Sleeping Beauty (2014)
Directed by Casper Van Dien
Once upon a time there lived a snarky internet film critic who was just about to go to bed when he discovered a new Asylum production on Amazon Instant Streaming boasting the directorial debut of Casper Van Dien that he just had to watch and review.
I was not aware that The Asylum had made a Sleeping Beauty movie, and judging by the complete lack of fanfare for the film, they might not be aware of it either.
One would presume this film exists solely to try to ride the coattails of Disney’s upcoming big budget spin on Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent. Having just watched the film with my own drowsy eyes, the lack of any promotion on their website, Facebook page, or YouTube channel could be due to them realizing the audience is going to be sound asleep long before Beauty is awakened by her one true love. In all honesty, this isn’t even really a bad movie per se; it’s just very slow, quite dull, and completely lacking in romance or excitement.
As I stated at the outset, this marks what I do believe to be the directorial debut of Casper Van Dien. The movie is actually quite the Van Dien family affair. He and wife Catherine Oxenberg play the King and Queen, parents to the sleeping beauty Princess Dawn, portrayed by actual daughter Grace Van Dien. Their younger daughters, Maya and Celeste, also have small parts in the film.
The story opens with narrator Michael York welcoming us to a celebration in honor of the newborn Princess Grace. But then the evil Tambria shows up. Her own kingdom having been conquered and destroyed, she repays the kindness of this ruling couple that accepted her into their homeland by cursing baby Dawn to be pricked by a spindle before her 16th birthday and die. Then these three other girls with supernatural powers, I forget exactly who or what they are supposed to be, start dropping counter curses. I think they may have been the medieval versions of the Halliwell sisters from “Charmed” because everything about them screamed “the power of 3.”
So it’s kind of like, “You will be cursed to die on your 16th birthday when you are pricked by a spindle.” And one of those other girls is like, “Oh, yeah! Well, now it will just put her to sleep until the kiss of a prince who is true of heart awakens and cures her.” And then Tambria is like, “Is that so? I see your sleeping save roll and raise you everyone in the kingdom also falling asleep and then I will rule this land!” About that point they all just start hurling exploding balls of light out of their hands. Witches be crazy!
Olivia D’Abo as Tambria is the only one who seems to be having any actual fun, kind of playing her part less like a wicked witch queen and more like one of the Real Housewives of Neverland.
To be perfectly fair to the forces of evil, when Tambria states her reasons for wanting revenge, her rage is not entirely unwarranted.
Being overly protective parents, the King and Queen keep their daughter locked up in the castle tower for her entire life until the day of her 16th birthday, when they finally decide to let her go outside. Having lived such a sheltered existence, the naive princess… Ah, who am I kidding? Naive? This girl is just plain dumb. First thing she does is go and get herself duped into pricking her finger on a spindle. Narcolepsy for everyone!
Because I have a dirty mind, I couldn’t help but snicker at how these parents kept voicing such concern that their pretty teenage daughter might get pricked before she turns 16. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. I’m very tired right now.
Some of you might be wondering exactly why the hell this movie is even being reviewed on a horror website. Because there’s a witch placing sleeping curses on teenage girls? No. Because the quest to awaken the unconscious princess will involve zombies, ghouls, a man-eating dinosaur in a castle moat, and another large video game boss monster. What’s so weird about this adaptation of Sleeping Beauty is how innocently old fashioned it is until suddenly someone gets decapitated, faces gets slashed up, and flesh is devoured in bloody fashion.
A part of me wonders if the idea was to try and retell the story of Sleeping Beauty with something of a “Game of Thrones” vibe given the amount of monologuing and politicking and how the zombies and ghouls are in the vein of the White Walkers and that demon baby/smoke assassin. Could also explain why Prince Charming here is portrayed by Finn Jones, better known to “Game of Thrones” fans as pillow-biting Prince Loras Tyrell. Here he’s the whipping boy slave to a conniving, murderous, arrogant young prince, a sort of poor man’s Joffrey, who cares nothing about the girl in question, only that he be the one to kiss her awake in order to marry her and claim the kingdom as his own.
The arrogant prince and his band of merry henchmen storm the castle. The only people not asleep within this kingdom are Queen Tambria and a little girl they encounter named Newt, whose sole purpose is to constantly, repeatedly, incessantly, inform the interlopers that they shouldn’t have come here and are going to die. I’m fairly certain Newt’s name is an Aliens in-joke. I’m also fairly certain the only reason this Newt exists was to work in a role for the youngest of the Van Dien daughters.
Heroes and villains proceed to restate their intentions and spend more time arguing over who has the map and is it being read correctly than anyone did ever in The Blair Witch Project. Monsters attack them… because Queen Tambria… not content with… ruling over her slumbering subject… desperately… needs a willing dupe to kil…
1 1/2 out of 5