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Home Reviews LFF 2012 Reviews London Film Festival: Sleeper's Wake
London Film Festival: Sleeper's Wake Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Saturday, 20 October 2012 13:21
Sleeper's Wake - London Film Festival review
Director: Barry Berk
Cast: Lionel Newton, Deon Lotz, Jay Anstey

John (Newton) wakes up in a hospital bed. He doesn’t remember why. Luckily, his sister is on hand to fill in the blanks. It turns out his wife and daughter are dead, killed in a car crash – a horrifying slow-motion reveal that makes you feel every crunch. That’s the most powerful moment of Barry Berk’s movie. It never really follows it up.

Taking his sister’s advice, John heads into the woods to stay in her cabin for a few days. But instead of inner peace, he finds himself in a young girl, Jackie (Anstey), who has a penchant for red baseball caps and hitting on men old enough to be her father. And you can tell from the moment she turns up, bruised and crying in an abandoned boat, that she’s trouble.

With Jackie comes her stroppy younger brother and her Bible-bashing dad, Roelf (Lotz), who has also lost a wife. Will John join their family? Will he continue to have sex with Jackie? Will anyone pay attention to the native Kiwi housekeeper, Mrs. Harbinger-of-Doom?

Creepy music. Weird locals. A sinister security firm watching over the whole village. It’s not a bad set-up. Berk does well to keep an intriguing air of mystery throughout the first half. But the film can’t decide which film it wants to be. Just as think you’re set for a tragic exploration of grief or an existential horror, everything goes in a completely different direction. That’s when the baboon hits the fan.

Thank goodness Deon Lotz is on hand as the over-protective father: as brooding and intense as he was in Beauty, Lotz is fast becoming South Africa’s answer to Anthony Hopkins. Anstey is excellent too, all throbbing passion and trembling lower lips.

Without the cast, the middle part of Sleeper’s Wake might not be as engaging. As it is, the film remains an interesting, enigmatic film full of sexual tension and curious metaphors. If only one of those metaphors didn’t grow a tail and some teeth and attack the rest of cast.