THE SLEEPER is a low-budget horror movie with a very basic plot about a serial killer who stalks a bunch of (female) college students. Yes, there are hundreds of movies with plots just like that but the fact that the movie is set in the 1980s is unusual for a low-budget production. The movie is actually not as bad as many of the negative reviews might suggest, but you have to keep in mind that this is a $30,000 production with mostly unexperienced actors. I guess most people who rated this movie low had their expectations set too high. They probably expected more of a plot, which is not really that important of an element in this movie. It's the way the story is presented effectively and evocatively on a very limited budget and with a cast of amateur actors that is intriguing.
Director Justin Russell and his crew did get a lot of things right to make this look like a typical 1980s horror flick. The pre-credit scenes and the opening titles in particular look like they could be straight out of a vintage slasher. The look of the rest of the movie falls short in a way, though, which can be attributed to the fact that it wasn't shot on film. THE SLEEPER could probably pretty much look like a movie from the decade it tries to recreate if they had shot it on real film stock instead of digital cameras. Ti West shot THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009), which also takes place in the early 1980s, on 16 mm film and he managed to make it look exactly like a film from that period. If the producers of THE SLEEPER could have afforded to shoot on film, this movie would look a lot better and the vibe would be completely different. This digital footage just looks too clean and not film- like, which is not right for the time period. Therefore, you never really can fully appreciate the images shown in this movie because the look of the digital footage is quite distracting in many scenes. Nevertheless, they did the best they could with the very limited budget, I guess. Maybe the look could have been improved with the right filters, but I don't know about that.
A number actors from the cast are quite good even though they seem to be amateurs who do not pursue acting as a career. It's nice to see real-looking people in a movie for a change. I'd like to see more acting performances from these people, but for many of them this is the only movie they've done so far. I especially liked Jenna Fournier's performance. She is mainly a musician and painter, it seems, but I think she should act more. She has talent.
All in all, this is an enjoyable movie for fans of 1980s slasher movies. It has a good cast and most of the killing scenes are quite inventive and well done with nice practical effects. Yes, the movie is lacking an elaborate plot, and, yes, the movie should have a different, more film-like look, but if you can see over those issues and keep the limitations of low-budget productions in mind, you have an ambitious horror movie that was clearly made by fans of the genre for fans of the genre.