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The Sleeper (2012)

  Tags: Ali Ferda, Brittany Belland, Jason Jay Crabtree, Jessica Cameron, John Bloom, Justin Russell, killer, low budget, Riana Ballo, slasher, The Sleeper, Tiffany Arnold

Your rating: None Average: 3.3 (3 votes)
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Sleeper Poster.jpg
Rating #: 
Justin Russell
90 minutes
Brittany Belland, Tiffany Arnold, Riana Ballo, John Bloom, Jessica Cameron, Jason Jay Crabtree, Ali Ferda

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few years, you’ve most likely noticed that the 80s has been rearing its spandex clad ass back into pop culture, from clothing, to music, and especially movies. If your favorite childhood memories aren’t being remade, they’re being homaged left and right on the big and small screen. The Sleeper falls under the latter category as it pulls a House of the Devil on us by attempting to recreate the tone and look of the films of yesteryear.

Taking place in my personal favorite slasher film year, 1981, The Sleeper sticks to the tried and true story of a psycho killer slaughtering sexy, fornicating sorority girls. And yeah, that’s kind of it for the plot. All the stock characters are in place. The final girl, the slut, the best friend, the housemother, and the would be romantic interest that are all nothing more than fresh, nubile meat for a maniacal, perverted, picture-snapping murderer known simply as The Sleeper.

There’s an undeniable charm about this production and it’s overtly obvious that a lot of thought and effort went into getting the look of the movie just perfect. Although shot on video, the makers did a great job of lighting and color correcting it to achieve that older film appearance. Well, close enough to it, anyway. Unlike most films made for this budget range, I was happy to see that every scene was well lit, and not just always in the standard flat way that I’ve been subjected to far too often in the past.

The audio was also extremely clear and well mixed. While these seem like odd things to applaud, nothing can ruin a low budget production quicker than shoddy lighting and shit audio. Keeping with the 80s feel, most of the on-screen deaths (and there’s a nice, hefty amount) are done practically on-set with not a frame of CGI to be seen. The effects aren’t perfect, mind you, but they fit perfectly into that 1981 setting.

Now, let’s get one thing straight. There is nothing new going on here. Writer/Director Justin Russell set out, with a miniscule budget, to create a movie that would have fit in perfectly amongst viewings of The Prowler and The House on Sorority Row. And, truth be told, he pretty much succeeded.  That being said, he succeeded at the expense of presenting anything new or creative to the slasher genre. If you’ve seen the aforementioned titles, you’ve seen The Sleeper. I would love to see Russell some day get a little more money, use his same retro aesthetic, and put it to use in a more genre bending plot. Kind of like how Camp Slaughter put a twist on the 80s slasher, but hopefully with a much superior final product.

If you’re a die-hard 80s slasher fan, The Sleeper is a fun watch solely to spot all the different references to your favorite films. The music is straight up Black Christmas and works perfectly. The killer uses threatening phone calls as a precursor to his killings, and the scenes are Prom Night-esque to the T. And speaking of Prom Night, I MUST mention the truly bizarre impromptu disco dance scene that’s just as awkward and unnecessary as Jamie Lee Curtis’ sweet, spastic dance skills.

The movie’s biggest accomplishment, however, is the fact that it exists. Shot in two weeks with a few tens of thousands of dollars, if that, the movie is cohesive and shows as a great calling card for someone trying to break into the business. I’ve worked on movies shot in that time and budget with a next to nothing crew when I first started in filmmaking, and it is NOT an easy task. Which is why it’s more than easy to ignore the little things like weaker performances and continuity errors with the snow on the ground disappearing between shots.

As an experiment in recreating the look and tone of the 80s slasher on a shoestring budget, The Sleeper rocks it. As a stand-alone story, it leaves a lot to be desired.  If you’re a slasher fanboy, like myself, it’s definitely a nice way to bide your time until (or if) Eli Roth gets around to a feature length Thanksgiving.

Posted on February 9, 2012 - 3:38am | Johnny D