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May 6, 2013

Movie Review: H.P. Lovecraft's The Dark Sleep (2012, DVD)

Review By: Rob Sibley

Nancy Peterson (Ashley Galloway) is an author who has just just gone through a nasty divorce. She needs some place secluded to work on her next book so what's a gal to do? Well lucky for Ms. Peterson her ex-husband Pete (Steve Diasparra) is a real estate agent. She convinces him to give her the house for free! Only catch is in the basement there is an odd pentagram that has a sinister look to it. Just paint over it you say? Well she can't, because apparently it's in the contract that the pentagram has to stay untouched. Don't worry she does paint over it (with little effect). During the first night of staying at her free pad she has some horrible nightmares and sees a giant rat (a charming rod puppet). The next day she has two exterminators over (One of them even looks like Super Mario) they are supposed to provide some comic relief but sadly the humor falls flat. I was just waiting for Mario to say “That's a spicy meatball!” sadly that didn't happen.

Anyhow they can't find any trace of any rats, but they need to make a living to right? They take a rat that they caught elsewhere and proclaim “We found it!”. They get paid and they are outta there lickety split. Nancy gives an irate call to her ex-hubby. Very angered at the fact that he didn't tell her the place had rats. Hey it's a free house, set up some rat traps and be happy. But I digress... anyhow the next night she still continues to have nightmares. Mainly being chased down by some sort of CGI alien/robot reject left over from The war of the worlds. Nancy calls in her sister Kelly (Taylor Nicole Adams) to stay with her. Luckily for us Kelly is much more level headed and a lot less bitchy then her author sister. But the nightmares continue and Nancy is actually able to pull an item, more specific a miniature carving of a monster head from the dream world into the real world... how Nancy Thompson of her!

Kelly sends a photo of the carving to physicist Walter Gilman (Ken VanSant) who informs her the carving is of the god Nyarlathotep and that the pentagram in the basement is actually a geometric design which allows someone to pass from one dimension to another. This leads to Nancy's sister vanishing, soon Nancy has to venture into the alternate dimension to find her sister. 

Let me ask you something... you ever have a tough time sleeping at night? Well I have a cure for you, all you got to do is pop in “The Dark Sleep” and bingo you'll be out like a light. It's not so much that TDS is a bad film... the cinematography is nice, the acting isn't bad. But the film is neither scary, exciting or even remotely creepy. It almost pains me to say this because the film is directed by low budget kind Brett Piper. Who directed some of my favorite low budget flicks like “Drainiac” & “Shock-O-Rama”. He's an incredibly talented writer/director but the ball was kinda dropped with this flick.

The film itself is loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft's short story “Dream in a Witch House”. Which has already been adapted twice before with much more successful results. The film is an odd one in the fact that it feels like a Lifetime movie with elements of Lovecraft interspersed throughout. Also toss in a bit of Nightmare on Elm St. and Phantasm in for good measure. Also mix in a bit of Ray Harryhausen style stop moition animation and you pretty much have TDS.

It all sounds fantastic, doesn't it? Well certain bits are quite interesting and the film even builds atmosphere effectively in a few sequences. The acting as mentioned before, isn't half bad. The real problem is the character of Nancy is very unlikeable from minute one. So it's hard to root for her or care for her. Basically if the character of Nancy was in a slasher flick she'd be the first one to get bumped off. Luckily for the film and what makes it worth watching (if your so inclined) is  Taylor Nicole Adams as Nancy's sister Tracey. She's instantly likeable and really lights up the screen for all of her scenes.

I will give Piper credit for capturing the spirit of Lovecraft. The best sequences in the film are the nightmare/alternate dimension bits. The film is at it's strongest when it follows Lovecraft's short story. Also a lot of attention has been put on the stop motion animation effect work in the film. Rightfully so, it's all very well done. But just because the flick features "alright" acting and good special effects isn't reason enough to recommend it.

Despite my mixed feelings on the film, the DVD courtesy of Fred Olen Ray's company Retromedia is anything but a dud.

The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is pleasing enough to eyes. Shot on what I'm guessing was middle end digital.

The 2.0 audio on the other hand is disappointing. The track features A LOT of background noise and hiss that very noticeable during many of the daytime sequences. It's distracting but you get used to it after a while.

For extras we get a highly enjoyable commentary track featuring Piper, producer Mark Polonia, still photographer Anthony Polonia and actors Steve Diasparra & Ken VanSant. It's a nice informative laid back track and is actually more entertaining then the film itself. 

Next up is a short (but entertaining) 6 minute making of. Then were treated to some outtakes, "CGI or NOT CGI" featurette which is rather self explanatory and the films trailer. 

All and all this is a decent effort but at the end of the day it's a rather lackluster flick. SKIP IT. 


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