The Alamo Cinema Massacre Presents:
THE CURSE OF SLEEPING BEAUTY (2016)
Review by: Trista K. and Daniel R. Robichaud
SCENE: The opening camera focuses on a slender, muscled fellow with a short beard, tousled dark hair, a white ribbed tank top and a pair of old jeans. He stumbles barefoot across sands to an elaborate open-air bedroom setup, with Greek pillars for bedposts, fake flowers everywhere, and tulle mosquito netting.
TRISTA (offscreen): Hey, that guy really looks like Wolverine.
DANIEL (offscreen): Snikt! Snikt! WOLVERINE! He’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does is . . . wander around a desert in bare feet?
DANIEL: That’s not really Logan, is it?
TRISTA: No such luck.
DANIEL: Think he’ll catch fire?
TRISTA: Uhm. No.
DANIEL: (making the sign of the evil eye): Buuuuuurn, dude. Buuuuurn.
TRISTA: STOP! I like our projector screen!
The camera follows THOMAS (Ethan Peck) as he advances on THE BED. Sleeping in THE BED is a princess-like figure dressed in spiky leather armor adorned with crystals and feathers. He LEANS FORWARD to kiss her, and then the camera shakes brutally as he WAKES UP in an artist’s studio, surrounded by paintings of sleeping women.
TRISTA: Wow, when he draws women, it looks like they’re actually comfortable.
DANIEL: Yeah, the leather and spikes look about as comfy as Land’s End fleece. But the Swarovski chandelier glass daggers hanging from her hair must have been awkward when rolling over.
TRISTA: Uh oh. Maybe we’d better skip to the synopsis and have some wine.
DANIEL: No wine for you!
A grieving young artist dreams of a beautiful dreamer, and paints her by day. We soon learn Thomas (Ethan Peck) has inherited a spooky mansion from hitherto-unknown Uncle Klive, which comes complete with a creepy familial obligation to guard the house. Thomas is drawn to investigate a surprisingly long familial history, combat haunting spirits, and answer the movie’s titular question: Why is the Sleeping Beauty (India Eisley) a prisoner, and should Thomas wake her?
I was intrigued by the poster for THE CURSE OF SLEEPING BEAUTY (2016) because of its dark-tinged faerie tale style. Director Pearry Reginald Teo’s CURSE is taken from the Grimm faerie tale, Little Briar Rose, as well as a Kickstarted comic book series based on the movie by Everette Hartsoe, screen story and screenplay written by Josh Nadler & Pearry Reginald Teo.
The strongest things CURSE has going for it are style, costume, and set design. This is a very pretty movie to look at, with a whopping amount of style over substance. The actors are very pretty as well; the camera loves Ethan Peck unrequitedly, to the detriment of the women in the piece. Fortunately, his quiet artist doesn’t chew the scenery or overstay his welcome. Bruce Davisons’s Richard brings a wisecracking Van Helsing to the crew, and late addition Daniel (James Adam Kim) is a sexy code breaker and translator of ancient texts. In contrast, realtor cum investigator Linda (Natalie Hall) is coolly obsessed with her brother’s death, and Briar Rose (India Eisley) spends most of the movie asleep or telegraphing SOS messages to Thomas.
The proto-romance between Linda and Thomas fizzles early. This viewer wondered if that was because of Linda’s milquetoast character, or simply because Thomas would be more interested chasing Daniel. I know I’d watch that alternate ending!
Shall we talk about the huge elephant in the room, Daniel?
You mean how Scut Farkus is all grown up? Yes, ladies and gentlemen. The vile dude with the green eyes and yellow teeth from A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) is still acting. Zack Ward has made a lot of second-string television appearances and B-movies in the years since his defining role, including a couple with Uwe Boll, of all people, playing Billy the Kid in BLOODRAYNE: DELIVERANCE (2007) and some schlub named Dude in POSTAL (2007). He’s an entertaining actor. AND HE IS IN THIS MOVIE. And he is also out of this movie early on, left to “watch” the protagonist’s paintings while Thomas goes off to have dark fantasy adventures. Can you hear that paycheck clearing? Ka-CHING!
By that “I’m being patient, if you’d bother to notice” stare you’re giving me, I’m going to guess you aren’t talking about Scut Farkus/Zack Ward. You’re talking about that wonderful game to play at home: Is it an homage or a pastiche? The subject of this film being:
Either THE CURSE OF SLEEPING BEAUTY is a love letter to the sorts of movies Barker used to make, and the stories he used to write, or its creators have performed a most audacious rip-off of the kinds of images, stories, and passions Barker dreamt up thirty years ago.
