The Curse Of Sleeping Beauty


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Curse Of Sleeping Beauty
"Wonderfully detailed sets make it easy to become immersed in the wold Teo has created."

Fairytales have always had a special place in cinema, with recent years giving us the tragicomedy of Blancanieves, the vibrant weirdness of Tale Of Tales and Kenneth Branagh's strictly by-the-book Cinderella. Few stories, however, have inspired filmmakers as much as Sleeping Beauty, a tale first recorded by Giambattista Basile and published, ironically, after his death in 1634 - but a tale with ancient folkloric roots. What is it that makes this story so beguiling? Thomas' psychiatrist sees it in straightforward terms: hiding from the world, he's constructed the image of a perfect passive woman so he doesn't have to deal with real ones. This is why she haunts his dreams.

Thomas (Ethan Peck, marvellously capable but really too old to play the lead in a film that will appeal most strongly to teenagers) has dreamt about Briar Rose all his life. He's recovering from a tragedy in his personal life, so he's already vulnerable when his life takes an unexpected turn. Out of nowhere, a solicitor contacts him to tell him that an uncle he barely knew has left him an enormous, remote house. We've all had those claims made in email, but this one is backed up by the title deeds and a mysterious letter in which his uncle apologises, for he has, he writes, also bequeathed him a curse.

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It's probably no coincidence that Thomas' second name is Kaiser - "a young man of royal blood," as the Grimms wrote in their version of the tale, though any family fortune has long since vanished. The house is in a poor state of repair and Thomas' prime concern is how quickly he can sell it. Making investigations, he encounters Linda (Natalie Hall), a young woman who seems very practical and down to earth but is also convinced the house is haunted, and who longs to find her brother, who went missing there. Together they ignore the advice in the letter and break into the basement. It's a bad move.

Wonderfully detailed sets make it easy to become immersed in the wold Teo has created here, and the subtlety of the early scares really ratchet up the tension. Though he's drawn to Briar Rose, who awakens in his dreams and tells him they're now physically close, Thomas also regards those dreams as nightmares. A malevolent presence seems to be stalking him both in sleep and wakefulness. In this creepy atmosphere, he's willing to go along with Linda's suggestion that they bring in experts in the supernatural - cue scenes of investigation which recall those in Stigmata and Sinister 2. The Lovecraftian character of this material is perhaps problematic in view of an ending which has nowhere near that kind of impact.

Sad to say, The Curse Of Sleeping Beauty is a film full of promise which simply falls apart towards the end. It doesn't help that India Eisley is hopelessly twee in the title role, like a refugee from a Twilight film - she's definitely at her best when sleeping. The denoument will be singularly unimpressive to seasoned horror fans and is too rushed to capture the magic that might thrill those drawn to the film for its fantasy aspect. It's a real shame because there's a lot of good work here otherwise. This is a film crying out for a director's cut with a smarter ending.

Reviewed on: 21 Oct 2016
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The Curse Of Sleeping Beauty packshot
A man unexpectedly inherits a mansion - and responsibility for the things in the sub-basement.

Director: Pearry Reginald Teo

Writer: Josh Nadler, Pearry Reginald Teo

Starring: Ethan Peck, India Eisley, Natalie Hall, Bruce Davison, James Adam Lim

Year: 2016

Runtime: 89 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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