Film Reviews


By • May 14th, 2010 •

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IN MY SLEEP provides an introduction to filmmaker Allen Wolf– director, screenwriter, and co-producer. It’s an ambitious opener for a young hyphenate, but he might have done better to just begin with the old-fashioned job of scenarist.

In Wolf’s debut feature, Marcus Turner, played by Philip Winchester, is seen leading a pleasantly unencumbered, laid-back bachelor life. During the day, he’s a popular masseur working at the small Los Angeles day-spa belonging to his best friend Justin (Tim Draxl); after hours, whether alone or with Justin and his wife, Marcus tends to be happily cruising for women. He’s been regarding himself as harmlessly out for a good time, and is happy to utilize his charm and good looks to hook up with a stream of one-night stands. Lately, however, he’s worrying that he has no recollection of some of them. And as these amnesia-blackout periods escalate, he’s jolted one morning to wake up with blood in his bed, though apparently not his own.

Marcus has been concerned that he may have the makings of a sex addict, concerned enough to enroll in an AA-style confessional group. But his amnesia leads him to a doctor who guesses him to be a parasomniac: he may be sleepwalking and engaging in acts beyond the range of most sleepwalkers. Pills don’t help, and unlike Ambien-takers who simply walk and snack in their sleep, his awakenings are progressively more upsetting, though mysterious — an unremembered sexual encounter, a bloody knife, mileage on the car. What is he doing — or what is being done to him — during these blank intervals?

The film picked up an audience award in Ft. Lauderdale, but this is no flash of wunderkind brilliance. A plot-driven psychological thriller, there’s enough to hold the attention of an undemanding viewer, and some good moments of suspense. The cast is pleasant but often somewhat bland, with the handsome Philip Winchester spending more screen time in a state of undress than any contemporary character in memory, including Matthew McConaughey’s roles. It’s a creditable maiden effort, but still often clumsy and amateurish. The movie has the feel of a filmmaker who went directly into film school and then into filmmaking, with no experience of a broader world beyond television and movies. Everything seems derivative.

After the initial bloody wake-up call, when the story begins with a flashback to several weeks previous, one has the uneasy feeling of watching a descendent of the 2000 film MEMENTO. There’s even an occasional whiff of the television program, “The X-Files” (“I need to know the truth”). But this film, lacking MEMENTO’s lapidary structure, piles on complications and red herrings to excess. By the time it rolls around to its resolution, one is left feeling cheated.

The worst is a painful reference to Alfred Hitchcock, as the word “knife” is echoed over and over again, harkening back to 1929’s BLACKMAIL. It’s an ill-advised misstep, serving as a reminder of what a true master can do, coincidentally at the time when Hitchcock was the same age as Wolf, in his late 20s. Perhaps if he avoids trying to wear all three hats, he’ll have a better chance to develop.

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