The deceased uncle’s name is a giveaway. This is Uncle Clive’s house! Err. Uncle Klive! It’s got ghostly things in it, which echoes Barker’s short story, “The Book of Blood” (1984), filmed by John Harrison as BOOK OF BLOOD (2009). It’s got weird chained angels and statuary, ala that charming little fixer upper 66 Lodovico Street featured in HELLRAISER (1987).
The soundtrack is also a dead giveaway, since it either tries to hammer home the operatic eeriness of Christopher Young’s back-to-back HELLRAISER (1987) and HELLRAISER: HELLBOUND (1988) scores, often to hilarious effect, or to offer a siren sound like Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerard gone to hell.
Come to think of it, the movie has the dark, broody and dank feel of one of Barker’s comic properties back in the eighties/nineties, back when he was responsible for original material, as well as a wealth of adaptations. That was when he had the unfortunately shelved Razor line for Marvel (“SaintSinner“, “EctoKid“, “Hokum and Hex“, etc.) as well as a whole lot of sassy, sexy, splattery comics like “Tapping the Vein“, “Hellraiser“, “Primal“, and “Night Breed” through various other publishers. Those suckers put the GRAPHIC in graphic novels . . .
The film’s set design and atmosphere hearkens to some of those “Hellraiser” issues in particular, the ones with art by creative madmen like Dave McKean, John Bolton, and Les Edwards. Come to think of it, THE CURSE OF SLEEPING BEAUTY even echoes elements from the early first-person shooter-type video game, “Clive Barker’s UNDYING” (2001), which featured a handsome dude investigating a haunted house and discovering it holds the slumbering secret to Armageddon. Of course, that plotline has nothing to do with this movie. Nope. Not a thing.
And on the topic of comics, talk about the kooky credits. The film is based on a Grimm fairy tale, but inspired by a graphic novel, which was Kickstarter-funded to generate visibility for the movie . . . So, the filmmakers made a comic book from their own fairy tale-inspired film script before shooting the film? I’m afraid I have gotten lost in the labyrinth of source material citations, here. Leviathan help me!
So, how about that plotting and pacing, Trista?
CURSE is a short picture of barely ninety minutes, and felt like the filmmakers soft-stepped the audience around any major scares. Unfortunately, Thomas reminded me a great deal of Eleanor Lance in 1963’s THE HAUNTING: bound to a familial obligation and not terribly assertive in dealing with it. The sets and props win at dark and creepy, but I felt the movie sagged in terms of tension. When the ending arrived, I wondered if the filmmakers decided the last reel sucked and just stopped early.
Ugh. That ending. I expect it was supposed to leave things to the audience’s imagination. Or maybe to leave enough dangling threads for a sequel that starts thirty seconds after this picture ends. Unfortunately, I don’t expect we will see such a sequel anytime soon.
I suppose it’s obvious I have no love for this movie. It’s a mediocre exercise at best. Not bad enough to be charming, and not good enough to be entertaining. It’s a middle-of-the-road and forgettable experience. Sure, it has a bunch of great secondary actors—many props to Zack Ward and Bruce Davison, who manage to make run-of-the-mill lines entertaining. I expect they knew EXACTLY what kind of movie this was going to be. I think the main cast could shine with better material, too—I would really love to see Ethan Peck in an adaptation of a bloody good story, like Clive Barker’s “Human Remains” or (his first novel) “THE DAMNATION GAME.” The set design is fun. Unfortunately, this movie is far too lacking in quality storytelling and unique directorial vision to repay the time spent watching it.
I have to agree, Daniel, I picked a turkey this time. Pass the ice cream, please?
If you’ve never heard of Clive Barker or want to introduce younger fans to some of his themes, THE CURSE OF SLEEPING BEAUTY might be a nice warm-up. Otherwise, don’t waste your time on this one. Watch HELLRAISER or CRIMSON PEAK. (2016) 😀
All that said, I rather think WOLVERINE V. SLEEPING BEUATY might be an awesome mashup picture.
He’s the best there is at what he does. She’s the best there is at invading dreams. Who will survive, and what will be left of them?
Too bad I have to wait for streaming for LOGAN! (2017)
© Copyright 2017 by Daniel and Trista Robichad