Slumber follows Alice, a doctor who specializes in sleep paralysis and sleepwalking cases. She has a dark history with the condition—her young brother died after a sleep walking episode made him fall out a window. Alice is haunted by his death; even years later as an adult, she grapples with her loss, and has made it her career to solve sleep issues.
The film is directed by Jonathan Hopkins, who has previous directed short films Minimus and One Man and His Dog. Slumber features Maggie Q (Designated Survivor), Will Kemp (Spinning Out), Sophia Wiseman, Kristen Bush (Paterno), Sam Troughton (The Little Drummer Girl) and Lucas Bond (Susu).
Alice works night and day. During the day, she counsels families who are struggling with sleep issues, and at night she monitors sleeping patients. She falls asleep at her night job frequently. One day, she meets a family of four—parents Charlie and Sarah Morgan, and their young children Daniel and Emily. The whole family is experiencing sleep paralysis and sleepwalking after the loss of one of their children, with Daniel having the most severe symptoms. The more intertwined Alice becomes with their case, the more she realizes that she is dealing with forces beyond her control.
As Alice begins to work with the Morgan family, she delves into sleep paralysis lore online. Alice has apparently never Googled “night hag” before, never researched the demons or myths of behind the terrifying phenomenon that she's chosen to make her career out of. Even though she tells kids their boogeymen aren’t real all day every day, she is surprised to find out that demon lore exists in the sleep paralysis community.
**SPOILERS** You can tell a man wrote this because Alice actually goes back to the two people who abused her. She is violently choked by Charlie, which gets him sent to jail. The next day, Sarah shows up at Alice’s workplace to defend her husband. She screams at Alice and slaps her! Instead of washing her hands of the family like any normal person would do, Alice visits Charlie in jail, and then hangs out at the family’s house to help out with Daniel’s sleep paralysis incidents.
As Alice tries to help the Morgan family, she soon gets help from Cam, a janitor at the hospital; Amado, Cam’s crazy grandfather; and Malcolm, Alice’s coworker. At no point does this group of brain geniuses think of any good ideas for how to help Daniel. The third act of the film takes some absolutely ludicrous turns. Note that at this point in the film, no one has suggested any sleep medicine besides heavy-hitting sedatives (a note I took says “WHY DON’T THEY JUST GIVE HIM SOME MELATONIN???”). No one, including Drs. Alice or Malcolm has suggested taking Daniel to the hospital or to another sleep expert. No one has suggested calling the police, or a priest, or an exorcist.
Daniel’s family tries to keep him awake with adrenaline shots, and his father encourages him to drink multiple very large energy drinks. Alice agrees with these methods. She suggests they--the adults--all go to sleep in order to protect him from the sleep baddies, which is genuinely hilarious. “We’re not children and there’s more than one of us. If we can see it we can stop it,” Alice declares. The group agrees to go to sleep, Alice drugs them all with a sleep medicine. No one thinks to stay awake in case Alice is an organ harvester or something. **END SPOILERS**
The third act suffers most under the weight of Amado, who embodies the crazy-but-secretly-wise old man archetype to the point of parody. He chews the scenery in his scenes, looking like an absolute buffoon. For whatever reason, in his dramatic intro scene, he is filmed from behind large fern leaves in a completely over-lit greenhouse. This scene is possibly the worst in the movie, it is so funny and bad.
The film looks very cheap, specifically the hospital set, which looks like it was filmed in a school. All of the sets look naked to the point of sterility, which makes for a visually boring presentation.
There is a terrible ADR problem in Slumber. An incredible amount of dialogue was very obviously rerecorded in a sound booth, to the extent that even the most casual observer would notice it. For Niamh and Amado especially, almost all their lines make them sound like they’re speaking from a silent room instead of the room they’re in, which is very distracting.
Sarah and Alice are the best characters. Sarah pulls her teeth out in her dreams, which makes for silly, gory fun. Maggie Q tries her hardest with her character, convincingly showing emotion at times.
But it's the direction, which ranges from just terrible to boring but pretty, that tanks the movie. There is literally a shot where Malcolm is obscured by a door handle. No DP in their right mind would shoot that unless there was a reason for it, which there...doesn't seem to be. Characters are often framed in thirds, which results in two-thirds of a screen full of dead space. If this is purposeful dead space, instead of just an attempt at aesthetics, it only echoes how devoid of substance the film is.
Slumber is a waste of money, a waste of talent, and a waste of time. There are probably a fair amount of moviegoers who can put aside terrible acting and still enjoy the feature. Sometimes the acting and ADR is so bad it’s really funny, but it’s nowhere near as funny as something like The Room. Instead, I suggest Insidious, Paranormal Activity, or A Nightmare on Elm Street. All of those take the “sleep can be scary” premise and create a nightmarish hellscape that, unlike Slumber, will keep you up all night long.