Overacted, overwrought and not over soon enough, “In My Sleep” aspires to the noble tradition of L.A. film noir, but boasts all the cerebral and aesthetic restraint of a West Hollywood dance club. Attractive cast and a novel idea — the hero thinks he commits murders in his sleep — could draw a few viewers during pic’s limited theatrical release (it opens Friday in Los Angeles and April 30 in New York), but overall prospects look decidedly snoozy.
Writer-director Allen Wolf has apparently based his murder tale on the effects of parasomnia; those afflicted do things in their sleep they wouldn’t ordinarily do and can’t remember later. The afflicted here is Marcus (Philip Winchester), a good-looking, gym-hardened massage therapist and ladies man who picks up so many women at nightclubs he can’t remember their names. And those are just the ones he knows about: When he wakes up half-naked in a cemetery, with no idea how he got there, he knows he has a problem.
Marcus joins a Sexaholics Anonymous group whose leader (Michael Badalucco) counsels him about his promiscuity. He gets strange phone calls that suggest he’s being followed. Despite his determination to stay away from any close encounters, he wakes up one morning in bed with Ann (Kelly Overton), the wife of his best friend, Justin (Tim Draxl). A few nights later, he wakes up in his bedroom covered in blood, with a knife by his side and two cops at his door. After hiding the “evidence,” he’s told that Ann, who’s been missing since they slept together, has turned up murdered. Marcus sets out to discover who the killer is, even if the killer turns out to be him.
If it weren’t clear already that Marcus has a troubled history, a visit to his mother (Beth Grant) raises all kinds of red flags. Something happened in Marcus’ past involving his father (Kevin Kilner), something so awful Mom would rather leave Marcus in troubled uncertainty than tell him what it is.
There’s a kind of gothic overstatement to everything in “In My Sleep,” particularly the acting, which would seem amateurish if it weren’t so deliberately exaggerated. No one in the cast is a newcomer — certainly not Grant, who’s been playing weird mothers for years — and yet everyone adopts the same hysterical approach to performance. Add to this Conrad Pope’s score, with its pronounced suggestions of Bernard Herrmann, and there’s very little room for subtlety or the kind of Hitchcockian suggestion Wolf seems to want to achieve.
Some thesps manage to generate goodwill in spite of the material, including Lacey Chabert as Marcus’ neighbor Becky, who comes over and handcuffs him to his bed at night to keep him from wandering; and Overton, who is unfortunately dispatched before the film is half over.
Production values are dire, with too much lighting and not enough design.