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The Sleeper is an Inept ’80s Throwback [Retrospective]

The Sleeper

Amy and her roommate Ava are college sophomores that are considering pledging the Theta House. They like the Theta girls and the idea of getting out of the dorms. But what Eva and Amy don’t realize is that there is a killer, known as The Sleeper, on the loose. And as luck would have it, The Sleeper has a deadly grudge against the very sorority the girls are keen to join.

The Sleeper is utterly forgettable in every way. The only thing about it that stands out is how remarkably bad it is. Everything about this film is poorly put together. The Sleeper is representative of a major missed opportunity. The film could have been good if some of its numerous issues were resolved but as it stands, it’s just awful.

The Sleeper was written and directed by Justin Russell. His script is subpar; it is filled with innocuous dialogue but never addresses the killer’s motivation or backstory. However, after sitting through a waste of time such as this, the viewer isn’t likely to care about what makes the killer tick anyway.

Russell proves to be equally inept as a director. He is unable to create any atmosphere to speak of and he fails miserably at coaching his cast to deliver performances that are even the least bit inspired.

The acting is reprehensible. The Sleeper boasts some of the worst performances of the past decade. There isn’t a single capable performer in the entire film and that makes it absolutely impossible for the audience to identify with any of the characters or forget for even a second that they are acting (badly).

The final girl, Amy is not resourceful or cunning. She is just lucky to be alive. Amy survives because she is the last one targeted by the killer and she has the help of the entire police force. She isn’t capable or well developed. She’s basically just in the right place at the right time. Such laziness is insulting to the films to which this atrocity attempts to pay homage.

The hair and wardrobe are not reminiscent of what people actually wore in the ‘80s. There are a couple of nods to the era but The Sleeper does not succeed in its attempt to be a period piece. It looks like the wardrobe department mixed some retro inspired outfits from Forever 21 with some thrift store finds to create an aesthetic that is vaguely reminiscent of the 1980s without being the slightest bit convincing or cohesive.

Adding further to the historical inaccuracies, there is a song that the cast dances to that references CDs but Compact Discs were not commercially available until late 1982 and this film takes place in 1981. Also, one of the characters references The Running Man, a dance move that didn’t make its debut until more than five years after this film takes place and didn’t become popular until almost ten years after the year in which this picture is set.

The special effects team deserves some credit for trying to pull off a series of intricate effects on a nonexistent budget but the FX in this film are still a mess. People’s faces don’t smash like a pumpkin after being hit with a blunt object one time but one blow to the skull turns a girl’s heads to mush in one of the film’s lackluster kill scenes.

When The Sleeper was released on home video, there was a limited pressing of VHS/DVD combo packs, which would have been cool if the movie were good, but since it is awful, that really does nothing to add to its appeal. The Sleeper tries to recapture the magic of films like The House on Sorority Row but it fails on every level. There is no reason to see The Sleeper. If you were thinking about watching it out of curiosity, save yourself the trouble.


Director(s): Justin Russell
Writer(s): Justin Russell
Stars: Ali Ferda, Paul Moon
Year: 2012
Studio/ Production Co: Gamma Knife Films
Budget: $30,000
Language: English
Length: 90 Minuutes
Sub-Genre: Slasher

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Written by Tyler Doupé
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has previously penned for Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, ComingSoon, and more. He lives with his husband, his dog, and cat hat(s).
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