I am so psyched that there are so many directors making horror films that not only mimic the style of great 1980s VHS classics, but also take place in the 80s. Just like the movie Camp Slaughter, The Sleeper is set in 1981, and everything about it looks and feels like a 1981 slasher. You don’t want to miss this one.
It opens with a shot of a house at night, children chanting a rhyme, and a chick combing her hair at a vanity mirror. Sound familiar? It’s not the only homage to Halloween. Later, we see a guy coming downstairs after sex and leaving the house, at which point the killer POV takes us upstairs for the slut slaughter.
But back to the opening kill, we get a focus on the killer’s approaching shoes (remember when a killer’s shoes were scary?) and then a freeze-frame as his hammer goes for the kill. Cut to a rotary phone and opening credit music that sounds straight out of an 80s horror film. Amazing.
The Sleeper is the remake of Black Christmas that the actual remake wasn’t. Shots of a sorority house in the snow, a house mother, prank calls, killer POV outside the house, even a rocking chair scene.
It also has amazingly gory kills that don’t rely on CGI. These are the kind of bloody disgusting scenes you’d see in still shots on the back of VHS boxes in the 80s.
And that’s not all. There’s a faux early-80s electro rap song complete with a bunch of clubbers doing a synchronized hustle. There are false killer approaches. Boobs. Slo-mo beheadings. A hot baldy detective. Dark lighting and shadows used to perfection.The leading lady running while the killer walks and still keeps up with her.
In fact, the final chase through a school is wickedly reminiscent of Wendy’s chase scene in Prom Night. Like Black Christmas, we never really know the killer’s identity or motive. And watch out for the Friday the 13th-esque fake jump scare in the final moments.
The major horror homages aside, director Justin Russell seems to have studied all the slashers of the era and extracted the most effective techniques from each of them to make one wicked slasher. I really cannot believe The Sleeper was not made in 1981—watching it is like finding that gem you missed back then.