Parasomnia Acknowledges Michigan Bands

Renowned Hollywood horror film director William Malone’s latest DVD release, Parasomnia, has a plot line that includes a significant nod to some of Michigan’s garage rock bands of the 1960’s. Malone, who was born in Lansing and played in a rock and roll band there in the 60’s, is probably best known for his 1999 big screen remake of the classic House On Haunted Hill and for 2002’s nightmarish FeardotCom.

Parasomnia’s hero, Danny Sloan (Dylan Purcell), works in a record shop and collects garage band 45’s. In an early scene set in the store, Danny mentions several Michigan groups from the 60’s during a discussion with Phil (Phil Newby), a friend and fellow collector. Danny refers to The 5 Emprees, The Sheffields, The Rationals, and Malone’s Lansing band, The Plagues. During their conversation, “My Lovin’ Days Are Through” by The Sheffields is playing in the background. The Plagues’ “I’ve Been Through It Before” is used during another scene.  These titles, like those of the other Michigan songs used in the film, are cleverly tied to the story that is unfolding onscreen.

Dick Wagner’s first important group, The Bossmen, gets the lion’s share of the attention given to the garage bands in the film. Formed in Saginaw, The Bossmen put out a half dozen Wagner-penned singles on a variety of tiny Michigan labels from 1964 to 1967. Danny reveals to Phil that he has all of them in his collection except for the hard-to-find Lucky Eleven single, You’re The Girl For Me” b/w “Wait And See”. Phil mentions to Danny that he recently met Pete Woodman, The Bossmen’s original drummer, at a record shop in Detroit and that he might be able to get a copy of the elusive Lucky Eleven 45 from him.

The title of The Bossmen’s “You’re The Girl For Me” takes on added significance when Danny comes upon Laura Baxter (Cherilyn Rae Wilson) while visiting a friend undergoing drug rehab at the local Community Health Center. Laura is suffering from a rare disorder called Kleine-Levin Syndrome. Sometimes referred to as “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome”, it is a neurological affliction that is one of the more serious sleep disorders listed under the general heading of Parasomnias. Laura’s severe case of Kleine-Levin Syndrome is causing her to literally sleep her life away.

Unfortunately, Laura’s room is located near a cell housing a diabolical master hypnotist and psychopath named Byron Volpe (Patrick Kilpatrick), who has the power to invade Laura’s dreams with homicidal results. Can Danny, who falls in love with the seemingly innocent and nearly helpless Laura, somehow save her from the evil Volpe?

While Danny is trying to figure out a way to help Laura, Phil promises to get him a copy of the “You’re The Girl For Me” single. This second scene in the record shop features “Bad Girl”, another Bossmen single, as a musical foreshadowing technique in the story.

There are no more sequences using Michigan tunes until the final scene and the roll of the credits when we hear the original version of “You’re The Girl For Me” blended in with a new and nearly identical re-recording of the song done especially for the film by Dick Wagner.

Both Lynn-J and I enjoyed Parasomnia and found it highly entertaining, as did the other two couples we watched it with. Bill Malone is a very talented director and Parasomnia, like his other films, is visually impressive. I particularly liked the dark dream sequences that reflected the hold that Volpe had over Laura while she was asleep.

There are some very violent and gory scenes in the movie, but you never get the feeling that Malone uses it to pander to the audience. As he explains in one of the interviews contained in the DVD; “It’s harder to scare audiences today, but violence can be overused…it should be a punctuation to a scene”.

Besides the actors mentioned above, the excellent cast includes veterans such as Timothy Bottoms, Sean Young, Jeffrey Combs from Re-Animator and Kathryn Leigh Scott from TV’s Dark Shadows.

I thought the cinematography was far above what one might expect in a low budget film, and I fully expect that it will become a cult favorite DVD in the future. Since Parasomnia was an independent feature, the director could bring in things from his own past, hence the Michigan rock references and also Danny’s character, loosely based on Malone as a young man.

If you look closely at the end credits, you will see that Malone thanks a number of Michigan bands from the 1960’s; The 5 Emprees, The Plain Brown Wrapper, The Ones, The Ferraris, The Saharas, The Sheffields, The Bossmen, The Rationals, and Terry Knight and The Pack. He also mentions Dave Kalmbach of Fenton Records who recorded the three Plagues’ singles.