Graphic Horror: The Curse of Sleeping Beauty
It’s already that time of year again. October means that it’s time for horror movies, and while I also try to fit some horror movies in March, I don’t have any other horror plans around so I figured I’d finish off the rest of my Graphic Horror list over at Letterboxd which I realized has hit 31 movies, one for every day. There are also a couple of new films that have come out this year and I’ll be starting with those before doubling back on some of the ones that I’ve missed until now. But I’m kicking things off with a movie that I actually watched a few weeks ago because my wife picked a random movie out on Netflix. I was looking it up online afterward and realized that it was based on a comic book which meant that I had to watch it again since I was only barely paying attention the first time around. As you might be able to guess, I wasn’t a very big fan of this movie the first time around, and while I did find a little bit more to appreciate the second time around it still has plenty of problems. And as this is a new movie I will mention that like always, I will be talking about this movie in full.
The film itself takes on a different spin on the Sleeping Beauty tale, bringing it into a more modern setting, but it also keeps with some of the magical and historical elements. Basically, there are these supernatural and immortal forces that tie themselves to a certain male bloodline, and the main character of this movie, Thomas Kramer inherits this old mansion from his Uncle who committed suicide. Enclosed is a very vague letter talking about their curse and to never go into the basement. And of course, the first thing he does when he gets to the mansion is to go into the basement. He also has been having dreams about this beautiful sleeping woman who he can never quite reach before waking up. And of course, the rest of the film is essentially about him learning more of the history about the house while ultimately trying to find and wake up Briar Rose, otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty.
What does make this film a little bit confusing is that it’s never entirely clear if this is a world where the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty actually exists or not. Thomas refers to the fact that he has been drawing and dreaming about this woman for years and he calls her “Sleeping Beauty”, and later on he mentions that it all sounds like a fairy tale, but there’s never any explicit reference to the Briar Rose or Sleeping Beauty tale whatsoever. All of the research they do within the film is the typical spouting of ancient references and flipping through extremely old looking books in a dead language that looks like runes. They also add this curse where the oldest male Kramer is tied to the house where the Sleeping Beauty resides and if they spend too much time away, they get sick and eventually die. It felt like a very awkward plot contrivance to explain why he couldn’t just sell/demolish the house without getting to the bottom of things.
While there are plenty of issues with this film, there are a few good qualities to point out. For one thing, the set and costume design are very well done. Briar Rose herself looks quite fantastic, both in the dream state and once we see her physical body. The settings she is in also look very dreamlike and ethereal. The decrepit mansion has a very creepy and unused vibe to it, and there’s even a good job done to Thomas’s apartment before we even get to the mansion that shows that he is also a bit of a clutter-rat and it’s a subtle way to show that housekeeping does not run in the Kramer family. The best part of the film is the entire concept of the Djinns. They are fire spirits that can inhabit inanimate objects and the mansion is filled with these creepy looking mannequins which provide some of the best scares in the film as they randomly come to life, and when attacked crumble back into the plastic mannequin pieces they once were. Also, Bruce Davidson plays a small role in this film as the one who knows all this supernatural stuff and is probably best known around these parts as Senator Kelly from the original X-Men movie. His role is small, but it’s the best part of the cast by a long shot. India Eisley as Briar Rose plays the mysterious beauty well enough, but there’s not really much to the role.
Unfortunately, a few creepy looking mannequins aren’t enough to save this movie from the rest of the cast. Thomas is pretty bland throughout the film. He has a touch of a tragic backstory to explain why he has let his life go to crap before getting this haunted mansion. The only problem is that the only way the audience knows about this is because we hear it from his therapist early on in the film, and he briefly talks about the death of his fiancee later. For the rest of it, he’s just the bland leading man. And because every bland leading man needs a bland love interest, we also get this woman who has been investigating the house for years after her brother disappeared. Her name isn’t that important because it’s rarely mentioned, and she turns on a dime, from being distrustful of Thomas to immediately trusting him enough to work together for no real reason. But one of the worst elements of the movie was the ending. There’s basically a reversal that happens at the very end and isn’t foreshadowed at all aside from the random fact that the Djinns don’t seem to want to hurt Thomas, and the random hacker tossed in at the end whose only purpose is to delay the translation of this book sees something upsetting. And when we do get the free Briar Rose who kills the old witch and captures Thomas, it just ends with the impending apocalypse as if it’s intended to continue in another movie. It felt much more like a cop out than a real ending. Especially when the entire death count of this movie is at two, and one of those was the old witch. It’s a disappointing ending to a disappointing movie that has a few good moments here and there. It just doesn’t do anything special with this story, even though it looks pretty good. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.