Leila Mimmack plays Blue, an enigmatic young woman living in Brighton in John Shackleton’s spooky, supernatural drama The Sleeping Room.
**Contains some spoilers**
Blue is a lost soul; orphaned at a young age, the 19 year old is embroiled in prostitution and controlled by her abusive pimp Freddie (David Sibley) and her boss Cynthia (Julie Graham), the latter being a more sympathetic character. Blue is aware of a dark secret that haunts her heritage, her mother brutally massacred her grandparents almost two decades ago in a violent rage but soon she is about to find out why. When she is sent to meet a new punter named Bill (Joseph Beattie) in an old gothic town house once an infamous Victorian brothel, the past pays Blue a visit.
It’s apparent that Bill’s interest in Blue isn’t the usual call girl/client relationship she’s used to and attentions are turned to a mutoscope (an early motion picture device) that provide Blue with an insight into the shenanigans that went on during the Victorian era. She watches an ambiguous figure with a sack over his head frolic with two prostitutes. Not only that, after a failed night of passion Blue and Bill discover a two way mirror that leads to the sleeping room. A room that harbours dark and gruesome secrets!
The Sleeping Room has the essence of a classic British thriller with an eerie tone in place. With layers of mystery, its short run time of 78 minutes keeps its viewers engrossed in Blue’s journey, eager to discover more about what the sleeping room hides and its connection to her. The story keeps up interest however it does feel like there’s room for more exploration in terms of character development, 78 minutes proved surprisingly short. That’s not a negative criticism as what we have here is an interesting film with huge potential.
It’s not heart-pounding, jump-scaring Hollywood fare like Insidious or The Conjuring, its far more subtle and naturalistic which is down to making the best out of a smaller budget and being much more creative. There’s a startling moment when the photograph of Blue’s mother is focused on, Blue falls asleep and the picture has moved nearer which is an example of the subtle and effective scare techniques the film uses that easily seeps under the skin.
The film’s main strength is the cinematography by Simon Poulter (Panic Button, Devil’s Bridge). The location is captured beautifully; it’s almost as if Brighton is a character in its own right within the film. The camera focuses on the sea, the pier, the ferris wheel and the birds in the sky, emphasizing the atmospheric sea side town with a haunting quality.
Brighton is represented as cold, chilling and deserted, not the fun, summery sea side town we’re familiar with which adds the feeling of isolation to Blue’s character and brings a lingering sense of dread throughout. The stunning shots of the setting add in an unsettling contrast with the grizzly imagery of brutality, depravity and murder that comes later.
Joseph Beattie delivers the standout performance as Bill, there’s always a sense of something not being quite right with him while at the same time he comes across as vulnerable, Beattie plays this exceptionally well. Chris Waller’s character Glenny in contrast appears trustworthy and reliable as he looks out for Blue’s best interests as her main confidant and friend. David Sibley plays pimp Freddie as vile and threatening while Julie Graham’s Cynthia is more compassionate but remains a composed business woman.
Leila Mimmack portrays Blue as guarded; underneath it all there’s fearfulness despite the independent and self-assured front she displays. We get a strong sense of something missing in her life which is clear in Mimmack’s performance as she stays invested and curious in what she needs to find out.
The Sleeping Room deals with interesting themes such as confronting the past in order to move on with the future and plays as a metaphor for self-discovery. The lack of opportunities for the younger generation is underlined within the film, a major problem that represents the state of Britain today adding further realism amongst the more fantastical elements notably with Blue and Glenny characterisation.
The Sleeping Room is a genuinely decent British horror film echoing back to the Hammer era, merged with straight edged drama that British films are beloved for. A slow burning, atmospheric, uneasy, character driven piece, John Shackleton’s directorial debut has heaps of potential so it’ll be interesting to see what he has to offer next.
The Sleeping Room is available On-Demand and Download now and on DVD 11 May courtesy of Second Sight Film