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A group of young horror fans go searching for a film that mysteriously vanished years ago but instead find that the demented killer from the movie is real, and he's thrilled to meet fans who will die gruesomely for his art.
In "Parasomnia," a stylish horror/thriller from director William Malone ("House on Haunted Hill," "Masters of Horror,") Laura Baxter is a young woman, literally a "sleeping beauty," who suffers from a medical condition called "parasomnia." A childhood accident victim, she is actually sleeping her life away, awakening briefly on rare occasions. Art student Danny Sloan falls in love with her, unaware that her hospital neighbor, a terrifying mass murderer and mesmerist named Byron Volpe has other, more sinister plans. Sloan helps Laura escape from her hospital prison only to discover that Volpe is about to enter her dreams. Written by
This film is very creepy indeed. Unfortunately, not for the reasons the film makers would hope.
There's a mastermind serial killer too, but he's not what's creepy either. He's just your standard comic book villain, a cross between Hannibal Lecter and Freddie Kruger, though with nothing particularly fresh to add to either. Incidentally, for even the vilest and most reprehensible of criminals, can they be detained chained in a stress position, on their feet, arms outstretched 24 hours a day week in week out? I suppose in the world that gave us Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, anything's possible.
No, what's really creepy about this film is the central character, Danny. This unappealing young man, aided and abetted it's true by some ludicrously lax security arrangements and a doctor entirely careless of any notion of professional ethics or patient confidentiality, wanders into the hospital room occupied by what can only be described as a highly vulnerable and defenceless young woman, and on the basis of nothing whatsoever (her chronic sleeping precludes from being able to give anything like informed consent) imagines himself to have some sort of special relationship with her.
Seemingly within days, he has arrogated to himself the right to abduct her, believing (completely falsely, as we discover) that he is better able to care for her than anyone else, and within minutes of getting her back to his apartment, is sexually molesting her though she is (again due to her sleepiness) entirely unable to consent or resist.
Our suspicions as to why he would feel this connection are pretty soon confirmed. He is of course more or less unable to form any mature adult friendships, let alone sexual relationships, so instead falls back on this essentially infantilised woman, who because of her permanent sleeping has a mental age corresponding to a lived experience of only a few years. The scene where she discovers ice cream is particularly cringe-making, and the coyly knowing look she gives him when he gloatingly says he'll have to clean her up again causes a particular shudder of horror. But again, I'm afraid, not that shudder of horror the film makers were hoping for, but a much more straightforward spasm of revulsion. We can all see clearly what's on the end of our forks here - it's the paedophile's perfect dream of innocence, sexual compliance and utter dependence. Horrible, horrible, horrible.
What else have we got in this mish mash? Twisted dreamscapes not quite as good as del Toro. The compulsory "You need to go to the police" argument, where the lead character always has a reason for not doing so even though it's the only sensible course of action. The automaton sequence, much praised in the comments here, though completely and utterly pointless ("It serves no function!", as Sigourney Weaver memorably protested in Galaxy Quest) and looking to me just like the Abominable Doctor Phibes rehashed in one of the Saw derivatives.
Jeffrey Combs does his best though, so a star for that, and a couple more because you have to keep lower rankings for films that are even worse than this, and in general this is well-shot and competently performed.
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