PARASOMNIA is Sleeping Beauty reimagined as a contemporary gothic horror story. In director/writer/exec producer/digital effects artist William Malone’s feature, Laura Baxter (Cherilyn Wilson) is a young woman suffering from parasomnia, a rare (but real-world) condition that causes her to sleep almost continually. Danny Sloan (Dylan Purcell, aka Dylan M. McKnight) attempts to free her from the control of the evil Byron Volpe (Patrick Kilpatrick).
The film features serial killings, a monster apparently made of twigs that lurks in a world of rotating mirrors, musical automatons, and more. It was originally released in 2008 in a version that wasn’t fully what Malone had in mind. Now PARASOMNIA is out in a new home video release of the version Malone wanted all along, recut and featuring redone visual and practical effects.
Those who would like to see PARASOMNIA on a big screen and meet filmmaker Malone can attend a showing, followed by a live Q&A, on Friday October 13 at the Son of Monsterpalooza convention in Burbank, California (the convention runs October 13-15, but there is only one PARASOMNIA screening).
Malone has had a long and varied career. At the Don Post Studios in the ‘70s, he sculpted the Captain Kirk mask that became Michael Myers’s signature guise in the HALLOWEEN films. As a filmmaker, his features include FEARDOTCOM and the remake of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. His television credits include (perhaps ironically) several episodes of the ‘90s series SLEEPWALKERS, which was about dream researchers, as well as THE OTHERS, DREAM ON, TALES FROM THE CRYPT and more.
On the phone to talk about PARASOMNIA’s past and present, Malone says he had come up with the original concept just before he made the MASTERS OF HORROR episode “Fair Haired Child,” which first aired in January 2006.
“I was actually watching CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, probably about midnight. I love CALIGARI, but there are a lot of [other] interesting ideas in there, and I thought, ‘You know, there’s a movie in here, other than this one.’ So, I started looking up sleeping disorders, because CALIGARI is about a sleepwalker, and I came across this girl who’d been asleep for twenty years, and finally woke up, and I thought, ‘That’s a really interesting idea.’
“That was the springboard for it. And then I thought about a lot of different ways to get the film made, and actually had some offers to make the film, but I thought all of those would have come with a caveat that I wouldn’t have been able to make the movie that I wanted to. And so, I did what no filmmaker should ever do, which is finance it with my own money, myself and a friend of mine, who kicked in about half the budget. So, we stupidly went out and made it,” he laughs.
“It was not a financially good idea, but that’s what you have money for, is to do things, be able to have some kind of creative freedom to do the things that you want to do. So, I have not regretted it for a moment.”
Asked to describe PARASOMNIA, Malone cites what actor Kilpatrick says in his interview for the new release’s special features. “He said it was a gothic horror romance, which I guess is really what it was. It’s definitely a horror film, but it also has a lot of gothic romance elements. And yeah, I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s really not like a lot of other movies, I think.”
However, the monster is similar to the one Malone designed for “Fair Haired Child.” “I want to address that, because people go, ‘Oh, my God, it’s the same monster!’ Well, actually, it’s a very similar design, because I was designing it for PARASOMNIA, and I always have the feeling that nobody ever watches all my movies anyway,” he laughs. He acknowledges that he supposed at the time nobody would actually see both projects, “so it wouldn’t really make any difference. But the truth was that I liked the character and I wanted to use it. Actually, if you look at my films, they all live in the same world. There are a couple that don’t, but for the most part, most of them are all living in the same universe, so it made sense that it would be something from the same sort of ilk.
“If you look at CREATURE, a movie I made a long time ago, I think one of the characters is reading the novelization of SCARED TO DEATH [Malone’s debut directorial feature], and, one of the astronauts is played by Ted Lonergan, who was in [SCARED TO DEATH]. So, there’s a lot of carry-over from one film to another.”
