Exclusive: first comments/photos from haunted-brothel chiller “THE SLEEPING ROOM”
Just before Christmas last year, FANGORIA was by the sea in wintry Brighton, UK, visiting the faded-grandeur locations of John Shackleton’s THE SLEEPING ROOM. The film stars Leila Mimmack (young Mary in THE BIBLE and SON OF GOD) as Brighton local Blue, who uncovers the supernatural secrets of the titular chamber as she tugs the threads of a family mystery. She’s pictured in the exclusive first images from the film after the jump, alongside Joseph Beattie (BORGIA), David Sibley (CLOSED CIRCUIT)—and a mysterious scarecrow man…
THE SLEEPING ROOM is Shackleton’s first feature as a director, following shorts, documentaries and producing credits. Ross Jameson (SHORTCUTS TO HELL: VOLUME 1) was the original scripter, before the screenplay underwent a rewrite by Alex Chandon (the film also stars Chris Waller, who worked with Chandon on INBRED) and a final draft by Shackleton himself. But the story remains one inspired by a house Jameson lived in as a Brighton student, found to contain just such a sleeping room as the one in the film. At some time in its history, the house had been a brothel, and rooms like these—downtime spaces for the prostitutes, with two-way mirrors allowing them to spy on clients—were often a feature of such establishments.
The story Jameson spun from that inspiration involves Blue, a modern-day call girl working the streets of Brighton, mixing with bad crowds, attracted to danger and befriending Bill (Beattie), who is renovating the dilapidated house The Pells. Blue finds that there are historical connections between the place and some dark patches in her lineage, and when the hidden sleeping room is discovered and opened, it unleashes the malevolent supernatural shade of Fiskin (Christopher Adamson from THE LAST HORROR MOVIE), a pornographer from a century ago.
“There are three states to the sleeping room itself,” Shackleton tells Fango. “There’s the very authentic period version, from Fiskin’s time from 1909-1912, when he was making his pornographic movies. Then we’ve done dream sequences, and finally there’s its present-day state, where it has been entombed and sectioned off for 100 years. In the dream state, it’s kind of as it was in early 1900s, but filtered through Blue’s imagination.”
Fiskin’s own films will be glimpsed in THE SLEEPING ROOM, and constitute footage of the what-the-butler-saw variety—the kind of end-of-the-pier entertainment viewed on a machine requiring a penny in a slot and the cranking of a handle. These “Mutoscope” (the technical name for those machines) sequences are courtesy of guest director Jake West (EVIL ALIENS, DOGHOUSE), who was brought in by Shackleton after offering his services.
“I’d been talking to Jake about various bits and pieces for a while,” Shackleton explains. “He was available and wanted to help creatively, and I thought it made sense to have somebody [else] thinking about this Victorian Mutoscope stuff. Jake’s into all that Victoriana, and I was aware of that. Because these films were made by this incredibly dark, horrible, twisted mind—Fiskin—I thought there was no point in me trying to second-guess what he would have done. I thought it was better to park that with someone who loves all that stuff! When I watched what Jake had done with it, I was like, ‘Holy f**k, that’s horrible! Brilliant!’ He did us proud. I would have done them very differently, and probably taken all the shock factor out. But they needed to be shocking, and Jake totally delivered on that front.”
As you might infer, blood and guts are not necessarily Shackleton’s favorite things (although Fango can attest from the set that the gore does fly occasionally). “It’s got scares and jumps and chills as it should,” the director confirms of THE SLEEPING ROOM, which has just completed postproduction and will be released later this year, “but our original pitch was that it should be LONDON TO BRIGHTON meets THE WOMAN IN BLACK. It’s a modern, gritty urban drama—although the ‘reality’ has become somewhat heightened as we’ve progressed—but it’s also a tale of supernatural Victorian revenge. I want the audience squirming in their seats, and if we achieve that, then we don’t need gore; just that psychological terror of do not go in there…”