The Curse of Sleeping Beauty opens on a dream. Thomas (Ethan Peck) is wandering in some wasteland when he comes across a sleeping woman (India Eisley). He goes to kiss her, but is distracted by images of a strange house. He wakes up, and resumes his life as a reclusive shut-in artist, unable to move on from a trauma in his past. Then one day, he learns of an inheritance. His uncle, who he has never met, leaves him a house. Once he steps in there, he learns of a family curse. The house is home to demons, and Thomas is doomed to stay there for the rest of his life. The only key to his salvation may be the woman in his dreams, who might be hidden somewhere in the house.
It should be said right away that The Curse of Sleeping Beauty does not have an ending. It terminates on a cliffhanger, with almost nothing resolved, and all the interesting possibilities shuttled away to a potential future installment. The film plays like an extended pilot episode to a series that has no guarantee of actually being made. Given that, it would have been okay if the content of this movie were actually any good. But that’s a pretty tall order for this movie.
Everything that takes place in this story could be compressed into the first act of a much better movie. An extended chunk of this movie literally has the characters sitting around waiting for a computer to translate something. The movie doesn’t have them going to a strange location to find a cipher that can help them translate the book that they need. They go meet up with a character we’ve never seen before, who then explains that he has the best, most sophisticated translation software out there. And so they sit and wait. The film thankfully speeds this up a bit, but it all just seems terribly unnecessary.
There just isn’t a whole lot that happens. The film keeps repeating information we already know, and hardly gets around to addressing what’s supposed to be a clear and present danger inside that house. The film is basically stalling so it can one last twist for its final moments. The twist just isn’t worth it, and the movie really struggles to fill out its runtime so it can keep the reversal at bay. The real story starts where the movie ends, and that’s a real problem.
Production values aren’t very good, either. There are some creepy production design elements, but the camera seems intent on making us unable to see them. It ends up really looking like it belongs on a much smaller screen. Also adding to that feeling: the acting. The film casts a bunch of attractive young people not quite ready for the big screen. Everyone comes off wooden, grasping for emotions they don’t quite have access to. Ethan Peck goes for dark and brooding, but he doesn’t seem to have any idea what that’s supposed to look like.
The Curse of Sleeping Beauty has one thing going for it: veteran actor Bruce Davison showing up in a small role, adding some charm to the otherwise dreary proceedings. But even Davison can’t make up for the fact that this isn’t really a complete story. This whole story really should have been the first twenty minutes of a movie. Then, the film could go on to more interesting, more action-packed territory. Instead, the film stretches this narrative as thin as it can go, leaving nothing substantial in its wake.