Monday, January 01, 2018

Slumber – review

Director: Jonathan Hopkins

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

So, we have another Mare movie – the energy vampire or demonic creature, which comes to a person petrified with sleep paralysis, sits upon the chest and draws the life energy away. Another name is the Hag, and, of course, the Hag appears in various mythologies and Old Hag is closely linked with vampiric activity in the Circum-Caribbean and African diaspora. This film also uses the name nocnitsa – another version from Slavic mythology (that can be warded by a stone with a hole in the centre or a knife, indeed even a circle drawn by a knife – not methods of protection tried (or even mentioned) in film).

you're with my sister
The film starts with two children sleeping in a room. The boy, Liam (William Rhead), sits up whilst still sleeping and starts speaking to something we cannot see. He introduces his sister, Alice (Zahra Wardhana-O'Reilly), and says that she is six, he then suggests that he would like to play. Alice awakens to hear him say “coming, ready or not”. She looks for him, telling him that he is sleep walking again. He asks where it is and then realises it is by Alice – we see a tall shadowy thing – Liam becomes scared, backs away and falls through a window.

meeting the Morgans
After a credit sequence that has various people talking about night terrors, sleep paralysis and shadowy creatures and the Hag, Alice (Maggie Q, Priest) wakes up. An adult, married with a daughter but still haunted by her brother’s death. To cut quite a slow character building session down a bit she is a sleep doctor and meets a family, the Morgans. Son Daniel (Lucas Bond, Lady of Csejte) is suffering from sleep paralysis, whilst sister Emily (Honor Kneafsey), mom Sarah (Kristen Bush) and Dad Charlie (Sam Troughton) are all suffering nightmares whilst sleepwalking.

Maggie Q as Alice
The first night in the clinic sees all three sit up at the same time and move away from Daniel – but both Alice and colleague Malcolm (William Hope, Dark Shadows & Hellbound: Hellraiser II) are both out of the monitoring booth. When they hear screams they intervene with the sleep paralysis and Alice goes over to the sleepwalking Emily; still asleep, Charlie grabs her by the throat. Now, at this point (having been rescued by janitor Cam (Vincent Andriano)) the cops turn up and Charlie is hauled off.

Sylvester McCoy as Amado
This just didn’t work for me. There is a bruise on Daniel’s chest in the shape of a hand but it is blatantly too small to be Charlie’s and they have cameras and so the entire night’s events could be reviewed. Even if he were initially restrained, I couldn’t buy the arrest and holding. Cam resigns, warns Alice to stay clear of *that* family and hands her a piece of paper with the word nocnitsa on it. Now, I can buy the fact that an obscure Slavic myth form might be unknown to her but, as a sleep expert, I’m sure she would know about the Mare and the Hag myths – this seems to be news to her. The only hope for a solution seems to be known by Cam’s mad grandpa, Amado (Sylvester McCoy, Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric), who survived a nocnitsa as a child.

the Nocnitsa
I really wanted to like this but it felt as though they struggled to get to the horror and the cgi creature at the end looked a bit rubbish. They built the characters but then didn’t use them (for instance Alice’s daughter draws dream pictures – this could have been exploited in narrative but wasn’t really). The idea of the Mare drawing the family away from the feast (and the word feasting is used in dialogue) was good but the reaction of the sleep experts to three people simultaneously sleepwalking was worryingly pedestrian. The myth of the nocnitsa has wards that folks versed enough in the Slavic myth to know the creature's name didn’t apparently know (and I know through a google, the resource the good Doctor seemed to rely on).

All in all, there are better Mare films out there, a pity as this felt like it really could have been better. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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