Directed by: Pearry Reginald Teo
Cast: Ethan Peck, India Eisley, Natalie Hall, Bruce Davison
Most of us have at the very least, a rough idea of what Sleeping Beauty is all about. But, to bring anyone who’s managed to steer clear of one of history’s most famous folk tales, I’ll give you the ultra-truncated synopsis: Evil witch curses young princess, who in turn falls into a coma that cannot come to an end until being kissed by a prince, or, in some renditions just a studly guy. The evil witch fails, the hunk gets the girl and it’s no more naptime for the princess. That’s the quick gist of the story.
How faithful is Pearry Reginald Teo’s new spin, The Curse of Sleeping Beauty to its source material? Well, it certainly takes quite a few liberties with the story, which leads to a number of surprises, which are hit and miss. The rights that Teo takes upon himself to run with could be seen as damaging, or inventive. It’s really all about personal preference with this one. I like my Sleeping Beauty sleeping. That means, not talking. The motionless woman of this film pops up in Thomas’ (he’s our protagonist) dreams and what seem to be hallucinatory sequences. Because we hear so much from her, the extremely unique power the character typically wields is done away with, because that power was mystery, exclusively. Sleeping Beauty was always designed to be a wonderfully clandestine character; in The Curse of Sleeping Beauty our sleeping beauty is kind of a quirky goth girl with a bit too much to say and about a pound of makeup weighing her face down. Didn’t work so well for me.
But there are a few things happening in this story that I was able to enjoy. I like the modern setting. Aiming to craft a period piece would have presented an arsenal of new challenges and a budget that simply (and obviously) is not here to tamper with. So, in my opinion, the decision to modernize the story was sharp – a well-played maneuver.
I’m working hard to avoid spoiling this film for those who intend to look into it (the story, at times, differs radically from the original tale, which can be interpreted as a pro or a con), so forgive the redundant vagueness presented in this review. The truth is, while this is a low budget feature, it does deliver a handful of cool shots, with some practical special effects (not exclusively, but enough tangible gags to please those who prefer vintage, pre-CGI films) that deserve a nod of respect.
The setup for the film is also praise worthy. Thomas has been plagued by strange dreams of what could conceivably be an alternate existence of sorts, and in these dreams come visions of the titular young lady, lost to an unconscious state. There’s a hint of mystery here – why is Thomas seeing and dreaming these things, and better yet, why in the world would a relative he didn’t even know leave his sprawling estate to him in his will (which, to a degree is the catalyst for the conflict and the motor helping to propel the entire story forward)?
That’s a solid starting point, and Ethan Peck, who portrays our hero, Thomas, projects confusion and suspicion rather well. But he’s also got a slight edge and awareness about him that – on more than a single occasion – produces organic responses from the man. That no doubt aids in keeping the wheels finding traction, the story moving in the proper direction. And that direction is, in large part, deeper into this massive home that Thomas has inherited. Within these walls we’re privy to some compelling shots, nailed not only by Teo, but cinematographer, Christopher C. Pearson and editor, Damian Drago, as well. Between these three behind-the-scenes talents we’re fortunate enough to be treated to an intriguing narrative with a few likable characters and some intermittent fantastical shots.
The Curse of Sleeping Beauty could easily be labeled an overachiever. In advance of my viewing the film I prepared myself for a film no stronger than the forgettable SyFy originals we so often see, or the uninspired and abysmal copy-cat films churned out by Asylum. What I actually got was a picture with a pulse, anchored by strong performances and some surprisingly lavish visuals. Don’t write this one off without extending it the chance it deserves. The Curse of Sleeping Beauty doesn’t seem likely to wrangle a number of high profile awards, but The Curse of Sleeping Beauty has heart and a desire to be the greatest possible film it can be. That goes a long way for me, personally.
Passion, heart and hard work make for the backbone of The Curse of Sleeping Beauty, and whether you find it to be a gift from the celluloid Gods or a failure of immeasurable proportions, the feature deserves an open-minded, fair shake. And Pearry Reginald Teo, Christopher C. Pearson and Damian Drago have most certainly earned my respect. As a wildly obsessed, 30-plus year fan of the genre, I’ll happily applaud this crew, not for giving us a ground breaking film (that’s not the case), but for at least trying to give us a great picture that entertains on a solid and consistent basis.