Monday 30 June 2014

Movie Review: Where Sleeping Dogs Lie (1991)

A bungled suspense thriller about a writer drawing inspiration from a spooky house, Where Sleeping Dogs Lie never finds the right tone and fades into dreary insignificance.

In Los Angeles, Bruce Simmons (Dylan McDermott) is a struggling and broke writer. His agent Serena Black (Sharon Stone) prods him to come up with something original to publish, but Bruce is drawing a blank. As a side job he is asked to help sell a long abandoned Hollywood mansion. But the recently evicted Bruce has a better idea: he takes up residence in the mansion to try and gain some inspiration.

He soon learns that an entire family was murdered in the house, and the crime was never solved. Bruce starts to write his book as the diary of the murderer. This excites Serena, who sees a potential best-seller, as long as the diary can be passed off as the true confession of the killer. To help pay the bills, Bruce welcomes the mysterious and tentative Eddie Hale (Tom Sizemore) as a roommate at the mansion. Gradually Eddie and Bruce become friends, and Eddie starts to contribute ideas for Bruce's book.

Directed by Charles Finch and co-written by Finch and Yolande Turner, Where Sleeping Dogs Lie is filled with derivative and incomplete ideas. The story is weak and very little ever actually happens. Bruce and Eddie are underdeveloped and consequently shallow characters, while Sharon Stone provides plenty of sizzle in her few scenes but her over-sexed, high-fashion book agent defies belief. Serena slumming with Bruce is an incongruous relationship that shines an unfortunate spotlight on a destitute script.

The attempts at moments of suspense are of the childish bumps-in-the-night, blood-on-the-wall variety, and the injection of a layer of religious-driven violence is never adequately explored. Even the supposed big reveal, which occurs way past the point of anyone caring, is yawn-inducing in its predictability. Dylan McDermott and Tom Sizemore struggle manfully against the limp material, but are crushed by the dominating ineptitude.

Where Sleeping Dogs Lie is no mystery: the answer is a dull, fetid corner.

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