Let me start this off by pointing you to a way better done review of this movie at my buddy Robocop's Sad Side's blog, Back on Line, Back on Duty. I gotta give credit where it's due, he's got this movie reviewing thing down to a science, and he's also the person who brought The Sleeper to my attention.
As soon as I saw the trailer, I knew I was going to dig The Sleeper. I grew up watching the slasher movies of the late 70's and 80's thanks to having a horror buff for a father. Anytime a director today attempts to pay homage to that wonderful time in my childhood, I pay attention. Of course it's impossible to talk about filming of this style, and not immediately think of Ti West's fantastic House of the Devil, which is a personal favorite of mine. There's really no comparing it to The Sleeper though, as while they're both throwback films, they're also totally different. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses. I personally dig House of the Devil a bit more, but Sleeper comes closer to reaching the bar than anything else I've seen.
The Sleeper is as straight up old school as slashers can get. While the girls of Alpha Gamma Theta begin to party in celebration of their soon to be arriving pledges, a killer watches them, studying them from the shadows. Strange things begin to happen, there are phone calls with nothing except a whisper or giggle on the other end of the line. The girls assume it's the boys from school pranking them, but once they start disappearing one by one, it becomes obvious that someone else is responsible. With little help from the police, the girls fight for their lives against an unseen killer lurking in the darkness.
The Sleeper does a lot of things right. It's clearly paying homage to the classics, particularly bringing movies like Black Christmas to mind. The killer looks great, and while his weapon of choice is primarily a claw hammer, he does use a bit of variety in dispatching his victims. The kills all look just like what we used to get in old slasher flicks, practical effects and lots of the red stuff, I loved every second of it. The girls themselves are also pretty typical of Sorority House Massacre-type flicks, no performances really stood out for me as being particularly bad or good, the cast was about as even as casts get. They're hot, bitchy, snobby, manipulative and scheming, or in short, they're college chicks. But as with college chicks in horror movies, we're rewarded for sitting through their collective nuisance by getting to watch them get bloodily dispatched. We also get the complimentary/obligatory swimming pool scene complete with boob shot from the hottest of the girls, so there's that. Also, for added cool points, be sure and watch for a cameo toward the end, it's not a well-kept secret or anything, but if you don't know who it is, I don't want to spoil it.
I do have one minor nitpick, and it's concerning the girls. For a movie that's set in 1981, there seems to be some hair do's that are visiting these ladies from the future. Either they all use a hair stylist that's WAY ahead of his/her time, or this was just a bit of an oversight from the hair and make-up department. Everything else is full-on 80's style, even the hair for the male cast members. Not entirely sure why they wouldn't have made sure they got the girls' hair right too. Like I said though, it's a minor nitpick, and it certainly doesn't take away from my enjoyment of the movie, it just irked me a bit.
If the only negative thing you have to say about a movie is about some hair styles though, you know you've seen yourself a good movie. Writer/Director Justin Russell isn't a name that I was familiar with prior to watching The Sleeper, but you can bet he'll be on my radar from now on. Looking forward to his next project. I fully recommend The Sleeper to anyone who fondly remembers the heyday of the slasher genre, it's a trip down memory lane that is well worth taking.