The Parker Sessions – Film Review – FrightFest

Director: Stephen Simmons

Writer: Stephen Simmons

Starring: Rachell Sean, Danny James and Guy Wheatley

Rating: ★★★½

Suffering from insomnia and night terrors can be a horrific experience. The anxiety is causes, especially when you know you have a big day ahead of you, can cause panic attacks. The Parker Sessions is an attempt to capture that feeling from Stephen Simmons and his own experience of night terrors and sleepwalking.

Parker suffers (Rachell Sean) from night terrors and it is destroying her life. The film starts with her visiting a new councillor, and it’s clear he’s not the first she’s seen. She’s been looking for someone who really listens to her and is looking for a way to relieve her problem. The councillor gives her some advice, ‘face your fear’, and Parker takes that a literally.

The Parker Sessions is an intense and solid film with an interesting idea. It’s presented in an entertaining and gripping way with whimsical effects at the beginning that slowly disappear as the film moves on and gives way to the more grounded horror. When the councillor asks Parker questions, she replies with lies and the film cuts to scenes of the truth with loud sound effects. Some of the names are redacted as well, both visually and audibly. Parker isn’t given a surname and the councillor’s family isn’t given any names. The picture of his family on his desk has the faces of his wife and child scribbled out with ‘the wife’, ‘the boy’ written on top. It’s not really clear why it’s like that, and leaves you with the thought that Simmons couldn’t think of a name for them.

The score is fantastic with a heartbeat like rhythm during the night terror section and screeching violins during the climax of the film. It stands out and really works putting you on edge and builds up an oppressive atmosphere that is heightened further by the black and white visuals that give everything a gritty texture.

The acting is a mixed bag. At points the performances are great and at other points, especially with some of the laughing and cut away moments in the first act, it feels very stilted. The screaming from Parker during her nightmare sequence is powerful and chilling. So much of the film hinges on that moment and it works.  

The film is split into four acts, with a small intermission between each one showing Parker’s trip to the fair. It gives you time to reflect on each act and process the events, it’s a very focused film with a lot of talking and the breaks give enough time to let everything sink in. It also feels like the intermissions have mostly been added to pad out the short run time. It’s just over an hour long, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s short, striking and haunting.

The description for this film on FrightFest’s line up describes it as something akin to David Lynch or Darren Aronofsky, which is a massive exaggeration. There’s nothing that surreal or dreamlike about The Parker Sessions and it doesn’t mess with your mind in any way. The story feels fairly straight forward and the comparison doesn’t do the film any justice.

It is the debut feature film from writer/director Stephen Simmons (credited as a ‘nightmare from Stephen King Simmons), who has previously made a few shorts. This is a great first film that is original and haunting. Hopefully whatever Simmons makes next will be even better.

About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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