‘Sleep Tight’ Put Me to Sleep

The new movie from Jaume Balagueró, the director of REC and REC 2, was a bit of a disappointment. Sleep Tight moves incredibly slowly, building the suspense in an admittedly effective way, but the pacing of the film in general kept it from really grabbing my attention. Any momentum that is gradually gathered throughout the film fizzles out after the sort of pseudo-climax 2/3 of the way in, and it goes back to a slow, drawn-out resolution that only grips you again in the final moments.

130202-sleeptightThe first 10-15 minutes are especially yawn-worthy, simply depicting the mundane tasks of apartment building manager César’s (Louis Tosar) life and routine. Some may say that this is an artistic choice, made in order to get the viewer into the mindset of our anti-protagonist, but for me the fact that it was so boring led to the exact opposite effect: I had almost no investment in César because he seemed so gorram boring. Really, the entire first half of the film almost put me to sleep.

The worst thing about this kind of approach to exposition used in Sleep Tight is the fact that it violates the contract with the audience. All screenwriters should be aware that the first ten minutes (or pages) of a movie are the most important–this is where you grab your viewer’s attention and give them the information they need to make the decision to invest the next 90 or so minutes of their life on this film. By the end of those ten minutes, then, the viewer should know the genre, who they are rooting for (the protagonist), the main conflict, and what the main character’s motivations are. Now, some element of mystery can still be maintained, but without these key elements, your audience is likely to get bored, preventing them from getting invested in the characters and the story.

And therein lies Sleep Tight‘s primary failing: César’s motivation is not only difficult to decipher in those first scenes, but even when it is explicitly stated by the end of the film, it convoluted and unrelatable. As I have discussed before, if you’re making your protagonist a “bad guy,” his motivation is the most essential part of his character, as the audience needs to be able to relate to it and even share in justifying his actions because of it.

Check out this review of Sleep Tight that discusses both its successes and its failings. What did you think of this new movie from Balagueró?

‘Sleep Tight’s Slow-Moving Suspense is a Snooze
Liz Medendorp @ PopMatters

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From the director of REC comes a slow burning suspenseful story of mental illness and clandestine abuse that leaves you with a skeevy feeling.

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‘Dredd’: An Under-Appreciated Adaptation

The British science fiction film Dredd, an adaptation of the comic book series Judge Dredd, with no relationship to the awful 1995 Sylvester Stallone film version, has unfortunately flown under the radar. With its DVD and Blu-ray release just two days ago, I hope that it may garner some more attention.

The setting of the film alone is incredibly intriguing–a dystopian future where most of Earth is too dangerous to inhabit because of high levels of radiation, so most of the world’s population is crammed into massive conglomerates of cities, rife with crime and violence. But beyond that, this film has some incredible action sequences, stunning and innovative visuals, and impeccable acting on the part of Karl Urban (Judge Dredd) and Lena Heady (Ma-Ma, a ruthless drug lord and gang leader).

So why is it that almost no one went to see this film? I, myself, didn’t even hear about it until I saw it on the local theater’s movie showtimes. I think this is a testament to the fact that promotion was far too limited here in the States for this great British film, but the article below discusses some of the added reasons why this under-appreciated film may simply not have what it takes to appeal to mainstream audiences.

Have you seen Dredd? Tell me what you thought of it!

Slow It Down and Violence Is Made Beautiful in ‘Dredd’
Liz Medendorp @ PopMatters

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Dredd is a visually stunning, action-packed, and subtly funny British science fiction comic adaptation, yet it flew under the radar—only partly due to minimal promotion in the States. Beyond that, although Dredd admirably stays faithful to the spirit of the original comics, this approach in some ways limits the film’s appeal. With no epic narrative, no major growth in the protagonist, and a focus on the entrancing visuals rather than on plot or character development, Dredd is a great film that simply doesn’t fit the mainstream formula.”

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‘Deception’: Deceptively Intriguing

A new crime investigation show, Deception, premiered on NBC last night, and while the premise seems intriguing enough, I’m not sure how sustainable it will be.

After the scandal of a young socialite’s death, the intrigue of this show centers around the dark secrets of her distinguished family and the tense, complex relationships between them. Deception then deceives us into thinking it is a show about solving a murder, hooking the viewer with a “whodunit”-type mystery, but in fact reveals itself to be more about the characters—exploring their relationships and inner struggles. While the members of this wealthy family could very easily come off as one-dimensional, the secrets they hide give these archetypal rich snobs a certain depth that makes them both intriguing and believable.

However, if the pilot is any indication as to the style of the show, most of the action seems to happen in the past. As secrets continue to be uncovered and as memories begin to resurface, flashbacks are (almost over-)used to help illustrate them. In the present, then, we find the characters spending most of their time simply talking about the past. Granted, as a pilot this episode does have to deal with a lot of exposition, but, especially seeing as this show is so character-driven, it would be all too easy to let action fall by the wayside. To be sure, a lot of action is not necessarily vital to maintaining interest if the characters are compelling enough, as they seem to potentially be, but a focus on the past can keep the story from moving forward.

The pilot then begs the question: where can you go with this? The complex relationships and the many skeletons in the Bowers family closet will certainly provide enough material to last at least until the end of the season, but at some point the murder will have to be solved, thus ending the investigation. While the family’s laundry list of secrets certainly appears to be never-ending, it is doubtful that they could carry the show through multiple seasons. If Deception hopes to have a long life, then, it will have to do more. Especially if it stays mired in the past and the secrets to be found there, the series won’t be able to move into the future.

Did you catch the premiere? Tell me what you thought.

Meagan Good Goes Undercover in ‘Deception’
Liz Medendorp @ PopMatters

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It opens like a standard crime investigation show: late at night, a shadowy figure follows a young woman to her car; by morning, she’s dead. But Deception isn’t just another crime procedural, as it seems to be. Instead, it’s another investigation of the dark secrets of the wealthy, who have a lot to hide.”

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