Sunday, April 22, 2012

Doctor Sleep (2002)

I have a fondness for non-Italian thrillers who have that Italian thriller-atmosphere. It can be great giallo-wannabe's like The Eyes of Laura Mars and Dressed to Kill to more esoteric productions, for example Roman Polanski's masterpiece The Ninth Gate. There's tons of more titles to list, but basically it's movies with twists and turns and who's rooted in art, perverted sexuality and with a splash of occultism. Not in the same movie necessary. Doctor Sleep is a slightly forgotten BBC thriller with Goran Visnjic and Shirley Henderson in the leads. If it was made in the seventies and by an Italian crew it would have belonged in the proud traditions of supernatural giallos/horror movies, because it has more or less everything such a movie should have.

Visnjic is Michael Strother, a hypnotist who's speciality is making people stop smoking. After blaming himself for a death of a patient in the US he's relocated himself, his wife and daughter to London to being a new life. After a few months one of his patients, a cop named Janet Losey (Shirley Henderson) notices that he sees stuff in her mind that he shouldn't be able to see, in this case a young girl traumatized by a kidnapping. She's the only one so far who escaped from the dreaded tattoo killer. Unwillingly Michael tries to help Janet with trying to get the girl to remember something and suddenly gets way to close to the killer than he expected from the beginning...

We should be happy that Madison Smartt Bell's novel never got in the hands of a greedy American producer, because gone would be the slow build-up, the sense of mystery, the low-key acting. It would have been a Se7en wannabe and we had enough of those already. It almost feels even more exotic to see a occult serial killer/murder mystery like this set in a realistic British enviroment. Gone is the rainy streets of New York or the Palm trees of Miami. That would have fucked things up badly.

Doctor Sleep has several details that I fucking love: serial killer who's face is always exactly out of frame, occultism and esoteric mumbo jumbo, some (for a BBC production) bloody killings, a man tormented by his psychic powers, a fun twist ending etc. It never goes totally wild like the Italian productions, but stays very commercial and never goes into that kinda boring British TV-cop drama that we're used to and that we all love so much. Actually, there's more or less no cop-work at all in this movie, just Michael and Janet trying to understand the symbols they find and the killer trying to stop them.

The twist is very interesting and I didn't expect it to happen, which is a good thing in my point of view. But the giallo connection doesn't stop there, because the composer of the score is none other than Simon Boswell, who's earlier works is Phenomena, Stage Fright and Delirium.

This is a very underrated thriller who I think many ignore while shuffling through the x-rental DVDs for sale in the store or just disappears in the flood of UK crime dramas eating up our TV channels.

Doctor Sleep deserves a better destiny. 


Anonymous said...

Yeah....non italian giallos....I always use Tattoo (1981)& Color of Night (1994)as example or Basic Instinct (1992)....come to think about it.....Tattoo (1981)feels more like Pinku eiga....?

Maybe you could an essay about this Ninja..?

Ninja Dixon said...

Tattoo? Never heard of that one. Need to check it out, thanks! :)

Ah, I'm to lazy writing essays!