Chasing Sleep (2000)
Director: Michael Walker
Gil Bellows/Detective Derm
Zach Grenier/Geoffrey Costas
Troubled Ed (Daniels) wakes up to find his wife not at home; he calls a friend of hers, he calls the cops and then everybody tries to understand the nature of her disappearance. At the same time, Ed is slowly losing what's left of his marbles and Emily Bergl shows us her tits…yippee!
This is what I like to call a "mind rape" movie. You know the genre: a film where reality and hallucination blend in to fuck with the viewer's head. Walker's feature debut owes a lot to Polanski's "Repulsion" and the style is pure David Lynch Jr.
I usually go nuts for these types of films but this one was missing something to push it over the fence of "good mind rape flick" to "great mind rape flick". For one thing, the movie has a very passive feel that plays against it. Not once did I feel an ounce of tension, not once did I feel scared or on the edge of my seat. The flick just rolled in front my eyes and my involvement was strictly from a spectator's point of view. That made the events that unfolded before me, not as gripping as they should have been.
But my two biggest problems with the film were: A) I knew exactly what had happened to Ed's wife from the get-go . The movie doesn't really do a good job of hiding it; was it even trying to hide it? I kept on waiting for the film to catch up with me. B) I didn't appreciate the physical visions. I dug the whole house going to hell (the toilet getting clogged up, the noisy pipes, the bathtub going coo-coo) but when the flick slapped its giant baby and slinky finger my way, it felt very out of place. The film didn't really need those physical visions and even though I knew that they were there to mean something, to me, they just felt like they were there for the sake of it. The movie in my opinion should have never dropped its "subtle" card.
On a positive note, Walker paints a very atmospherically grim picture. All the "mind rape" elements are there: blurry dreams, spooky use of sound, weird visions, symbolism up the wazoo (Walker uses the house as a metaphor for what's going on with Ed) and kooky characters. The novel directing style kept my eyes glued to the screen and so did the eerie sets (loved the cloud filled room and the basement). I also really liked Jeff Daniel's performance. It's nice to see him doing something other than putting his tongue on a frozen pole. The quirky characters got a few giggles out of me and the film's sense of humor is definitely on (why is everybody on drugs???). The humor gave the movie a much-needed spark of life.
All in all, "Chasing Sleep" isn't the classic that it could've been (it needed a more eventful script) but is still a captivating journey into the dark side of man named Ed. Wanna pop some pills with me?
A deformed giant baby (?!?) and a cut off finger that lives (!?!). We also get lots of red flowing blood.
Jeff Daniels (Ed) is perfect casting as Ed. He has that every day man quality that works. Here he plays against type and does depressive very well. Man, does he look like shit in this movie! Emily Bergl (Sadie) is all sugar and spice and everything nice. She's a cutie here and pulls off her scenes with Daniels perfectly. She also gives us another flawless American accent (she's British). Gil Bellows (Detective Derm) does great as the caring detective, he has an amusing presence. Zach Grenier (Geoffrey Costas) is also amusing as the intense Doc. Julian McMahon (George), throws a good punch and does the violent thang very well.
T & A
Emily Bergl shows us her luscious breast and Jeff Daniels does the same…shows us his luscious breasts. It was kinda of weird to see Emily Bergl have a sex scene with Jeff Daniels…brrr.
Walker gives the film a very eerie feel with slow camera movements, close-ups into darkness, attention to details and a great play with sound. The vibe is so Lynch that it's not even funny.
There's no score in this film and no "Backstreet Boys" either. Walker fills his film with an array of sounds to reinforce the spooky mood. We do get a piano tune that Ed's wife used to play. I admire the ballsy move.
"Chasing Sleep" doesn't re-invent the "mind rape" genre but it does re-interpret it with finesse and style. The script could've been more involving in terms of the way that the story unfolded and the film doesn't always play the right card but there's still 3 good reasons to see this movie: Jeff Daniels' acting, the moody visuals and Bergl's perky tits. NOTE: If you're looking for a film with lots of physical action... stay away from this puppy.
The film is going straight to video (that sucks)
It won the Jury Prize at the Gerardmer Fantastic Film Festival.
This film was shown at the Montreal Fantasia Fest 2001.