Friday, October 15, 2010

Parasomnia (2008)

Okay Parasomnia, I don't know if it's that I set my sights to high with you or what. But Son, your father and I are very disappointed in your behavior. I mean, really now, your trailer looked so FREAKING AWESOME. I guess I really should have known better, it was, after all, it is a William Malone movie. And, while I will admit to a very guilty love of Fear Dot Com, he also did the extremely shameful House on Haunted Hill remake.

Alas! Alack!

Apparently, my relationship with William Malone's films, is very similar to Lewis Black's relationship with Candy Corn. Every single time I go "Oh boy! This film is going to rock!.... SON OF A BITCH!".

I have no one to blame but myself. Curses. I don't want to blame me, so I'll blame Bono.

Okay, wow, really short attention span, I got COMPLETELY off topic there. So Let's look at the meat and bones of the plot here before I get heavily into the opinion part.

Our little tale starts out with Danny.

Danny is a sad sad boy who has just been dumped by his girlfriend. Who didn't just dump him, but also threw out his couch while he was at work.

Danny "works" in a record store, and I use the word "work" very loosely here, as all he seems to do is stand around talking about obscure 1960's Brit-Pop with a fellow co-worker.

When Danny isn't "working", or lamenting the loss of his living room furniture, he likes to visit his friend the crackhead at the local mental research facility. Whilst visiting his friendly neighborhood speed freak, Danny discovers that just down the Hall is a psychopathic serial killer named Byron Volpe. Volpe is in a single cell room tethered to the walls, with a bag over his head.

Apparently eye contact alone can make you fall under Volpe's influence. He has supposedly convinced his girlfriend/wife/trained monkey to jump off a building and the judge at this first court appearance to park on railroad tracks.

The Doctors and our friend the crack head all spend a good amount of effort telling Danny DOOOOOOOOOON'T LOOOOK IIIIIIIIIIIIIN TO HIS EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYES! All he has to do is look at you and you apparently become a gibbering idiot completely under his sway.

As far as I can understand it, Volpe is, essentially, Hypnotoad.

Let's compare shall we?

But more on Hypnotoad Volpe later, We've more pressing matters to discuss. I suppose, like, you know, the rest of the "plot".

Whilst young Danny is staring at the freak show on display in Volpe's room, he notices the room next door and its catatonic occupant. And, like any man whose lost his girlfriend and his living room set in 24 hours, he naturally decides that this girl is the woman for him. Apparently, they met once when they were little kids for about five minutes, and that's all the introduction he needs ... weirdo.

The attending physician comes in and explains that this is Laura and she suffers from a medical condition known as Parasomnia or "Sleeping Beauty Syndrome". (The science of this part is completely off, but I'll get into that later.) Laura's condition causes her to spend more time asleep than awake, waking up for intervals of anything from two minutes to half an hour before conking back out for another week or so.

So far this doesn't seem so bad to me. Sleeping 80% of your life is somewhat ideal as far as I'm concerned, for the most part dreams are way better than reality.

However, once we are shown what Laura's dreams look like, well, I think it would be time to start loving mass quantities of caffeine, because the inside of this girl's head is downright unpleasant.

But everybody loves a sleeping broad, so Danny diligently visits her all-the-time, until one day when he learns that she is going to moved to a different facility so her condition can be studied by a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders. Although, apparently, he kind of sucks, since he's been involved in quite a few malpractice suits and a couple of his patients have gone belly up under the watch of the good doctor.

In Danny-land this is UNACCEPTABLE LIKE WHOA and he devises a "cunning", and by cunning I mean overused and kind of crap, plan to "spring her out", by which I mean kidnap her.

Because, you know, nothing says successful relationship quite like Stockholm Syndrome.

Once he gets her home it quickly becomes apparent that the amount of time she has spent asleep and not interacting with the waking world has given her basically the mentality of a seven year old. And so Danny does a lot of bathing her while she's unconscious and feeding her, and what have you.... which is, you know, not weird, or creepy, or anything. (I won't lie, this was probably the aspect of the movie that gave me the heebie jeebies more than anything else).

But moving right along... it turns out that Danny was not the only person who was freakishly obsessed with Laura. Our good friend Volpe apparently digs catatonic women as well.

Despite the fact this girl is virtually never awake, Volpe seems to feel that they have a deep personal connection. Whatever dude.

Apparently Volpe has found away inside Laura's head and her dreams, so on the subconscious plain he has more interactions with her than anyone. On account of this, he also has a fair amount of control over Laura - to the extent that he can get her to carry out his murdering sprees for him while he's still in the clink.

Naturally, Volpe manages to escape and all Hell breaks loose, and him and Danny have to have a big testosterone filled showdown over who gets to have Narcolepsy girl.

Okay, so the plot, pretty damn minimal.

It's like; "Let's take Sleeping Beauty and The Phantom of the Opera and mash them together which a bunch of faulty science and people who can't act their way out of a paper sack."

Patrick Kilpatrick (wow, what a name), who plays Volpe, plays his role competently. However, our good friend Danny, played by Dylan Purcell, could easily have been replaced with a plank of wood that had a face drawn on it and we would have gotten a pretty similar result.

I don't feel that I can really analyze Cherilyn Wilson's performance, considering she spends the whole movie either lying around asleep or running around yelling "DANNY!" at the top of her lungs.

For all I know given a different role she might be a superb actress, or she could be better off in roles with virtually no lines. Who knows? Not me.

Acting aside, here's the part where I rip the movie open and poke at its insides, in order to tell you what did and didn't work.

I have mentioned the incorrect science/psychology of the movie multiple times, so that probably would be a good place for us to start.

