★★ out of ★★★★★ Can a doctor Google folk legends in time to save a little boy?
Alice witnessed her brother’s sleepwalking death as a child. Now, as an adult, she works as a sleep doctor. When a family comes in all exhibiting extreme signs of sleep paralysis, Alice senses more sinister causes of the behavior.
One and one never equal two with the characters’ behaviors in Slumber. The doctors at the sleep center chug coffee and take medicinal stimulants as they monitor their patients, like Freddy Kreuger’s teenagers trying to stay awake. Rather than behaving like real doctors, they tell HIPAA non-compliant spooky stories in between naps at their stations. They never bother to analyze any vitals that have been taken, even after patients have intense physiological reactions. This is the sleep clinic that a scriptwriter first conjures up before doing research, a placeholder, until they can add some informed realism to the script.
It isn’t just the doctors that behave weirdly. Alice’s daughter, an automaton of a good child, intoes “I hope you slept sweetly, mommy!”as she brings her daily drawing to Alice. Despite repeatedly finding themselves in dangerous post-sleep situations, the tormented family never takes any precautions like sleeping in shifts or locking up potential weapons. The silliest character comes in halfway through when the movie switches into full-on Poltergeist rip-off mode. Think Zelda Rubenstein meets Hunter S. Thompson.
Slumber is mostly a waste of effort, but it isn’t without some charm. The acting was solid, even amongst most of the children. There were some unique camerawork choices that I appreciated, though nothing that I’d consider cutting edge. I found one scene in the film particularly effective. Three of the family members are sleepwalking, muttering to themselves, lurching around, and doing disturbing things. It’s got a good amount of tension to it.
Unfortunately, this kind of subtle eeriness is not the film’s main go-to and I found myself losing interest the more ramped up the family’s plight became. By the time the movie reaches its Poltergeist frenzy, I had Words with Friends out.