[Frightfest Review] - The Sleeping Room
Stars; Leila Mimmack, Joseph Beattie, Christopher Adamson, Julie Graham
Director; John Shackleton
Writers; Alex Chandon, Ross Jameson, John Shackleton
Running Time; 75 mins
Blue, an orphaned 19 year old call girl living in Brighton falls for her latest client Bill and is intrigued by his renovation project of a Victorian house that used to be brothel. When a secret room is uncovered Blue learns of its link to her family which could hold the answers to her mother's death. As she delves deeper Blue suddenly finds herself at the heart of an unsettled score with only one possible and fatal outcome.
Marking the second feature from Cardiff-based Movie Mogul Films, The Sleeping Room is the first film to be funded through equity-based crowdfunding, and is an impressive directorial debut from John Shackleton. It is a quintessentially British ghost story with influences from The Shinning and The Haunting of Hill House based on the real life discovery of a Victorian sleeping room by writer Ross Jameson. Working with director John Shackleton and Cradle of Fear writer/director Alex Chandon the screenwriting trio have crafted a ghost story with real chills and scares.
Steeping the film's story and setting deep in Victorian history anchored in present day Brighton makes The Sleeping Room an engaging tale. Using the Victorian architecture of this seaside town along with some of its most recognisable landmarks all give the viewer that feeling of having stepped back in time. The inclusion of the Mutoscope, which features throughout the film is put to especially effective use as a window to the past that en-crouches in the present. The Sleeping Room is a ghost story that is also reminiscent of the British gangster thriller Brighton Rock, encapsulated particularly in the character of Freddie, the husband of Blue's Madame (played by Julie Graham). There is a little nod to Brighton's more recent chequered past of sex scandal in the name of Julie Graham's character, Cynthia - a nod to that infamous Mrs Payne perhaps.
The script and story are brought to life by first time director John Shackleton. He has certainly made his bones on this chilling ghost story by truly creating an atmosphere to hold the viewer's attention and send shivers up the spine. Shackleton's directorial style is clearly influenced by Stanley Kubrick and reminiscent of The Shinning coupled with the gritty realism that is only really a trait of British film. There is also an effective use and contrast of scale from the stunning open aerial shots of Brighton to the more claustrophobic setting of the renovated building and sleeping room. All this help create a tense and uncomfortable yet gripping atmosphere exuding from the screen. Shackleton also employs some time honoured tricks of the trade to keep viewer attention and build up tension; the effective use of the two way mirror that hides the Sleeping Room and the lingering slow motion shots of the Mutoscope's machinations coupled with the heightened sound bringing to the fore a foreboding feel.
Where the film also succeeds is in the performances from a largely unknown cast (although TV viewers might recognise Julie Graham from William & Mary or Survivors). Leila Mimmack's performance is interesting with elements of Victorian reserve coupled with what could be perceived to be as traits brought on by Blue's troubled past. Her character evolves throughout the film to someone who is more than the traditional "scream queen" of horror and Mimmack's portrayal guides the viewer on this personal journey. Joseph Beattie as Blue's client Bill is excellent in his equally shy role and excels when he indulges in the darker aspects of his character in a spine tingling turn. David Sibley and Julie Graham although not on film very much are excellent in their roles as enforcer and Madame respectively as is Chris Waller as Blue's friend Glenny. The villainous star however has to be Christopher Adamson who seems to be having entirely too much fun in his sinister role (and which does not in any detract from the feel or execution of the story).
It was pointed out during the Q&A at Film4 Frightfest that The Sleeping Room is the sort of film that the recently revived Hammer studios should be producing. The writers have crafted an engaging spooky tale with real sense of time & place, and under the direction of John Shackleton packed full of tension, atmosphere, all fused together with some fantastic innovative cinematography along with stellar performances from the cast. Where many other such films fail, The Sleeping Room succeeds as a debauched ghostly tale of Victorian revenge.