Parasomnia (2008 Horror Movie)

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Summary: A young woman who suffers from severe narcolepsy is saved by a well-intentioned young man who fears she is going to become a guinea pig. Oh, and an evil mesmerist is molesting her in her dreams. Oh, and that well-intentioned young man baths her, nude, a couple of times that we know of. Oh, and because she has been asleep most her life, this all starts when she has the mental development of maybe a three year old. Still reading? Awesome...

BLOT: (02 Apr 2011 - 02:27:10 AM)

Parasomnia (2008 Horror Movie)

I'm not sure what it was about Parasomnia, William Malone's 2008 self-produced horror movie with dream-scape overtones, that turned me off so much prior to watching it. Going back, looking at the trailer, it doesn't necessarily seem perfect as a movie, but outside of a couple of moments it looks kind of cool. The posters and artwork look neither great nor poor. I'm not sure. I made up my mind ot not watch it and then, after seeing a few good reviews and genre folk talked about I said why not?

Here's the movie. We start with a middle-aged woman (by the way, its SEAN YOUNG!) getting a phone call and then leaping to her death. Cut from that to a strange art opening credits, and then we get a young man (later identified as Danny, played by Dylan Purcell) on a bus, with a bag (and glimpses of a gun) and a woman coming out of a hallway with blood behind her. Then we jump around a little bit more and find Danny in a record shop, then being left by his [unseen] girlfriend, and finally going to see his friend at the County Hospital. His friend is in rehab about three doors down from Byron Volpe (Patrick Kilpatrick, very much so channeling a Ted-Levine-in-Joy-Ride kind of vibe), a mesmerist who hypnotized his wife into killing herself and can apparently inject thoughts into people's minds just by looking at them. Next to Volpe is Laura Baxter (Cherilyn Wilson), a young woman who spends most of her life asleep, waking up only intermittently. For some reason, later semi-explained, Danny is immediately drawn to her and starts visiting her even after his friend is released. When he founds out she is due to be taken to a clinic with a shady past, he kidnaps her, but not before Volpe's powers have crept into her brain. After a short couple of days of paradise, Laura starts waking up and trying to kill Danny. And things progress to their inevitable conclusion...

I could talk about a lot of things here. I could talk about how it's annoying that they essentially only use one dream-scape, though it is kind of cool with the giant statutes and the spinning mirrors and has a 1990s digi-gothic vibe (as do the clouds throughout). Or how it's annoying how college wall poster one creature in her dream is, but how neat some of the stop motion stuff is. Or the way the movie needed to trim its sails in the last half hour, rather than ramp everything up into some Grand Guinol with both good—the hall of weird puppets and automatons—and bad—the interjection of a chamber music group, the wasted side plot of going to the bookstore, the extra body that makes no sense. I could talk about a bit of things, like the use of SMAGA as a search engine (some Google pun....something something something Google something?) but...

When Laura is first rescued by Danny, she barely functions at the three-year old level. She can speak only by repetition, she sticks food she finds laying around in her mouth. She doesn't know how to eat ice cream, instead she smears it around on the table and then her face (see trailer). And yet, we are treated to a "let's bathe her breasts" scene right in the midst of this. After her first bath, she plays with the ice cream, and then Danny goes "I just got you clean" right before smiling because she has passed back out. Look now, I know they weren't going for "Danny is raping a mentally retarded chronic narcoleptic," but damn if they couldn't have worked that angle out a bit smoother. Especially since this is a movie that has in-dream rape and a stranger on the street who, well, may not be a rapist but he does lick his lips before leaving a horrifically confused but asleep Laura in an alley-way.

So, what's the verdict? I liked it. I did. It was fun enough, quirky enough, and gosh darn it, it had Jeffrey Combs. Still, a romance subplot that dangles between insipidly sweet and rapily creepy could have been tightened up or fleshed out. Likewise, while I buy that Volpe is a v. bad man, even with his mesmerist powers how am I supposed to buy that he is in a county hospital, chained up crucifix style, with a hood and mouth guard on, with no police escort? In a room that looks like a set from Twisted Metal Black? It's horror trappings gone awry, an unnecessary wrinkle in the tale. He is shown to interact with her from a distance, why not have him in some locked away for-the-criminally-insane asylum and Danny doesn't know what is wrong with her at first? Is the idea that this whole thing is a dream? Is that why the clouds are always digitally animated to be extra angry?

Fair movie. I will probably watch again. See if there are bits of subtext that I am missing, because in my mind I am almost sure there has to be.



Written by Doug Bolden

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