Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Sleeper DVD review

Pre-review rant:   In an effort to better state my appreciation for indie/low budget/no budget films, I'm throwing this rant in before my actual review of The Sleeper.  Back in the day when I was young enough to be Hollywood's target audience, movies like Scream 1-3, Urban Legend, Valentine, and even Jawbreaker were the average fodder for teens like me.  This was the standard for new horror movies on the mainstream.  God help us all. 

What's a horror fan to do who likes their grue by the gallon?  DIY, baby.  Do.  It.  Yourself.  The rental market started to be flooded with movies shot on video.  Features like "Shatter Dead," "Meat Market," and "Zombie Bloodbath" were somehow winding up on video store shelves for rental.  Fans of the horror genre who weren't getting what they wanted from the mainstream tried their hand at handheld glory.  The results of these films are varied, but to be honest, mostly headache inducing crap.  To enjoy these flicks, the viewer had to strip away any expection of acting, production value, and the ability to hold a camera straight. 

But I respect the attempt and the heart behind the people behind the camera.  Does it mean the movies have merit?  That decision is truly on a case-by-case basis.  I used to watch these straight to video, DIY movies all the time and loved them.  But now, I have more reservations about them.  My patience isn't as high, my forgiveness doesn't extend as far as 90 minutes, and my ability to overcome flagrant flaws isn't as high.  But I respect it and will give anything an honest to God shot. 

So my review will begin...

The Sleeper is a homage to early 80's slasher films.  Eerie synthesizer music.  Fraternity house antics.  A killer fawning over hot girls' pictures and drawing a red streak through them when he's ready to kill them.  A detective hot on the trail of a murderer.  Mean killer phone calls.  Over the top killings.  Nudity.  Oh yeah.

I don't care what people say about classic slasher movies.  I love them, and I'll defend them.  Their impish humor.  The gore.  The nudity.  The unintentional laughs.  Great stuff.  I can see why somebody would want to replicate it, or perhaps send it a love letter on celluloid. 

Here's the catch with The Sleeper.  This is a low budget movie.  The film, the look, the acting, it's all very no budget.  Which can be fine, don't get me wrong.  But it takes away from the vintage look the film was trying to obtain. 

So the criticisms: The clothes don't look 80's.  There isn't really a main character to get attached to, like other slasher movies, where you're rooting for one girl to survive and kick the slasher's ass.  The girl that is in place isn't fleshed out enough, even by slasher rules.  The performances across the board are wooden, not that great acting is required, but a little bit of life helps.  The film quality is shot on video, so it doesn't look vintage like it wants to, but it tries and comes pretty close.  The atmosphere, despite the attempts to blare eerie synthesizer music at every chance, even at inopportune times, can get old. 

The appreciations:  You've got a handful of good kills.  A couple mediocre kills, sure, but enough good stuff to keep a slasher fan happy.  The killer looks scary and acts scary.  He's a real natural.  Joe Bob Briggs cameo.  And most importantly, a third act that really picks up and reminds us why we like slasher films, and why the filmmakers like slasher films too. 

Overall, my immediate reaction was I ENJOYED IT.  At first, I had many reservations as the film's limitations cropped up, but the good kills and the great final act won me over.  This movie reminds me why I like slasher films and tells me I'm not alone in the club.  So slasher fans need to see this, but those of you who say Scream is their favorite horror movie should join another fan club and let us have this movie to ourselves.

4/5 for you low budget hardcore fans
3/5 for everybody else.

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