Sleeping Beauty (2011), 18, Director: Julia Leigh

Please don't confuse this dark, dark tale for Disney's Sleeping Beauty. Actually, that's a pretty grubby story too when you think about it. Despite it being billed as an 'erotic drama', Julia Leigh's Sleeping Beauty is not the titillating ride some may mistake it for. It's downright bloody disturbing, an astonishing debut from Leigh, and arguably quite a great little horror movie.
Lucy (a brave and unflinching Emily Browning) is a complicated university student who has a number of jobs to pay her way; medical experiments on campus, waitressing, being an office junior and - although not confirmed whether it's paid or unpaid - she picks up suits in high class bars. Lucy goes through the film pretty much emotionless - in whatever she does, she doesn't bat an eyelid. We find out she has an alcoholic mother, and a complicated relationship with a young man with addictions who may just be the love of her life. Although she doesn't show her affection through her facial expressions. She never shows it.
What Lucy does show is her body - Browning is naked for A LOT of this movie which may make some of you happy. We can't get into her motivations, soul or her head, but she's happy to share everything on the exterior and this part is literally laid bare. Lucy ends up as a 'sleeping beauty' when she answers an ad to be a silver service waitress in lingerie. Her first job is all a bit Eyes Wide Shut, although Kubrick would have shot it much better; the other waitresses in cut-out black 'underwear' and looking like they've just stepped out of the Addicted to Love video, whilst Lucy serves wine in her white skimpies. She's quickly offered a more advanced role with the sinister company; she'll drink some tea and then fall into a deep sleep. She won't remember, or be aware, of anything.
During her stints asleep, Lucy is naked in a large bed. She is visited by various ageing men who all treat her in different ways for their 'needs', obeying the no-penetration rule that posh boss Clara (an excellent Rachael Blake) stipulates. Watching what they do to her is as upsetting and as hard to watch as any of the hardest hardcore horror films - it's on a scale with the abuse/flaying scenes in Martyrs, through to the "no, they won't shoot the little boy, WILL THEY?" of Funny Games. There's one particular man who does things to Lucy so disturbing I looked away and I NEVER look away, that's my rule of reviewing. You'll need to as well, I promise.
When the end comes, Lucy does show emotion. The film 'stops' and we know no more. This tactic makes Lucy stay with us longer than if we'd known her fate. She's a classic 'final girl', such as Sally screaming and crying as she escapes Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Erotic drama, our arse. Sleeping Beauty is horror through and through.
3/5 suspect cups of tea