Many people suffering from sleep paralysis report seeing the ominous Freddy Krueger-like “Hat Man.” If your subconscious is more inclined towards old European folklore, you might see the Night Hag (the source of the word “nightmare”) instead. It seems that nocturnal bitty is tormenting a family seeking treatment from, Dr. Alice Arnolds, a sleep disorder specialist. The case hits close to home when the behavior of their young son starts to remind Arnolds of her late little brother in Jonathan Hopkins’ Slumber (trailer here) which releases today on DVD.
Years ago, Arnolds was powerless to prevent her sleepwalking little brother’s fatal defenestration. It was like some sinister force pulled him out. Hence her specialty. She assumes sullen Daniel Morgan is her latest patient, but his sister Emily and parents Charlie and Sarah are also desperate for treatment. The first night of observation does not go well, especially when circumstances lead her colleague Malcolm to suspect the father of abuse. Of course, Arnolds can sense there is something uncanny afoot, starting with her increasingly disturbed dreams. Facing up to the likely existence of the Night Hag, Arnolds seeks answers from Amado, the spooky old world grandfather of the clinic’s janitor.
If nothing else, Slumber should be a future trivia question at Doctor Who conventions, because it co-stars Sylvester McCoy (the Seventh Doctor) as Amado and Sam Troughton, the grandson of Patrick Troughton (the Second Doctor) as Charlie Morgan. In fact, McCoy is so off-the-hook nutty, he almost single-handedly rescues the film from its doldrums.
Maggie Q gives a decently sensitive performance as the dedicated Dr. Arnolds. However, the rest of the Arnoldses and most of the Morgans are hopelessly bland. Frankly, the film clicks the most when she is doing psychological stuff with the slightly sardonic Malcolm, played by William Hope, who nicely compliments her.
Maggie Q is a telegenic star and the largely British cast gives the film an illusion of classiness (yet, somehow our New York State tax credits still helped finance it). Alas, Hopkins’ execution is rather flat-footed, largely ditching the early hints of ancient folklore in favor of awkward Dreamscape-esque scenes. There has been a mini-boomlet of sleep paralysis horror movies, but Rodney Ascher’s documentary, The Nightmare, the film that started the trend, is still the scariest of the pack. Instructive as a missed opportunity, but not recommended, Slumber releases today on DVD.