Monday, April 26, 2010

Cinematic Sleepwalking: In My Sleep

According to the evidence of psychological thriller movies, the Physician’s Desk Reference ought to list waking up next to dead bodies as an official symptom of parasomnia. Such is the case for one sleepwalking male masseuse in Allen Wolf’s In My Sleep (trailer here), which opens in New York this Friday.

Marcus has always been a sleepwalker and a player. However, when he hooks up with his best friend Justin’s wife Ann in his sleep, it understandably freaks him out. Resorting to a battery of sleeping pills and old school restraints, he still finds himself waking up in suspicious positions, like covered in blood, lying next to the knife that presumably killed Ann.

Already half suspecting himself, Marcus’s paranoia kicks it up a notch when a mysterious woman starts leaving him cryptic, vaguely hostile messages. Concerned Justin suspects his unlikely tryst with his late wife, or something far worse, Marcus finds only one person he can turn to for help: Becky, a genuinely caring Evangelical who recently moved into his Melrose Place like complex.

Obviously, Wolf has a deep affection for the classic psychological thrillers exemplified by Hitchcock’s masterworks. To his credit, he captures the right look and feel of the genre. Unfortunately, he is undermined by a cast that is often amateurish. The one shining exception is Party of Five’s Lacey Chabert as Becky. Refreshingly, her character’s Christian faith is presented respectfully, while Chabert brings an honest likability to the role.

Considering Philip Winchester and Tim Draxl spend most of the film shirtless as Marcus and Justin respectively, at least it possibly has something to offer women viewers. (However, guys will be disappointed to see Alexandra Paul squandered in a blink-and-you-missed-it cameo.) Genre enthusiasts might also find Michael Hardwick’s cinematography interesting to watch, effectively conveying the dark undercurrents beneath his sun-drenched City of Angeles palette.

In Sleep, Wolf shows potential as a filmmaker. He needs to make new actor friends, but should keep Chabert in his rolodex. Competently produced but fatally undone by its principal cast, Sleep opens Friday (4/30) in New York at the Quad.