In My Sleep
I came across the movie ĎIn My Sleepí in a batch to review of video on demand. Although this is the format I employed to watch the film it is also readily available on DVD and Blu-ray. Video on demand has just become anther valid means for a filmmaker to get his work to the public. For those of us with collections approaching a count in five digits it is also a space saving measure particularly for discs on the margin of your Ďto purchase listí. While the film holds a lot of promise and makes an honest effort at delivering is does fall somewhat short of managing to deliver. The fundamental premise underlying the movie is sound albeit one that requires the subtlety of a more seasoned hand and artistic experience. The writer/director here, Allen Wolf, us relatively new in both means of expression although it must be noted that what Mr. Wolf lacks in experience is largely made up for by his ambition as demonstrated by taking on a story with such an inherently substantial degree of difficulty. Iíve witnessed this several times in the pas usually heralding a noteworthy career is to follow. The point being an artist doesnít sharpen his skill set unless he endeavors to pus past his comfort level. This is precisely what is evident in this film.
The character who is about to find himself at the center of a dark mystery is Marcus (Philip Winchester) who awakens on morning in a cemetery clad in his boxers. While extremely disconcerting most would exhibit a significantly greater reaction than Marcus. The reason is while bizarre it is not entirely unexpected; Marcus has been diagnosed as suffering from parasomnia. The generalized common name for this disorder was sleep walking although the activities exhibited by patients run a broad range of what they do while asleep. Marcus performs a variety of activities with no recollection of what his sleeping self has been up to. As a premise for a psychological thriller this plot device is a proven winning. Sleep is a part of everybodyís life where we surrender all control, abdicating out very consciousness and normal control of our behavior. A person afflicted with parasomnia goes to sleep not knowing what they might do or where they might happen to go. For the vast majority of humanity we lie down to sleep assured by the knowledge we will awaken the next morning rested and in our familiar bedroom. For someone so afflicted nighttime is a mystery representing a complete surrender of our control. This is a premise that slices to the core of our psyche probing the recesses of our deepest fears.
One of the manifestations of his disorders is in predilection for casual sexual encounter. This string of meaningless, one night stands prompts him to joining a twelve step program for sex addicts. There he meets Derek (Michael Badalucco), who becomes his sponsor within the group. His terror reaches an unprecedented level when one morning the police are at his door. His hands are covered in blood and there is a knife next to him as he quickly hides the evidence and gets out of bed to speak to the investigators. The inform Marcus that they are on a case concerning the murderer of Ann (Kelly Overton), wife of his best friend Justin (Tim Draxl), who was discovered stabbed to death. Considering the bloody hands and knife along with a completed lack of memories for the previous night Marcus is fearful that while in his nocturnal fugue state he could have killed Ann. As it is soon revealed he had sex with her a while ago under similar circumstances. As if this isnít sufficient to unhinge the man he begins to receive phone calls from a disgruntled former one night stand. He attempts to stabilize his life by forging somewhat normal relationship such as and romantic try with a nurse, Gwen (Abigail Spencer) and a friendship with his quirky neighbor Becky (Lacey Chabert). He pulls her into managing his nightly outings by having Becky handcuff him to the bed overnight. This results in highly awkward moment when Becky shows up with the handcuffs while Marcus is attempting to have a quiet dinner with Gwen.
Iíve noticed that many representatives of the critical community have come down pretty hard on this film. While it does admittedly possess flaws they are not of the quantity some would suggest and definitely not as plentiful as Iíve seen implied. It is my contention that the film is misunderstood. All too often the lines of demarcation between horror and thriller are blurred. If you go into this expecting some sort of psychological horror motif you will be disappointed. In this opus filmmaker Allen Wolf has endeavored to rekindle the pure psychological thriller with a substantial undercurrent of a good old fashion murder mystery whose twist is not even the protagonist is certain of his innocence. It is a change in the public perception that blood, sharp objects and memory loss will eventual pan out as an internalized horror film. True to the precepts of the psychological thriller the fear and apprehension experienced by the audience is projected by a sympathetic connection with the central character. Wolf did a job comparable to one with far more on his resume in fleshing out the character to a fuller extent than typically found in a movie of this type. It stands as an example of why independent film is critical to the artistic growth of movies as a means of expression.
Sleep is over a third of your life when you are defenseless against external circumstances you are unconscious of. The most unsettling aspect of this story comes when you put yourself in Marcusí predicament; a hapless victim to your own actions. It turns the natural period of rest and restoration into an uncertain terror, potentially turning you into a murderer. To support the disquieted emotional and psychological state experienced by Marcus a dark bark story that caused a major rift between him and his mother (Beth Grant), provides texture to the story and greater dimension to the character permitting the audience the requisite understanding of Marcus as a trouble human being.
The performances bring the tightly woven script to life showcasing the considerable talents assembled here. The aspect that did detract to a degree was the pacing, a psychological thriller by its nature requires a slow simmer and although Mr. Wolf did a great job of keeping everything on track there were a couple of spots were the focus waned although only briefly and never beyond recovery. This is an intriguing piece that requires extra concentration but it is well worth it.