Director: Melanie Aitkenhead
Cast: Leila George, Tori Spelling, Emily Meade
Run Time: 1 hour 26 minutes
MPAA Rating: TV-14
Sometimes spectacularly bad ideas create iconic moments in cinema. Who would have thought that the story of a time-traveling, nude Austrian robot would become one of the most beloved franchises in history? Or that the story of zen space dudes and a princess battling a plastic man with an iron lung over a big skyball would change Hollywood forever? So, by that metric, producer James Franco’s idea to resurrect the cult classic Lifetime erotic thriller Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? as a lesbian vampire film should have produced an out-and-out masterpiece.
I wonder why it didn’t?
In Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?, Leah Lewisohn (Leila George) is a college theater student who’s deeply in love with her girlfriend Pearl (Emily Meade), despite the complete lack of concrete evidence to support that assertion. Pearl is a photographer, so literally every date is a photo shoot that eventually morphs into a Charmin-soft softcore lesbian bacchanal of face touching, finger licking, and Cirque du Soleil dry humping that would be physically impossible to enjoy without a penis. I don’t think they even talk!
Anyway, Leah brings Pearl home to dinner with her mom (Tori Spelling), who after an hour of face-touching and sultry whispering, begins to suspect that maybe these two aren’t just friends. When Leah drops the bombshell that she’s a lesbian, Tori shuts down and leaves the room because apparently she’s not a fan of Ellen. Seriously, she’s a non-religious single mom in 2016. Who the f**k is still that cut up about this stuff? Anyway, Tori begins to look into Pearl’s background and discovers that not everything is as it seems.
You see, Pearl is a Nightwalker, this universe’s lazy name for “vampire” (she literally explains it as “I’m a Nightwalker. You know, like a vampire?”). She was bitten by an ex and inducted into a group of Heathers-esque sexy vamps who stalk around in high heels snarling at each other. They want her to make Leah a vampire for reasons that make sense zero percent of the time, but she wants to get her consent rather than force it on her. Also, if you vampify your one true love, you don’t have to hunt humans and can subsist off one another for the rest of eternity.
Because vampires CAN’T be monsters! They’re so sexy!
If the goal of Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? was to capture the feel of a lost relic unearthed from the 90’s, it definitely worked. It looks exactly like the kind of acid-washed garbage pumped out by the likes of Joe Chappelle. Good on them, but authenticity does not imply quality. The fact that the film is full of bared midriffs, stalking girl groups, and a preponderance of irritating flash cuts just shows that the film is pandering to the nostalgic signposts of the Buzzfeed generation, not that they actually knew how to make a movie.
Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? is an unmitigated disaster, and not the fun kind. It’s a stilted, monotonous slog liberally slathered with padding so egregious I’m pretty sure it violates the Geneva Conventions. The endless photography sessions, on-the-nose monologues, and oddly fidgety aerial-view transition shots of a random city desperately attempt and miserably fail to distract from the facts that 1) This movie has no plot, 2) Tori Spelling is barely in it, an 3) producer and top-billed actor James Franco is in it even less, in shots that make it patently clear he wasn’t even on set with his scene partners. He might as well have Skyped in from his living room
Come to think of it, if we can safely assume that his taste in decor is questionable, that actually might be how he did it.
Did I mention that eeeevery sceeeene is in sloooow mooootion? It’s like they shot half the movie in Matrix-style bullet time, but instead of dodging missiles, they’re walking up a driveway in crop tops. Although, maybe it’s for the best that it happened this way. If it was all played at regular speed, that would leave us with an extra 20 minutes to fill, leading to a sad attempt to squeeze even more material out of a script that seems fundamentally disinterested in itself.
How else could you exlain the half-baked vampire mythology that never coheres into anything interesting or even comprehensible? We don’t know how these Nightwalkers operate, or why they do what they do. We don’t even know their names! And even though the film is obsessed with Scream 2-esque classroom scenes discussing the relevant topics of queerness and vampirism in literature, it seems unwilling to integrate that material into anything but the dustiest puff of a theme.
And then the story just goes bugnuts at the halfway point, forgetting that Leah lives in a dorm so she can constantly run to her bedroom after door-slamming arguments with her mom, wickedly contorting the wimpy side character Bob (Nick Eversman) – which, by the way, is not a name any modern college student would go by – into a cavorting demon of male entitlement, and utterly failing to stick the landing on its romantic arc.
The acting is terrible (especially in the scenes where they’re supposed to be wowing an audience with their performance of Shakespeare – a little bit of magical realism for ya), the plot is stunted and fails to do right by its cardboard characters, and – here’s the kicker – it’s just plain boring. There’s nothing worse than a boring bad movie, but its even more painful here because Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? has such a wonderfully nutty concept. The only upside is some fun restaging of Shakespeare, and the opportunity to mock just how slow on the uptake Tori Spelling is about her daughter’s lesbianism. She’s like a clueless sitcom dad and it’s great.
But yeah, like its main characters, this movie sucks. Don’t let it seduce you with its softcore flailing and irresistible synopsis.
TL;DR: Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? is a disappointingly dull movie that engages not at all with its bonkers conceit.
Rating: 3/10Word Count: 1040