First and foremost, there is no singular condition known as "parasomnia". Parasomnia is a classification for a fairly diverse group of sleep disorders; somnambulism, night terrors, teeth grinding, confusion arousals, and restless leg syndrome. Not a singular condition that entails that the patient spends more time asleep than awake.

And parasomnias are in no way connected to "Sleeping Beauty syndrome", which, while a legitimate condition, is also unrelated to what Laura suffers from in the film.

In truth, Sleeping Beauty Syndrome, or Kleine-Levin syndrome, is more about being excessively lethargic and hallucinating.

So, as someone who knows at least a little bit about abnormal psychology, I was pretty confused as to why Malone felt the need to essentially name drop existing conditions, but then completely fabricate the science behind them. At the point it would have made more sense to just invent a condition all together, because anyone who knows anything about these things will immediatly start going:

"AAAH! AHH! YOU'RE WRONG! THAT'S NOT HOW IT WORKS!" while pointing animatedly at their Television set.

It's a pet peeve of mine, I know a lot people would probably be able to watch without knowing or caring that the science is made up. I know, I should be able to just suspend disbelief or something while I'm watching this movie. But, Goddamit, if you're going to try and pull semblances of reality into this fantasy AT LEAST DO SOME FREAKING FACT CHECKING OKAY???

Wow... sorry about that... where was I?

Oh yeah...

Danny and Laura's relationship.

It's creepy.

I mean creepy LIKE WHOA. Danny knows nothing about Laura when he shanghais her, other than that she's 'real purdy', and due to being asleep all the time, probably won't be able to throw his living room furniture out the window.

But after he saves/kidnaps her, and actually has something resembling a conversation with her, it's pretty obvious that she's basically a little kid in a fully developed woman's body. Even if her outsides are all grown-up THIS IS JUST PLAIN WRONG.

Sure, Volpe has a thing for her too... but he's a psychopath, so I don't really question his motives. Danny, however, is supposed to be our lovable hero with a heart of gold. But essentially, this whole thing makes him look like a pedophile.

The only scenes in the whole film that legitimately gave me the willies were once based around Danny and Laura's interactions. In one he takes her out for ice cream, she's never had ice cream in her life and has no idea how to eat it.

After it falls off the cone she proceeds to eat it with her hands, getting ice cream all over her face. Danny, without any semblance of humor, tells her how he just finished getting her cleaned up and GOD now he's going to have to bathe her again. While Laura spends a lot of the movie not seeming to know what is happening around her, at that point even SHE is looking at Danny like "Ew... there is something wrong with you."

In another scene Danny comes home from work to find Laura dressed in a cheerleader outfit. She's happy to see him and does one of those "give me (insert letter of choice here)" cheer. But, like I mentioned before, she's pretty much a kid, so it's just a mess of letters with no correlation to each other. She tells him that it spells "home", however, and rushes to hug him to show him how glad she is that he is back. Danny, on the other hand, just snaps at her that it "doesn't spell anything".

Generally, he treats her like a moron. He's like a more judging, whiny, version of Humbert Humbert, from Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. But we're supposed to like him, he's supposed to be the knight in shining armor with a moral compass that always points to north. In truth, I found him creepier than Volpe.

So, that alone, made it a little difficult, at points, to watch this movie.

I am not going to tell you that there is absolutely no reason to watch this film. Or that it had no merits whatsoever. Because the only redeeming quality in this movie, is exactly the one that makes me keep, like an Alzheimer patient, watching William Malone's films.


Parasomnia is much like most modern pop music. Ignore the words and just enjoy the catchy beat, and you will probably like it. That's pretty much the case here.

While the plot and the script are really quite wanting, I think that if you watched Parasomnia on mute, with some Chopin or something on in the background, it would be a fairly enjoyable experience.

I know that modern horror movies have gotten a certain amount of flack for their tendency to saturate shots with colors in order to enhance mood. I think that's just stupid, color saturation can turn a ho-hum shot into something mysterious if done right. And in Parasomnia, it was done COMPLETELY RIGHT.

The touches of blue permeating throughout the film give it not only a moody, but utterly surreal visual quality. It makes the film look like you are observing a dream that someone else is having. It's gorgeous, it's one of Malone's tricks that, for me, saved his earlier film Fear dot com.

Furthermore, the dreamscapes inside Laura's head are basically amazing. They're like if you took MirrorMask and The Labyrinth, mooshed them together, and then ran them through the filter of Gore Verbinski's interpretation of The Ring (which, in my opinion, was one of the only somewhat successful US remakes of a foreign horror film).

I feel pretty confident in my feeling that had the whole movie had the look and feel of the last fifteen minutes, I would probably have loved it. Seriously you guys, its beautiful.

The problem is, the last fifteen minutes or so, are basically a completely different movie. It goes from being a character study of Danny and his interactions with Laura to being a portrait of Volpe and the inner workings of his brain, and how he translates these things into visual representations via art and music.

It truly would have been better on all grounds, including more interesting, if Volpe had been the center focus for the whole film, instead of a fringe character only brought in a few times to move along the plot - until the end.

Dears, Darlings, Spooky Do's .... I just don't know what to tell you kids. On the one hand I want to tell you to run as far and as fast from this movie as you can, because it is going to be 103 minutes of your life that you will NEVER GET BACK.

On the other hand, some of the visuals almost make up for that...

I don't know guys. I just don't know.

Parasomnia's flaws far outweigh its strengths ... but in the end its up to you to do the right thing, you know, like Smokey the bear would tell you... or something.

But if you do watch it, and you hate it, this girl will give you no sympathy. No, no my dear, all you will get is a disapproving look and a wag of the finger.

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