DECEMBER 14, 2011
Even if I wasn't jet-lagged and already a bit exhausted from driving around on my "vacation", I would have had trouble making it through The Dead Sleep, a movie that not only barely qualifies as horror - it's almost a stretch to refer to it as a thriller. Even a lame thriller should be able to inspire some sort of reaction in the viewer, even if it's a "Finally! Something is HAPPENING!" But Sleep can't even manage that much; it makes a Lifetime Original look like Inside.
Essentially combining Ghost with a touch of Sixth Sense, the movie at least SOUNDS like it could be potentially thrilling/scary on paper: a guy who is murdered by work associates sticks around as a ghost in order to get revenge/protect his daughter, who one of the killers has seemingly taken a liking to. But he also has to evade the lost souls who work as collectors for heaven/hell, as they don't care much about his unfinished business. Not bad, right? Hardly original, but it's not exactly like the world is overloaded with Ghost ripoffs the same way we are with "A car full of teens breaks down in the middle of nowhere and run afoul of murderous rednecks" movies.
But good Christ is it boring. The guy doesn't even die until roughly the halfway mark (my mom's DVD player doesn't have an LCD display to help me count how much is left of boring movies like this), and director Vicki de Mey doesn't seem to care if a scene involves "action" or simple dialogue exchanges, because she never bothers to employ things like "noticeable camera movement" or "fast cuts" in order to get the pulse racing a bit. Michael Bay can make a phone call look like the most exciting thing in the world - why can't she at least make a guy trying to evade the dudes who aim to kill him feel at least a bit more action-packed than the 10 minutes of yammering that preceded it?
James A. McLean's clunky script is no help, with some goofy (and poorly implemented) Inception-like nonsense in the 3rd act in which our hero (as a ghost) tries to imprint clues into dreams that he had when he was alive, something that seemingly defies every law of physics AND movie ghosts. As I've said, I'll buy into whatever nonsense a movie tries to sell us (see: Armageddon), as long as they commit to it and make it seem plausible within the confines of their own narrative - but if you just toss something like "time traveling ghost incepting" into your movie, you need to either make it seem like the most obvious solution in the world, or at least make the movie entertaining enough to forgive the silly plotting.
McLean also needs improvement in his foreshadowing skills, and by that I mean this movie makes Cathy's Curse's "This door should be oiled, someone could get stuck up there" look like the most subtle example in history. First we have the guy and his daughter inexplicably write each other secret messages (that need to be held over a flame to decode) WHILE EATING DINNER, because they "haven't done it in a while". Well, my mother and I haven't played Scrabble in years, I'm certainly not going to bust out the board while she's trying to serve the Sweet n Sour chicken she made for my welcome home. Then the daughter goes on and on about how she doesn't care much for ghosts, because once someone is dead then they should move on, and it's "cheating" to stick around and do whatever it is ghosts do when they're not slowly and boringly solving their own murders.
There's also a remarkable absence of urgency in both the plot and the character's own actions. There's a five year gap in between the murder and when he actively (for lack of a better word) tries to protect his daughter from the guy who killed him, but when he discovers this he has no reaction at all - it might as well have been 5 minutes. Also, the whole murder plot revolved around some missing money that our hero had stashed - so the bad guy... what, had better things to do? "Eh, maybe next year I'll find that money I killed a guy for. Right now I just want to catch up on Breaking Bad." It also lacks the usual sort of "I don't care if I'm a ghost, I'm gonna try to cause harm to the guy threatening my loved ones" scene. You know in End of Days when Satan shows Arnold the flashback of his family being killed, and Arnold tries shooting the guys and even tackling them despite the fact that it's just a flashback? A similar thing happens here, but the hero just sort of stands there, watching as if he's already resigned to the fact that he can't do shit. It's bad enough you can't deliver on your own inventions in the story, but you can't even do things right that are sort of a given? It'd be like making the umpteenth Bad News Bears ripoff and forgetting the obligatory first game where they get crushed 19-0 or something.
Luckily, no one will care. The movie exists only on a two pack from Echo Bridge, with dull box art that won't even catch your eye in its rightful place on the bottom shelf of a DVD rack in the frozen food section of your local grocery store. Just buy your Lean Cuisines and ice cream and leave this thing to collect dust.
What say you?