There is a lot of music in PARASOMNIA, both on the soundtrack and on the screen. “When I wrote the script,” Malone explains, “I felt that there was a lot of need for classical music in it, because it seated the picture. Also, I wanted the lead characters to be not something we’d seen before, so our male lead was a collector of ‘60s garage bands, and worked at a vintage record store. So, there’s a lot of music from that era that’s in the film. In fact, I had a band back in the day called The Plagues, and I used some of the music from my band, and some of the other bands that were around at that time, like The Bossmen. So, it was fun to use that stuff. I’m sure it was a big hoot when I called them up and said, ‘Hey, I want to put your music in a movie.’ This was like forty, fifty years after the fact,” he laughs.
PARASOMNIA did not get a theatrical release when it was completed. Malone relates, “When we started the film, it certainly would have gotten a theatrical release. It took two-and-a-half years to make the film, and that was mostly because of all the visual effects. We had a lot of visual effects in the film, and any other movie you see, it will be fifty guys working on the visual effects. We had four guys working on it, and I think there are over a hundred and fifty effects shots, and some are pretty complicated. So, it took us a long time to do them. I definitely had some good help, with Gene Warren and Robert Short and Eric Valente. I couldn’t have made it without them. But that was part of the thing. By the time the film was finished, the market for that, for indie movies, just collapsed and made it almost impossible. We did screen the film in Hollywood at a special thing about art in film, which featured Zdzislaw Beksiński’s art, which we used some of in PARASOMNIA.”
When PARASOMNIA got a home video release, “It wasn’t one of the big distributors, and unfortunately, they asked for some changes to be made to the film. We felt that it was important to get the film out, because after we had put up money and so forth, so I acquiesced, reluctantly. Which brings us to why I had made this new version of it, because this is the version of the film that I’ve always wanted to put out.
“A lot of things had changed in between when the film was first made and now. One is that I was able to use a program called DaVinci Resolve, which back when PARASOMNIA was being made, was an $800,000 program. Now you can buy it for $300, and yes, it’s the same program, and it’s the one that’s used for all of the big feature films for color timing and grading [the process employed to keep colors consistent throughout the film]. It also has visual effects.
“I was able to re-color-time the entire film, and make it more the like the way I wanted to make it, because back in the day, it was very expensive to go into a color timing session. Also, because we were trying to finish the film up, there were some visual effects that I really felt should have been done as miniatures, which we wound up doing as CG, and I just wasn’t happy with it. So, I went back and built the miniatures and shot them and put them in. And then I recut the film the way I felt the film should really be. So, it’s not hugely different, but it’s drastically different at the same time.”
It helped, of course, that Malone is both a visual and practical effects artist himself. “Well, I always think that when you start out making a movie, particularly a low-budget film, you need to find things that you can add to the production that would cost somebody else a lot of money. I think every filmmaker has something – either they know somebody with a bunch of cars, or they have a warehouse or God knows what. In my case, I was well-versed in visual effects and in makeup effects, so that’s what I could bring to the party. On my first film, SCARED TO DEATH, I built the monster.”
The new PARASOMNIA release “is a two-disc set. One is just the film and commentary, and then the second one has got a lot of interviews and a making-of and so on. There are some extra surprises in there, too, so it’s going to be good.”
Malone encourages people to attend the Son of Monsterpalooza screening event. “It’s at the Marriott Hotel, which is across the street from the Burbank Airport, and it starts at 7 PM on Friday night, and we will have a number of guests, including Tom Kuntz, who created some of those wonderful automatons in our film, and Christian Sebaldt, who is the director of photography, who shot FEARDOTCOM, and a whole bunch of cool movies. We also have Janet Keijser, who is just somebody that I love to put in movies, and she was in HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, and she plays a critical part in PARASOMNIA, and also Jeff Doucette, who you might remember from SPLASH. He’s great, and he has a nice role in PARASOMNIA.”
Indeed, Malone suggests people stick around for the whole weekend. “Son of Monsterpalooza is always a great event, and [convention organizer] Eliot Brodsky does a great job with them, and there are lots of vendors there, selling really cool stuff. It’s money well spent, I’ve gone just about every time that they have one, and it’s a terrific, fun thing to do.”
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Article: Exclusive Interview: Director William Malone chats about the recut and re-release of his 2008 cult classic PARASOMNIA