The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
Based on the poster for Sleepless Beauty I expected a trippy psychological thriller that looked at the various states one’s mind can be in. Whilst the film gave me some of these elements, it was much more torture porn than anything else and felt heavily influenced by the Saw franchise.
Director Pavel Khvaleev manages to make the setting of just one room feel both painfully small and terrifyingly expansive all at the same time, and despite over 50% of the film just being Mila in the room screaming, Khvaleev for the most part holds the audience’s attention and ramps the tension up and down as needed. The flow between the torture scenes and the outside world scenes isn’t always as smooth as it could be, and there is only so much torture a person can watch, but using the online watchers’ chat thread as a proxy for the audience is a clever technique, as I definitely had questions whilst watching and could gain an insight through this window of text.
Young woman Mila is kidnapped and trapped in a room for days as she is psychologically and physically tortured through a range of methods as those in an online chat forum watch along. We’re given little other explanation or understanding as to what is going on, but it seems as though the forum watchers are equally clueless, except the mysterious admins who confirm whether tasks have been successful. As the days go on, the torture gets worse and the viewers get less. There are also some odd B plots outside of the torture cell where we see a detective looking for her and a couple going through a divorce. These scenes are needed at points to break up the excruciating monotony of the torture sequences, but they feel out of place. That is until the very last scene in the film, when it all ties itself together and the whole film becomes a lot more interesting than it originally seemed. It feels very reminiscent of films you may have seen before, and it’s tough to keep watching scene after scene of torture with little explanation or character development, but the twists in the final act almost make it feel like a second watch is needed.
SLEEPLESS BEAUTY Felt Heavily Influenced By The Saw Franchise
SLEEPLESS BEAUTY (2020)
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The film gives us very little when it comes to character development. All we know about our lead girl is that she has parents and has been kidnapped. We are given little opportunity to find out more throughout the film, despite the various challenges she is put through. What we do see instead is a terrified young woman hysterically screaming for most of the film's run time. It’s hard to engage with her as we see so little, but that may in fact be the point – if you found a stranger being tortured non-stop for days, would you care or would you just get bored?
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Along with the powerful visual elements, the sound used in the animated sequence feels as if it swallows you whole and becomes a completely sensory experience. We see our lead girl wearing VR headsets at various points in the film, and I wonder if we are seeing and hearing what she has been.
The standout section of the film comes towards the third act when our main girl is experimented on and falls into a hallucination sequence. We fall with her into a completely animated sequence which is utterly unlike anything I’ve seen. It’s trippy, grotesque, overpowering, and mesmerising. I watched, unable to avert my eyes despite the horrific body gore imagery and just general uneasy animation. It was incredibly powerful and completely took me out of the film and into a whole new world.
Sleepless Beauty didn’t entirely work on me; I felt uncomfortable watching the various torture sequences and at times just wanted it to stop as I couldn’t understand what the purpose of any of the film was. However, as I mentioned, in the final moments we’re given a key piece of information that gave me such an ‘aha’ moment that I almost wanted to go back and reanalyse the whole film with this in mind. I’m not sure how they could have threaded that information in the film to make those middle sections feel more grounded without losing the big reveal element, but it definitely made me re-evaluate what I had just watched.
SLEEPLESS BEAUTY - VOD & DIGITAL (11.10) | Blu-ray (11.17)