Film Review: The Curse of Sleeping Beauty

A familiar, none-too-gripping horror tale about Sleeping Beauty, an inheritance and a cursed mansion that can destroy the world.
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For viewers who are not into genre trappings, The Curse of Sleeping Beauty—awash in horror, gothic, supernatural and paranormal elements—is dull and silly beyond belief. Still, at two in the morning on an icy, rainy night, this Grade B flick might just hit the spot for the terminally sleepless. The key is to watch it in a pitch black room (short of the TV’s glare), preferably with a bottle of booze nearby. Lying in bed staring at the screen makes it even better.

Updating the iconic Brothers Grimm story, this admittedly atmospheric film recounts the torturous misadventures of a troubled young man, Thomas Kaiser (Ethan Peck), after he inherits a decaying ancestral mansion from an uncle he never knew he had.

Thomas soon learns that his newly acquired land is cursed. More than fifty people have either disappeared in the house or died there, including his uncle, who committed suicide. Flashlight in hand, Thomas explores the dark house, which is afflicted with creaking doors, footsteps and mannequins (lots of these) that morph into assaultive monsters that jump out at him and, well, assault him. There are strobe lights and shrieking noises in abundance.

Thomas has his work cut out for him. As the property’s guardian, it’s his job to protect everyone from the home’s evil spirits, which date back to the Crusades. He joins forces with a local realtor (Natalie Hall), a paranormal scholar/demonologist (Bruce Davison) and a cryptographer (James Adam Lim), all of whom have their sights set on unraveling the house’s mystery—something to do with a Sleeping Beauty in the basement—in order to save the world. The realtor has an added interest, as her brother unaccountably disappeared on the premises years earlier.

Thomas knows it’s up to him to find, kiss and awaken Sleeping Beauty, aka Briar Rose (India Eisley), damned to eternal slumber and trapped in the demon-ridden cellar. She has appeared to him in his twisted dreams, making his true mission clear. But this is no classical princess. Instead she evokes a Goth-punk hipster right out of an excess- and debauchery-fueled Lower East Side hot spot. Though her nocturnal presence in his life sets the story in motion, it’s never entirely clear what the connection is—or, indeed, what the whole film’s all about.

Still, The Curse of Sleeping Beauty is no worse than any number of other films of the same ilk. Co-writer/director Pearry Teo (Necromentia, The Gene Generation) admits the influences, citing The Conjuring and Insidious for their terrorand Silent Hill, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Cell for their striking visual imagery.

He is also hopeful that the feature film will serve as a springboard for a TV series and tie-in comic book. And why not? It should have a cult following among the millennial crowd. Ditto more mature viewers, specifically those insomniacs out there who need something mindless, familiar and fake-scary to stare at in the pre-dawn hours.

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