Just like Ti West’s 2009 classic House of the Devil, The Sleeper tries to be a 100% accurate pastiche on 80’s horror cinema, with everything from graphics to music in the same vein as the originals. While House of the Devil goes a bit too much over-the-top (I like it a lot though) compared to more or less everything it celebrates, The Sleeper on the other side almost does the opposite; trying to be as 80’s-real as possible and so subtle doing this it’s sometimes not even noticeable. This is of course both a bad and a good thing, but first lets take a look at the “story”.
The year is 1981 and the girls as the Alpha Gamma Theta sorority is gonna have a party. You know the rest.
Haha, well, I’m not kidding. You know the rest if you’ve seen at least two slashers from that time. The girls plans, takes showers, talk about boys, have sex, dancing and having fun, and from time to time a mysterious killer with pale, gray eyes, stalks and kills them - often with a hammer! That’s more or less it, nothing more. And it’s not that bad actually.
If there’s one complaint I have is that it’s way too generic. It would have been fun if it did like House of the Devil and did something out of the ordinary, something twisted and bizarre - not being exactly like you imagine it to be. I don’t know the words for it, but there’s a design-thought that if you think about a chair you see a very stylish, simple chair in the your mind. It doesn’t reflect reality, it’s just a chair. If you get my drift, The Sleeper is much like that, if you could see a slasher in your mind, without putting much thought into it, this is it.
The filmmakers try to hard to capture the visual look of 1981 and more or less succeeds. Personally I think they’ve processed the footage a bit too much, maybe afraid standard colours of the time would make it less attractive to those who watch it. Now there’s a tint of something during the night scenes, and some of the interiors is a bit too dark. On the good side, the direction is most of the time excellent. The set-ups looks gorgeous and evokes some form of old-school filmmaking.
The actors are competent, but very uneven. The best one is actually the dude, Jason Jay Crabtree, playing the title character The Sleeper. He’s genuinely disturbing, very intensive and spooky. The character takes his cue a bit from Black Christmas, mysterious and very violent - which makes him a lot scarier than someone with a complete and thought-through backstory. The excellent locations, a real vintage sorority house, and the fine surroundings, makes it even more convincing for what it sets out toe be. And yes, there’s some gore also - including a very graphic head crushing with a hammer and a few other high-lights. But it never goes full wacko like some other films in the slasher genre, this is gory and well-made, but try to stay on the realistic side of the kills. Except that crushed head maybe.
I liked The Sleeper, even if it didn’t offer anything out of the ordinary. It’s a generic slasher set in 1981, which is great, but makes the mistake of being too serious in doing so.