Sleeping Beauties (2023) Review
Sleeping Beauties, the latest Tubi Original to come our way, begins with Cahya (Intan Kieflie, Petrol, Dragon Force X) in a bad situation. She’s pregnant, her husband is dead and her savings are rapidly running out. Worst of all, her sweater has the same pattern as the carpeting from The Shining, which is simply begging for trouble.
Running out of options she takes a job as a live-in maid for Alfred McCay (Jeffery Richards, Apparitions, Get Ace) and his sister Francesca (Mandie Combe, Skydog, Meat Your Maker). They’re rich, and as is almost obligatory in a film like this, eccentric to say the least. Nia (Candice Leask, Future Fear, Dark Web) whom she’s replacing tells her she can’t wait to leave. During the conversation, Cahya thinks she sees another maid on the stairs, but Nia says there’s nobody else here.
Writer/director Stuart Simpson (Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla, The Demons Among Us) uses a non-linear structure to tell Sleeping Beauties’ story so it’s not until she’s at the McCay’s house that we find out she actually consulted the psychic (Carolyn Masson, Quanta, Luna Seven), whose poster we saw her looking at, or what the white owl that comes to her window means.
Yes, it’s a cliche but it does provide an explanation as to why she sees these apparitions that nobody else does. At other times though it becomes confusing as the viewer isn’t sure if they’re seeing a dream or a flashback. Such as when she walks into her living room to see the psychic talking to her dead husband (Stuart Simpson).
Unfortunately, much of the rest of Sleeping Beauties’ story isn’t so hard to figure out with a short prologue giving the reason for the haunting away. That in turn removes the mystery that usually plays out through the first part of this kind of film. We know why there are ghosts and why our heroine can see them making much of the first act feel redundant.
It would have been better if the plot had moved quicker into the story of just why these siblings and their driver (Mark Adams, Sheigala: Vampire Business Women, The Party Bus) are so screwed up and what their end game is. That’s where most of the real horror in Sleeping Beauties lies.
What does work a lot more consistently is the production design of Sasha Cuha, better known as a performer in films like outrageously camp Fags in the Fast Lane and Nova Star. Along with set decorator Michelle Reeves (Bristle), the make give the McCay residence the kind of atmosphere that helps the film to at least somewhat overcome its other flaws. Devoid of modern technology but filled with hunting trophies and looking like it’s seen much better days. It manages to be creepy despite the bright Australian sunlight that constantly illuminates it.
Kudos also go to Nick Kocsis (Dying Breed, Ribspreader), Barly Nursamsi, and Daniel Stone (Frank Calls) for coming up with some creepy-looking ghosts and a surprisingly gruesome and well-staged resolution. Sleeping Beauties’ final act goes well over the top plotwise with everything from madness to magic wands, The Most Dangerous Game, and a delightfully blasphemous Nativity Scene getting tossed into the mix along with the ghosts.
And while I wouldn’t have minded it being a bit more gruesome, the payoff not only fits right in, it delivers more than I was expecting given the kind of budget most Tubi Originals are filmed on. I know saying that Sleeping Beauties is one of the better Tubi Originals is faint praise, but if you like low budget weirdness there are enough bright spots to make it worth checking out, especially for free.