Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Somnambulists

I had some pretty high hopes for the Somnambulists when it first began. I’m now almost a quarter of the way through this 50 movie collection, and this is easily the best looking of the bunch so far. The opening moments hit me with an impressive one-two punch of both widescreen and actual filmstock, and the discovery soon afterward that the movie was actually 24 minutes long instead of the 73 it said on the case meant that it had a very low chance of outstaying its welcome. Unfortunately, that in itself doesn’t make the movie good.

The film follows a girl of indeterminate age (I’m guessing mid-to-late 20s) who lives with her grandfather, and both suffer from sleep disorders. In an early scene of fairly alarming exposition, her grandfather cheerfully explains to her that the reason he doesn’t sleep is because dreams are where the Somnambulists, or the dead, live. See, there’s no Heaven or Hell, the dead merely go on living in dreams, so if she starts encountering them in her dreams she’d better start praying (this despite there not being a Heaven, of course), because they can get pretty ornery. There’s some further plot twists at the end, as various dark secrets are revealed about our heroine, but I guess it would be unfair to reveal them.

All the incidental things about this film work fairly well. I’ve already mentioned the look of it (the camerawork, if not thrilling, is at least competent, unlike Purvos), and mention should be made of the music as well. It’s generally a nice, understated bit of piano, which provides a very pleasant contrast to this collection’s usual routine of inappropriate techno and generic metal. I dare say it’s the best part of the film. Unfortunately, the main part of the film, the story and the acting, just like of lie there lifelessly. I can readily believe that our heroine was a bad insomniac, since she seemed to be sleepwalking through her role. This doesn’t really seem to be solely her fault, as every actor in the film was the same way, leading me to suspect that the director actively wanted most of the cast to act stiff and emotionless (my favorite moment, after one character is literally scared to death, we see her lying on her bed with a completely slack, unemotional face, and her mouth hanging open to presumably imply she had died screaming, or was perhaps dreaming about a dental exam). The story is also pretty damn generic, with nothing in it to distinguish it from hundreds of other stories about the dead haunting the living. Still, if it’s not good, at least it’s not offensively bad, which is more than can be said for some of the other entries here.

Rating: *

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