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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
I was privileged last night to attend a screening of a new film entitled PARASOMNIA written and directed by WILLIAM MALONE (House on Haunted Hill-1999, FeardotCom-2002, Masters of Horror-"Fair Haired Child). PARASOMNIA is part of Screamfest 2008, the annual horror film festival, but this film spans more than just the horror genre. It is somewhat outside the horror box in that it is more of a dark, twisted, nightmare of a fairy tale almost creating its own visually exciting genre.
The story tells of DANNY (DYLAN PURCELL) a young man who becomes fascinated with a modern Sleeping Beauty in LAURA BAXTER (portrayed by the delightful and charming newcomer CHERLIN Wilson) who suffers from Parasomnia or the Sleeping Beauty syndrome, which causes her to sleep more often than wake. He comes across her in the psyche ward of a hospital while visiting his artist friend BILLY (DOV TIEFENBACH) incarcerated there on a court forced rehab.
Like any good ghost or horror story Billy tells Danny about the girl and the insane serial killer held in the padded cell next to her, one BYRON VOLPE (wonderfully played by veteran bad guy PATRICK KILPATRICK). Volpe, a rare book dealer and mesmerist, used his unnerving mental powers to control his victims, especially his ex-wife (a much too brief cameo by SEAN YOUNG) to commit suicide or murder.
Somehow Volpe has the ability to enter Laura's dreams, tormenting her in a bizarre dream world (A place worthy of Guillermo Del Toro) he controls. Danny realizes he met Laura when they were both children and his fascination with her turns to love. Upon learning she is going to be transferred to the custody of DR. EGON BHYLE (LOUIS GRAHAM) and his questionable sleep disorder clinic for experiments, Danny plots to rescue Laura from her lab-rat fate.
Not realizing Volpe considers the helpless girl his possession, Danny successfully absconds with Laura, taking her to his artist's apartment. Along the way, the girl awakes in Danny's car and unaccustomed to finding herself outside the hospital, freaks out a little. When Danny pulls over to calm her, Laura is out of the car diving head long into the moist grass. Wilson pulls this scene off with an innocent charm without it descending into camp as she falls back asleep, face in the grass.
Once at Danny's apartment, he cleans her up in a scene that in another's hands could have come off as salacious with it's partial nudity. To Malone's and his actor's credit, this scene plays with an innocent tenderness and charm. In an ensuing sequence Danny takes Laura out to an ice cream parlor which turns into a comic exploration of strawberry ice cream, again charmingly played by Wilson.
Then things get dark as Volpe's power over Laura invades her dreams. Danny awakes to find Laura, clad in a cheerleader's outfit stolen from his neighbor, covered in blood and wielding a butcher knife under Vople's mental control as she tries to kill Danny. He manages to ward off her attack, only to discover his neighbor's mutilated body.
Enter the police: DET. GARRETT (Cult fan favorite JEFFERY COMBS) and his partner DET. CONROY (veteran character actor JEFF DOUCETTE) who have already been to the hospital investigating Laura's abduction and getting the low down on Volpe. As Danny frantically tries to hide Laura from Doucette, she; again under Volpe's control; frees herself from Danny's restraints and disembowels Doucette in a very graphic scene that will keep the slasher fans more than happy.
Since I won't give away the ending, I will say that Volpe escapes the hospital in another graphic blood bath to track down Laura and Danny. The film culminates with one of the most inventive, innovative, and visually intriguing sequences involving clockwork automatons; the art work of Danny's friend Billy: and the best use of Serge Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Ballet Overture.
Wonderfully shot by Christian SEABADLT and ENZO GIOBBE and lit in an almost noir style there is enough gore for today's modern, hardcore horror fans, yet PARASOMNIA is so much more. Malone's script is intelligent and he understands all too well that Cinema is a visual medium. In an era where most film and television scripts are still written like radio scripts where the actors describe the action you are seeing on the screen. Malone lets the image tell the story. The characters speak like real people speak. It is economic in its dialog.
And in creating Byron Vople, Malone and Kilpatrick have presented one of the most literate and intelligent villains since Hannibal Lector, a refreshing twist after a dearth of mindless blood thirsty slasher villains.
PARASOMNIA succeeds on many levels: cinematically; mood; characterization; and visual style. The dreamscapes are stunningly beautiful and jarring at the same time. The subliminal cuts are spooky. The over all creepiness of the film is balanced with the innocence of Dylan Purcell and Cherilan Wilson's portrayals. And Wilson is quite a find. She shines in the scenes of Laura rediscovering the world, then seamlessly transitions into a vicious killer under Volpe's control and back to the somnambulistic Laura. Also look for an amusing cameo by director JOHN LANDIS.
PARASOMNIA is such an unusual and entertaining film, it stands on its own. Whether it gets a theatrical release or goes straight to DVD, don't miss this one.
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