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Blu-ray Review: ‘Sleepwalker’

★★☆☆☆

Every now and then you suspect that a film gains cult status simply because it’s seldom been seen. Take for instance Saxon Logan’s Sleepwalker (1984). So few people have sampled this bizarre horror-thriller since its initial release that it was doubted as to whether it even existed at all. But exist it does, and the film – starring Joanna David, Nickolas Grace, Heather Page and Bill Douglas and released by the BFI as part of their Flipside series – is a thoroughly odd concoction. A storm-lashed evening sees a visit by Angela (David) and her husband Richard (Grace) to their friends Marion (Page) and Alex (Douglas).

The seemingly happy couple have just inherited a lonely and dilapidated country house. As the night wares on, however, and tensions between the four individuals reach boiling point, the party meets a shattering and unexpectedly bloody conclusion. Unfortunately, for all the initial intrigue, Sleepwalker is in actual fact rather tedious as a whole. Apart from the occasional dramatic dream sequence – generally consisting of horrific things happening to the character of Marion – and sporadic startling situations arising from the storm which rages outside the house for the duration of the film, nothing remotely unnerving happens until the closing five minutes, by which time the viewer will most likely have lost interest in events.

The majority of the fifty minute running time is taken up with the interaction between the two bickering couples in what is clearly intended as a tense relationship study, but by the end is little more than a fly-on-the-wall look at a group of four dissatisfied and rather unpleasant people. The surprisingly gruesome denouement is as shocking for its unexpectedness as for what actually happens, making this film a curiosity as much for its obscurity as for its quality or content.

The remainder of the disc consists of an interview with Saxon Logan, as well as another three short films which are as strange as Sleepwalker and equally dissatisfying. Each of these shorts – The Insomniac (1971) directed by Rodney Giesler, Stepping Out (1977) and Working Surface: A Short Study in ‘the ways’ of a Bourgeois Writer (1979), both directed again by Logan – are a weird mix of the surreal and peculiar, resulting in an uncharacteristically disappointing release from the BFI.

Cleaver Patterson