Once upon a time there was a handsome artist called Thomas (Ethan Peck) who has spent his adult life having some pretty freaky dreams about a Sleeping Beauty (India Eisley) who can only be awoken with a kiss. When Thomas inherits a creepy old mansion from a relative he didn’t even know existed, he quickly teams up with real estate agent Linda (Natalie Hall) who tells him about all the people who have mysteriously disappeared inside, including her own brother. After searching the mansion, discovering a secret room and being attacked by mannequins and a sinister creature known as the ‘veiled demon’, Ethan and Linda enlist the help of paranormal investigator Richard (Bruce Davison, phoning in a watered-down version of the character he played in Rob Zombie’s excellent The Lords of Salem) and technobrat code-breaker Daniel (James Adam Lim) to find out what’s going on. The bottom line? Thomas is the victim of a family curse that can only be broken by kissing and waking up the Sleeping Beauty who, it turns out, is being held prisoner somewhere within the mansion’s walls. Will he find her? Will we stay awake long enough to find out? And will the game-changing shocker of an ending be worth the wait?
On paper, fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty should make an excellent basis for a horror movie. There’s an intrinsic and primal darkness within the Brothers Grimm’s original story that is just begging for the opportunity to scare the hell out of us. But with The Curse of Sleeping Beauty, director and co-writer Pearry Reginald Teo has really jumped the spinning wheel. It’s obvious from the opening dream sequence that he wants to make a film reminiscent of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth with touches of Tarsem Singh’s The Cell, but it’s equally obvious, from the very first moments, that he’s badly over-reaching himself. TCoSB is a mess with only two redeeming features – Alessandro Marvelli’s production design and Scott Glasgow’s fragile and occasionally beautiful musical score – and Teo even fumbles Marvelli’s hard work by shooting in so much darkness we can barely comprehend what’s going on.
The screenplay is a car-crash, littered with portentous flimflam about the djinn, the Crusades, the end of the world, and with dialogue that’s so laughably heavy-handed it would even give Basil Exposition a seizure. As a leading man, Peck has none of his grandfather Gregory’s charisma (or acting ability) and India Eisley comes over less like a Sleeping Beauty and more like an Emo-teenager who fell asleep during a Halloween party. She really doesn’t have very much to do until the last few minutes, and she’s woefully unconvincing when she does it. Unsurprisingly, only Bruce Davison gives a half-way decent performance and even that isn’t worth the price of suffering through this horribly uninspired dreck. And Doctor Who fans will have a lot to roll their eyes about when they see the mannequins… weeping angels, anybody?
We’ve got a feeling that TCoSB would make a great cure for insomnia, which is kind of ironic when you think about it.
1 star for Marvelli’s designs and 2 stars for Glasgow’s soundtrack.
THE CURSE OF SLEEPING BEAUTY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: PEARRY REGINALD TEO / SCREENPLAY: JOSH NADLER, PEARRY REGINALD TEO / STARRING: ETHAN PECK, INDIA EISLEY, NATALIE HALL, BRUCE DAVISON, JAMES ADAM LIN, ZACK WARD / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 24TH