Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Parasomnia (2008)

Dreams are a major theme in horror. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is probably the best known example of this, even though a bevy of movies have tackled this-mostly with nightmare sequences, but hey. Well, leave it to William Malone (known mostly for his better than it should have been remake of "House on Haunted Hill" and the execrable "Feardotcom, as well as the excellent "Masters of Horror" episode "The Fair Haired Child") to try and go new directions with this in his latest movie, the independently financed and shot "Parasomnia", which finally got an official release in July.

Danny Sloan (Dylan Purcell) witnesses love at first sight in Laura Baxter (Cherilyn Wilson.) There's a bit of a problem though; Laura suffers from a sleep disorder called Parasomnia, in which she is asleep almost all the time, and people in the hospital want to do some testing on her. So Danny decides to rescue her, taking her to his home. There's a bigger problem though, in the malevolent Byron Volpe (Patrick Kilpatrick), a hypnotist who can control his victims to do his murderous bidding that has control over her, and wants her for his own nefarious plans. Oh, and Detective Garret (Jeffrey Combs) is always in pursuit as well.

A surreal fairy tale for adults, "Parasomnia" is unlike any other American horror movie to be released this year, and will most likely turn some off. For me, it's a great reminder of the kind of horror movies that slip under the radar, but are better than a lot of studio fair these days.

Visually, it's something else, with images ranging from the nightmarish to the beautiful running in every corner of Laura's mind and in the real world (especially in the arresting final act.) Acting wise, this is also pretty impressive, with Wilson doing a great job at mixing almost doe-eyed innocence with some serious mental baggage brought forth by Volpe. Speaking of Volpe, Kilpatrick does an excellent job, stealing the show by playing him as a menacing force of pure evil without overacting, and creating one of the best villains in a horror movie this year. Then there's Combs, who underplays Garret-which is a good thing, as the character is a nice throwback to the hardened detective characters of old. Add an original, thoughtful story, strong direction and a great score by Nicolas Pike, and you have a winner...with one exception.

That exception is Purcell as the protagonist. You can tell that Danny is supposed to be a shy and eccentric but ultimately likable character, but under the lead, he's just kinda creepy and awkward. Not exactly what I would want out of a lead hero.

Still, "Parasomnia" is an original, intriguing and all around arresting and creepy experience that's worth a look for those searching for something different. Recommended.

Rating: 8.5/10

Oh, and yes, that's Alison Brie (Annie from the all around awesome show "Community") as Darcy, the cello player in red.

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