The Sleeping Room - DVD Review

'There is admittedly little here that is new or innovative within the genre, but that doesn't stop Shackleton from delivering some scattered moments of effective horror'.

Promoted as the first British film to be financed through "equity crowdfunding" (investors purchasing shares in the film like one would a business, according to my limited financial know-how), The Sleeping Room in its own small but important way potentially marks the start of a new path for British cinema. The film's low-budget aesthetic is something that director and co-writer John Shackleton works hard to transcend, although his success in doing this is decidedly mixed.

There is definite promise evident here from Shackleton as director. The setting of Brighton is utilised well, with numerous impressive shots of the seaside town throughout that help generate the film's chilling atmosphere whilst also emphasising the location's distinct character. Cinematographer Simon Poulter seeks out some of Brighton's most distinctive features to feed into the horror aesthetic: the desolate remains of the burnt out West Pier, for example, might be a somewhat obvious choice, but Poulter successfully makes sure its inclusion adds to The Sleeping Room's motif of lingering scars from the past.

There is admittedly little here that is new or innovative within the genre, but that doesn't stop Shackleton from delivering some scattered moments of effective horror. A first act jump scare works well enough, as do some of the Victorian Era flashbacks the director includes. Disappointingly, however, the film's tone overall is inconsistent, with several considerably less successful moments. Mutoscope snuff films intended to unsettle feel distinctly tame, coming across as silly than scary; Shackleton also attempts to take the film to Hammer levels of out-and-out theatricality during the final act but fails to get the balance right, an error made all the more glaring when juxtaposed with the film's attempts at grittier realism.

However, it is Shackleton's script, co-written with Ross Jameson and Alex Chandon, that is ultimately The Sleeping Room's biggest problem. The story, whilst harbouring some intriguing ideas, is muddled in its structure and execution. The dialogue varies from the mildly iffy to the downright cheesy, with amateurish moments such as a character sitting alone in a library reading out loud to herself  (even after a librarian shushes her on the audience's behalf) seriously damaging the film's credibility. The performances from the cast also range from the satisfyingly sound, such as young talent Leila Mimmack's promising lead turn as call girl Blue, to the embarrassingly awful - Mike Altmann's single scene as an entirely redundant supporting character delivers enough wood to restock your local branch of Wickes.

For a film clearly made on a small-scale budget almost entirely raised through the investment of others, The Sleeping Room deserves to be considered a partial success at least for grassroots British cinema. There are certainly isolated elements of Shackleton's inaugural feature film to admire as well which suggest the director's future potential; but the problems here are too big to ignore, making The Sleeping Room an ultimately inconsistent and disappointing watch.

The Sleeping Room is available via digital download and on-demand services from Monday 27th April, and is released on UK DVD on Monday 11th May 2015.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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