The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Curse of Sleeping Beauty

Every so often, a filmmaker uses a fairy tale as the basis for a horror movie. It makes sense, because many fairy tales are pretty dark to begin with (or they are when you get back to the original source material, at least). The Curse of Sleeping Beauty is the latest to utilize this approach, and while it has an effectively dark and Gothic visual style, there's ultimately nothing about it that's scary. In the end, the film feels like a fairy tale as re-imagined by the staff of your local Hot Topic.

Ethan Peck plays Thomas Kaiser, a guy with recurring dreams about a beautiful young woman who is perpetually sleeping. After learning that he has inherited a giant old mansion from a relative he didn't know existed, Thomas's dream changes. The girl, Briar Rose (India Eisley), awakens. Thomas learns that, in addition to the house, he has also inherited the age-old curse that comes with it. He begins investigating the secrets of the mansion, with the help of a local woman named Linda (Natalie Hall), whose brother is among the dozens of people who went missing there. Thomas comes to believe that Briar Rose is real and trapped somewhere inside. If he can find her, he might be able to lift the curse.

The Curse of Sleeping Beauty has a concept that's full of potential. It takes the story of Sleeping Beauty one we all know and turns it sinister. Briar Rose is possibly a real person, trapped in eternal slumber somewhere, waiting for the right person to come along and rescue her. Thomas, meanwhile, finds that the closer he gets to her, the more the mansion's sinister forces start to oppose him. That's a fun idea, and director Pearry Teo gives the movie a sleek look. Most of it is dark and gloomy, contrasted by intermittent dream scenes with Briar Rose (who resembles Avril Lavigne in her Sk8er Boi days). These sequences contain splashes of color that, compared to everything else, look pleasingly edgy. Going back and forth provides a visual contrast that is striking.

Although it looks good, the movie doesn't really know what to do with its core premise. The plot incorporates the same old elements that have fueled hundreds of other horror movies. There's a creepy old book, and a hidden room in the basement, and deformed creatures who pop out of the shadows. You keep waiting for The Curse of Sleeping Beauty to toss in something original, but it never does. Worse, Teo has trouble finding ways to stage certain things. For example, needing to show the passage of time, he uses sped-up imagery that makes the characters walk around at comical speed, not unlike an old Benny Hill sketch. It's a technique sharply in conflict with the story's tone. Meanwhile, the screenplay by Josh Nadler relies on clunky out-of-nowhere coincidences to keep things moving. When Thomas needs someone to translate a book full of ancient writing, Linda announces that she coincidentally has an ex-boyfriend who specializes in just such things. Moments like this call attention to how thin the film is.

The acting is decent, and again, it's often fun to look at. Overall, though, The Curse of Sleeping Beauty just isn't very effective as a horror movie. Too much about it is too familiar to be creepy. It's like a really elaborate tattoo you can admire the style, but there's not a lot of function or purpose.

( out of four)

The Curse of Sleeping Beauty is unrated but contains some moments of intensity and violence. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.

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