Director: John Shackleton
Screenplay: Ross Jameson, John Shackleton & Alex Chandon
Starring: Leila Mimmack, David Sibley, Julie Graham, Joseph Beattie, Christopher Adamson, Billy Chainsaw
Running Time: 75 mins
BBFC Classification: 15
The directorial debut of the writer and producer of Panic Button, John Shackleton, The Sleeping Room is a nicely realised and rather intimate tale of ghostly goings on in a rather eerily quiet Brighton.
Orphaned Brighton call-girl Blue (played very well by Leila Mimmack) is sent by her violent pimp Freddie (David Sibley) and his possibly transsexual partner Cynthia (Julie Graham) to meet a new punter who is visiting the town while he helps to restore a Regency era town house, which had previously been converted into a series of flats.
The client, Bill (Joseph Beattie) begins to fall for her, and she with him, as these two somewhat broken people share more than just bodily fluids. But the grand old terraced house that Bill’s currently living in was once a Victorian brothel, one which also has its fair share of secrets and lies. The two of them discover a secret room that looks out onto the main area through a two-way mirror. It turns out that this ‘sleeping room’ is where Victoriana whores would relax between working their punters. It doesn’t take long before the two of them have opened up a can of supernatural worms, at least one of which might be linked to Blue’s somewhat murky family history.
I don’t really want to say too much more here about the plot as I’d rather not spoil it for those tempted to watch this rather unusual ghost story. Suffice to say The Sleeping Room harbours enough originality to make it worth a watch by both fans of ‘women in black’ type ghost stories and dark social dramas, such as those originating from the Scandinavian countries at the moment. However, I think it goes without saying that there are a few twists and turns involved in this ‘psychological thriller of Victorian revenge’, as the director himself describes it as…
From the moment that Bill shows off an old Victorian moving picture device (a mutoscope in fact) that he’s found in the house, one which features a weird Victorian seeming snuff film called ‘Dance with the Devil’, you just know that things are going to get very strange for our two leads, and they do! And credit must be given to the writers for coming up with nice period details such as the mutoscope, which really do help create an atmosphere of impending dread. This atmosphere is further enhanced by the subtle, but effective, film score which I have to say is one of my favourites of recent years.
The Sleeping Room is nicely shot and makes good use of some interesting locations and ends memorably with a great aerial shot of Brighton. The level of acting is pretty good and David Sibley makes for a distinctive and nasty (but more mature than usual) pimp.
I have to say that I preferred the first half of the film to the second half – it had a great build up, but then gets a little too predictable and melodramatic in the final act. I was also a little disappointed by the final denouement. Having said all that, I’d still recommend the film and it’s nice to see a crowd-funded project that’s actually delivered on its promises. Based on this I’d certainly be interested in seeing Shackleton’s next film which, according to his mini interview with Billy Chainsaw (in the disc’s extras), is going to be called: ‘We are Monsters’.
The Sleeping Room has recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Second Sight. The extras include an original short film, 6th Sense (2013), by screenwriter Ross Jameson, which is actually pretty decent, an on-set gallery, a filmed conversation between director John Shackleton and horror journalist Billy Chainsaw, (who also has a featured cameo in the film), a behind the scenes featurette (6 mins) that mainly consists of background shots, but does include some footage of the music score being recorded, and a vignette about the Octocopter aerial shot at the end of the film.