Screams Cut Short: THE SLEEPOVER (2012)

By Gregory G. Kurczynski

I love this time of year. The oppressive heat, humidity and hurricanes of summer give way to the crispness of fall and we begin to turn our attention to the greatest holiday on the calendar, Halloween. More importantly, the weeks leading up to October 31st bring us into the thick of the horror film festival scene and a bumper crop of new independent films to discover. With this in mind, it is only fitting that SCREAMS CUT SHORT takes some time for the next few columns to focus on some of these new efforts, starting with director Chris Cullari’s homage to the slasher genre, THE SLEEPOVER (2012).

The story begins innocently enough with two boys, Tom (Josh Feldman) and his new friend Eric (Gus Kamp), being checked on for a final goodnight by their babysitter, Rachel (Carolyn Jania), as they prepare for bed. Tom actually goes to bed, much to the chagrin of Eric whose idea of a sleepover involves less sleep and more firecrackers and surfing the web for pictures of naked girls. Eric continues to instigate, but Tom will have none of it, simply saying that it’s “not safe.”

Being the new kid in town, Eric is not aware that the town of Derry has been plagued for years by a masked serial killer known as “The Slasher.” This personification of evil can appear at any time and without warning, leading the good people of Derry to take such precautions as checking the closets and under the bed before lights out and requiring babysitters to be licensed and trained in hand-to-hand combat. Of course Eric isn’t buying a word of it, arguing angrily that “The Slasher” is nothing more than an invention of parents devised to scare kids into behaving and going to bed on time.

Who’s right? Is “The Slasher” real? If you’ve seen any number of horror films produced from 1977 onward, those questions aren’t hard to answer. But in its approximately six minute run time, THE SLEEPOVER certainly has a lot of fun doing so.

Tom (Josh Feldman) and Eric (Gus Kamp) get ready for bed in THE SLEEPOVER.

One thing that is clear after seeing this movie is that Cullari has an intimate understanding and knowledge of the slasher film, and he’s not afraid to use every cliché in his arsenal to throw at the audience. From ominous music cues climaxing in shocking stingers to camera setups designed to foreshadow what may or may not be lurking in the shadows, it’s all here. But Cullari turns these elements on their head in such a way that the final product seems fresh. He invites the audience to join him in poking respectful fun of the genre, but it’s never mean-spirited or self-referential. For fans of the genre, this movie is a reminder of why some of the greatest masked killer movies are so much fun.

But the most impressive element of THE SLEEPOVER is in the performances of Feldman and Kamp, the two young leads. These boys play against each other in a completely relaxed and funny manner that makes the viewer really believe the friendship. I’m sure that this is due in no small part from the dialogue written by Cullari and co-writer Jennifer Raite, but the actors make it real.

THE SLEEPOVER took the award for best super short film at this year’s Shriekfest Horror Film Festival,as well as being named Runner Up in the “Short Fuse” category at Fantastic Fest. These awards were richly deserved, and as it continues to make the festival rounds, I would highly recommend catching this one.

For additional information and news on upcoming screenings, you can visit the movie’s Facebook page here. Also, check out the trailer here.


© Copyright 2012 by Gregory G. Kurczynski

This week’s spotlight is on:
Directed by Chris Cullari
Written by Chris Cullari and Jennifer Raite


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