Monday 9 December 2013

Deep Sleep (2013)

Director: Aaron Hudson
Stars: Lucas Boyle, Elizabeth Vegh, Michael Marmon, Gabrielle Abrams, Hannah Vegh, Nick Gonzalez and Miranda Lane
This film was a submission to one of the IFP Phoenix film challenges in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 submissions.
I liked Deep Sleep a lot for the majority of its running time, but it fell apart on me outrageously at the end, so much so that I feel like I ought to hate it. Until that point, it's an ambitious piece for a 48 hour film challenge entry, with more varied shots, more textures and more cuts than I can remember seeing in such a creature before. It's a visually enticing piece, anchored in the problems of the main character, James. He's having strange dreams, particularly morbid ones that tend to include someone's death: his own or people he's never even met but who start to crop up in real life too. He unloads his concern to a shrink, though he can't unload his issues because he doesn't seem to have any, other than the dreams, of course. Lucas Boyle does the job he's given as James, but he's as entirely lost in the visual deluge as his character is in what it does to him. The most obvious success here is the disorienting tone that this approach provides, highly appropriately given the circumstances.

There is another major success too. Deep Sleep clearly belongs to the manipulators in post-production, most obviously Aaron Hudson, who didn't just produce and direct the film, but also shot it and edited it, so it's surprising to find an actor standing out for attention. Most of the acting here is routine but I was highly impressed by Elizabeth Vegh's work as the psychiatrist treating James. Even though she appears too young for the role and there are far too many shots that highlight how short her skirt is, she brings some true class to the acting. She speaks very believably indeed and makes the tough required line of dialogue seem easy. How would you fit, 'If I were a poet you'd give me enough material to write a book' into conversation? She makes it work. What doesn't work is the ending and that really doesn't work. In some vain attempt to wrap up a piece that could easily have run far beyond the eligible time limit, the folk at Midnight Pie Train conjured up a twist that hurts. Maybe it could work as the last fifteen minutes of a feature, maybe not. It certainly doesn't work as the last few seconds of a short.

As writer/director/etc Aaron Hudson highlights in his welcome comments on this review, Deep Sleep is now available to watch for free in an extended cut at Vimeo.


Aaron Hudson said...

I just now caught your review of my film 'Deep Sleep,' which I directed/shot/edited and co-wrote. Thank you so much both for the kind thoughts on the majority of the film as well as calling out what didn't work in the ending. It's something we kept changing during production and ended up with an ending that just never got it right. It happens sometimes, especially with such limits in time (both in running time and production time limit) but it doesn't change the fact I was never happy with it.

Take care!
Aaron Hudson

Aaron Hudson said...

Also here's a vimeo of the short film, slightly extended from what you saw by close to a minute (plus actual end credits which weren't at the IFP screening). It doesn't fix the ending (which both the producer and I don't like so who knows we may re-edit with other footage we shot or shoot something to change it) but there's little bit of extra breathing room here or there. Thanks again for the really honest review, I really appreciate it...

Hal C. F. Astell said...

Many thanks for your comments, Aaron. I've added the link at the bottom of the review. I'll happily take a look at the new version.