When a film has been sitting on the completed shelves for over five years, it’s safe to assume its ultimate quality is severely lacking. Wrapped in 2015 and dormant since – so the pandemic can’t exactly be blamed on this one – Trouble Sleeping is a predictable thriller, to say the least, but it’s also far from being the type of disaster effort that deserves such a troubled release path.
Nothing in the film offers a surprise to viewers clued in on the navigation of the genre, but the darkly comedic, tongue-in-cheek temperament that has been adopted – at least, I hope it’s an intentional mentality – keeps it from being boring; you only have to hear the woes of a trying stepmother as she stresses over her lemon meringue not being as risingly fluffy as that of her stepson’s true mother to understand the lunacy this film leans in towards.
Said stepmother is Vanessa (Vanessa Angel), a formerly wealthy widow who is still plagued by visions of her deceased husband, Charles (Billy Zane in the briefest of cameos). He left her a hefty amount of cash, but she and new beau Alex (Rick Otto) have burned through the inherited millions quicker than she would have preferred. It’s a good thing then that Vanessa’s stepson, Justin (Kale Clauson), is returning home and in 10 days will come in to a seriously large sum of money. It’s not the greatest, however, that Justin has psychiatric issues – he’s been in an institution for the past 4 years – or that a graduate student (Ingrid Eskeland’s August) has taken it upon herself to move in as she researches Charles’ life for her thesis.
Alex and Vanessa have some dangerous designs on Justin’s intended fortune, but whether or not they can go through with their intended plan remains to be seen. Attempt to get away with murder or live with what they hope Justin will pass on proves the couple’s biggest dilemma, but the clearly meddling August adds further fuel to the fire that slowly starts to consume Alex and Vanessa; though you wouldn’t exactly know it given Angel’s incredibly monotone delivery.
Again, if writer/director Robert Adetuyi (Stomp the Yard, Honey: Rise Up and Dance) intended Angel’s blasé reactions, Clauson’s stereotypically over-the-top craze, and Eskeland’s “vixen” vibe to be a deliberate reaction to the archetypal script then the soap operatic melodrama adhered to over the film’s 90-odd minutes is a specific choice. If not? Trouble Sleeping is likely to bore audiences with its clichéd narrative and made-for-TV gloss, something that will be the more unacceptable should it not be viewed under the right comedic eye.
Trouble Sleeping is available now in the United States. An Australian release is yet to be determined.