The buzz words surrounding Allen Wolf’s debut indie thriller “In My Sleep”, are “sexy” and “Hitchcockian.” While “In My Sleep” aspires to be a sexy, Hitchcockian indie thriller, at times it feels like a made for TV movie about parasomnia and sex addiction. It’s a nicely packaged film that keeps you guessing, but it’s tough reminding yourself you are not being subjected to channel flipping mediocre television on a sick day.
Wolf’s premise about a parasomnia inflicted sex addict who keeps waking up with blood on his hands would make Hitchcock drool with possibility. Parasomnia is a sleepwalking condition where the sleepwalker is capable of doing just about any normal or not so normal activity while asleep. A psychological thriller with a diagnosable cause for killing, along with a classic chase for the wrong-man; this is where the Hitchcockian comparison ends. Expect for maybe one of the less than brilliant episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”
“In My Sleep” is ridden with bad dialogue, and not the tongue-in-cheek zingers that made Hitchcock’s characters so endearing. Wolf’s dialogue tries too hard to be sexy, mysterious and cheesy all at the same time, making it sound like rushed dialouge written for TV. Television writers are under the gun to churn out dialouge, but not a script presented under the guise of a smart feature film. The premise also blindly relies on the fact that the main character can do just about anything while sleepwalking and even after the first doctor visit it’s taken for granted.
The cast is subsequently trapped between the forced scenarios and bad dialogue. This really shouldn’t be the case in an indie film lined wall to bloody wall with respectable actors. It stars Philip Winchester who made his mark on the brief run of NBC’s “Crusoe”, and fittingly had a part in the Lifetime mini-series, “Maneater”. In the role of Marcus, the parasomnia sex-addict, he unconvincingly holds everything together quite well considering the circumstances. Where’s the madness Marcus? Aren’t you the least bit frenzied that you might be killing people in your sleep?
“In My Sleep” also stars the adorable Lacey Chabert (“Party of Five”, “Mean Girls”), who plays Marcus’s church girl neighbor given the task of tucking him in with handcuffs as damage control. There is also the brief performance of indie up and comer, Kelly Overton, who is still shedding some performance cues from her days on “All My Children”. Another “All My Children” alumni, Abigail Spencer, landed an integral role, yet she also seems to be shedding some performance cues from her role in Lifetime’s “Angela’s Eyes.”
The appearance of Beth Grant halfway through the film showed great promise, remembering her small, but strong roles in “Donnie Darko”, “Little Miss Sunshine”, “No Country for Old Men”, and “Crazy Heart”. Grant dishes out a performance as Marcus’s troubled mother, but its a spoonful too big for the film. Tony Hale (“Stranger than Fiction”) is given little room to be the nerdy comedic relief he is capable of and the joys of Michael Badalucco (“Oh Brother Where Art Thou”, “The Practice”) are short lived in his role as Marcus’s Sexaholic’s Anonymous sponsor.
Wolf’s debut shows promise as a writer and director; he certainly has the knack for creating tense moments, even a few jumpers. Yet “In My Sleep”, falls victim to dialogue lost in a film that doesn’t know what tone it wants to embrace. While Wolf deserves some credit in keeping us guessing, it’s a predictable twist, which once revealed drags out its conclusion. There’s also a lot of dead time on the screen with characters performing actions necessary to logic, but not to storytelling. This is where “In My Sleep” falls miserably far from being a Hitchcockian thriller, as every beat of a Hitchcock film holds a thread in a film’s unraveling. Unfortunately, “In My Sleep” has a lot of frayed edges in its unraveling.