherits an ancestral mansion that has been in his family for generations, only to learn that he has also inherited an ancient curse stemming back to the Crusades. Forced into his new role as “protector” – the guardian appointed to keep the evil demons in the house at bay – Thomas must unravel the mystery of the house, while struggling to awaken the beautiful Briar Rose (India Eisley), held captive in a terrifying netherworld seen previously in his dreams…
One thing that Pearry Teo knows how to do VERY well, and that’s make his films look beautiful. Not beautiful in the traditional sense mind you. No, Teo manages to bring out beauty from the freakiest, the strangest and the eeriest – it’s very much his forte. Which is why pairing his vision with that of the Brothers Grimm is, in this reviewers opinion, a match made in movie heaven. From the opening scene, as Kaiser wanders through the desert and stumbles upon a four-poster bed guarded by two ancient Egyptian statues, you know The Curse of Sleeping Beauty is unlike any fairy tale film that has come before.
Visually Teo’s latest film harkens back to the Clive Barker inspired darkness of Necromentia; yet it’s also reminiscent of the stunning visuals of both Guillermo Del Toro’s Pans Labyrinth and Neil Jordan’s well-regarded yet strange and terrifying take on Red Riding Hood, The Company of Wolves. But despite these obvious styistic references, The Curse of Sleeping Beauty is very much a “Pearry Teo film.” Having followed his career for so long, I can see his prior experiences on the likes of Witchville and Dracula: The Dark Prince have seemingly honed his already stylish eye for this, the pinnacle of his terrifyingly beautiful aesthetic – which is brought to life with the help of Robert A. Haynes and the visual effects/makeup team and some fantastic art direction by Chris Scheid, both of whom seem to have done wonders with the budget!
An example of creator and collaborators working in harmony to bring their own unique vision of an oft-told tale to the screen, The Curse of Sleeping Beauty mixes horror, comedy, downright creepiness, and even a hint of romance, to perfection. Never outstying its welcome (the film runs a swift 86 minutes with credits), with a pace that never lets up, sucking the audience into Thomas’ predicament with aplomb, this a film deserves to be on everyones (and I mean everyones) must-see list.
Here’s hoping The Curse of Sleeping Beauty does well enough on its limited theatrical release for Teo to be given the greenlight to bring more of his freakish fairy tale visions to life.
The Curse of Sleeping Beauty is on limited release across the US from Friday May 13th.