Fairy tales, myths and legends are stories that endure, being told over and over again through countless generations and even across many centuries. Some of the details may shift or be glossed over depending on what audience they’re being told to at that moment, but the themes and the characters are timeless.
Maybe that’s what keeps bringing us back to them, again and again, digging around in the old stories to find different truth, a different hero or even a different villain. Maybe it’s easier to create that new twist, by building it from a new perspective on an existing story framework that’s been proven over time.
In The Curse of Sleeping Beauty, several twists are added to the old Grimm fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty”, which include demons, djinn, golems, and shifting the curse from the sleeping princess to the males of the bloodline that family legend says are acting as guardians. Thomas is a troubled young man who’s been having dreams about the fairy tale for several years, and the dreams always end in an attack from some kind of monster he can’t identify and a fit of sleep paralysis.
He believes that the dreams signify something more than the obvious, but psychologists continue to tell him that he’s still being affected by the sudden death of his fiancé, and the dreams are a way of keeping himself locked in by his grief and refusing to move on and begin his life again. Needless to say, he’s not convinced.
Things start to get interesting for Thomas when he is informed that an uncle he never really knew has committed suicide and he’s inherited the family estate. He learns about the family curse and his literal connection to the old house while trying to get appraisals and repairs done to it so he can just sell it. At first, he wants nothing to do with the house, until he discovers that he can’t live without it, literally. While living in the house, he begins experiencing deeper and more lush dreams with the princess, and more vivid encounters with creatures trying to kill him before he wakes up. Briar Rose, who is now awake in his dreams, asks for his help to kill the demonic forces in the house keeping her prisoner and to set her free.
During his investigation into his family history, Thomas learns that over the years many people have disappeared on the property, and previous family members had been under suspicion of being murderers, but nothing ever had been found to directly implicate anyone. He also comes across Linda, a young woman on a search of her own, and Richard, a paranormal investigator, and they begin to fill in some of the blanks about the house’s history for him. All of the information they’ve gathered convinces Thomas that the only way to break the curse and free himself and his family is to find Briar Rose and wake her up with a kiss… but finding her will be a dangerous journey for them all.
This is where parts of the story have problems with pacing. Some of the information is spun out too quickly while some of the action and character interactions happen too slowly. The beginning of the film is almost too slow in some parts, but when it jumps back and forth between different locations in the “real world”, it seems jarring. The transitions between the real world and Thomas’ dream world don’t suffer from that problem, and the design of both the dream world and the monster-laden underworld Thomas must travel through to reach Briar Rose are delightful.
It’s very easy to see how in this fast-paced modern time of ours, many people might stop watching the film because of it’s slow pacing early on, and miss out on the shift when building towards the climax and conclusion. Maybe a few too many things were left behind because of budget reasons, it’s not easy to say, but the twists added to the original fairy tale to form the core of this movie were appealing to me, especially since the original versions of the fairy tales were intended to scare children into being obedient and silent and mindful of their elders without question, not to entertain them.
If you can hang in there beyond the too-slow pacing of the first half of the movie, there are some wonderful visuals and story twists to be appreciated waiting for you.
The Curse of Sleeping Beauty is an entirely new, dark vision of the classic Brothers Grimm adventure. Thomas Kaiser (Ethan Peck) inherits an ancestral mansion that has been in his family for generations — only to learn that he has also inherited an ancient curse stemming back to the Crusades. Forced into his new role as “protector” — the guardian appointed to keep the evil demons in the house at bay — Thomas must unravel the mystery of the house, while struggling to awaken the beautiful Briar Rose (India Eisley), held captive in a terrifying netherworld seen previously in his dreams.
CAST: Ethan Peck, Natalie Hall, India Eisley, Bruce Davison
WRITERS: Pearry Teo and Josh Nadler
DIRECTOR: Pearry Teo