“IF I DIE BEFORE I WAKE…”
Category: Retro, Slasher
Directed by: Justin Russell
Written by: Justin Russell
Starring: Brittany Belland, E. Ray Goodwin, Jason Jay Crabtree
Cinematography: Justin Russell
I just reviewed Justin Russell’s Death Stop Holocaust, and it was a shining example of a grindhouse throwback film. He totally captured that classic aesthetic. It wasn’t insanely over the top, it was CGI free, and the film took itself seriously. Russell continues this endeavor into retro horror with his latest offering The Sleeper, providing an old-school 80’s slasher. It just reeks of a classic slasher film. The camera work, the cast, the plot, and the soundtrack! Russell is proving himself as a formidable director in the throwback horror department.
The plot is typical of an 80’s slasher. Two girls go to a sorority party looking to join the crew, along with a few melvins who are totally trying to score. A deranged killer obsessed with Alpha Gamma Theta starts to hunt them down. The premise might seem cheesy but that’s what I love about it! Russell totally goes for an old school feel with this flick.
As with Death Stop Holocaust,Russell is on a very low budget. Luckily for us he has an affinity for cheap slashers, so he utilizes the miniscule budget to produce such a film. Yet again Gremlin provides a fantastic soundtrack. I need to get in contact with these guys! They do such amazing job of capturing that 80’s, synth driven feel. If you know how to reach them please let me know, I seriously want to employ them! And as with his last film, the cinematography and atmosphere of this film is spot on for an 80’s styled flick in the modern age. The script is also a little better! A lot of the same actors/actresses are utilized from his last film, and they are a little bit more believable in this. But the acting is still stale, especially from E. Ray Goodwin.
Alright the script isn’t that much better, but it is an improvement. It’s still totally cheesy though.
The director tries too hard to make the killer deranged, he reminds me of Gollum; he cries too much and his level of unexplained obsession is ridiculous. If he was just a little bit more toned down then he’d be perfect. Also there’s a syncopated disco dance scene that, while entertaining and goofy, detracts from the the whole tone of the film. I feel like it’s thrown in there just to add to the hokey “80’s vibe”. Most un-enthusiastic dance off ever!
Unlike a lot of retro horror, this film doesn’t try too hard; It’s not over the top insane (other than the disco scene), it’s just a straight forward slasher. There’s a little T&A, classic gore, practical effects, and a typical storyline. Russel has proved that he can capture a classic, old school, horror aesthetic. Death Stop Holocaust definitely captured that feel but it had it’s down falls. With The Sleeper, there is a sense of revision but not perfection. Russell is on his way to making a great film. The story flows much smoother and the characters are much more believable, but there are a lot of flaws. The Ahab of the film sucks and the villain could be more intimidating. Russell has written unique storylines and plots and he is an fantastic cinematographer. I have high hopes for his future films. Other than the weak script, this film is pretty tight for a slasher. With a better cast, tighter editing, and a stronger screenplay we could see a truly great horror film from Justin Russell. Keep your eye on this guy. With each movie he has released, the next has been better that the other so his next film may just blow your mind!
If you love cheesy, 80’s styled slashers then please check this out! Expect some poor acting, occasional boobs, gore, great murder sequences, and girls running around screaming. Russell definitely tries to make an 80’s slasher flick, so if you’re not into that then skim by this. This is for true slasher fans only! And watch out for this filmmaker, he is a truly passionate director, making great, classic styled horror films and I have a feeling he will be sweeping the common horror community by storm. His films looks so fantastic! How can they not appease slasher fans? I am anxiously awaiting his next film, he completely nails that VHS era exploitation feel!