IN THEIR SLEEP (OCTOBER 26TH)


YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...

Time for some Gallic grimness… The French are certainly no slouches when it comes to the genre, and have produced many disturbing examples of gory nerve shredders like “High Tension” (aka: “Switchblade Romance”), “Inside”, and “Martyrs”. “In Their Sleep” (original title: “Dans ton sommeil”) is one that passed me by for some reason though. A 2010 horror/thriller that was co-directed and co-written by siblings Caroline du Potet and Éric du Potet. It stars Anne Parillaud who’s not a newcomer to horror herself, having played the seductive good-girl vampire in the John Landis movie “Innocent Blood” (that was 25 years ago!!), as well as the original female super-spy in “La Femme Nikita”. This seemed like another “bon choix” for the “31 Days” challenge…

It starts in an idyllic little farm cottage in the French countryside. Sarah (Parillaud) and her husband are renovating the place, but their teenage son is rankled by the remoteness of the house. Sick of studying he makes a move to leave for some shenanigans, but is quickly fun-blocked by his parents. He tries to sneak out unnoticed through his window, but falls onto building material and is discovered as a bleeding mess by his devastated mother. Move forward a year later and Sarah (who is a nurse) is still working at a city hospital, but is now seemingly living alone. Still emotionally stunned and making constant screw-ups, she is sent home early from her night-shift by her superior … but leaves her mobile phone behind (D’oh!! Textbook horror film mistake #101). Driving home, she is stopped by police who are investigating a series of local burglaries, but they let her drive on. Further on down the road, a teenage boy runs out into the road and she can’t avoid hitting him.

Luckily he only suffers minor injuries to his arm, but as Sarah doesn’t have her phone and is close to home, she takes him to the cottage to treat his wounds. The dishevelled teenager is called Arthur (played by Arthur Dupont), and tells the shocked woman that he confronted an intruder in his parents’ house and is being pursued by him. Sure enough as the night progresses, the pair are soon under siege from a violent man who is relentless in his objective. With Arthur reawakening her maternal instincts, Sarah finds herself in the role of protector…

Many of the most recent French horror movies rely on a central concept, hook, or disturbing plot elements, to really get under your skin and shake you up. “Sleep” is no exception to that rule. Whilst not as extreme as some of the aforementioned Gallic gore fests, there is a midway event/sequence that is genuinely shocking in its cold-bloodedness. It showcases an antagonist that is as just as despicable as the killers in those previous films, and might even make Jason Voorhees hold up a hand and say;” Whoa, dude. That is too far!” Of course, us genre fans can be smartasses about plot developments and tricky twists, so some of the narrative might be a bit predictable for seasoned slasher watchers, but the less you know the better… At least it’s not as barking as the misdirection in “High Tension”, as much as I love that film…

Suffice to say that this is an effective psycho-thriller with plenty of chutzpah. Parillaud plays her part well, as does Dupont and there’s several underlying themes that mix with the violence and chicanery. The main one seeming to be the way that emotion can drive you to regrettable decisions and really bad judgement. Seriously, there are a lot of bad situations that could have easily been avoided here with a bit of thought… but to its credit everything still seems very plausible and the violent acts of savagery seem especially raw and realistic.

It’s a visually attractive film with some clever little asides and visual tricks; the opening shot is mirrored by the closing one, there’s an unnerving close-up of a “heartbeat” on a character’s neck, and flashbacks are cleverly inserted into the narrative to explain the prologue to current events. The use of light and sound is also put to good use, and there are some very believable wounds inflicted on bodies. The reason for that title is also spelled out in the worst way possible as well…

Whilst not up with there with the likes of “Inside” and some other of the more visceral French horror thrillers, it’s still a moody and effective piece of genre that does surprisingly shock at occasions. It’s not without a couple of faults, mind you. Characters seem to drop unconscious pretty damned easily. It happens at least five times to various people, and it seems a bit too obvious in the way it manufactures suspense. There’s also a huge black mark for a MASSIVE cheat that happens at a certain point, when something contrives to provide a scene that could be described as just being padding for the running time. And on a personal note, the low-key ending didn’t work for me, but that’s purely based on personal preference and doesn’t reflect on the quality of the filmmaking or the screenplay. It may well be the perfect final note for others.

It’s certainly a film that I’m glad I caught eventually. It’s well-acted, has some depth, and some genuinely disturbing aspects. Some may baulk at certain predictable aspects, but the film pulls them off well and often veers into unorthodox areas. It’s a cool French slasher with some style and verve. Baguette … err, I mean … Roll on the next movie!

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