RATING |

What if you could torture, kill, and dismember someone, only to grab 'em again the next day and do it all over again?

That's the perversely Sisyphean premise of Come Back to Me, the feature directing debut from As the World Turns actor Paul Leyden. A grisly supernatural slasher that boasts a devilishly clever twist, Leyden's film lacks the sophistication to allow its unique idea to flower into much more than a gimmick.

Matt Passmore (The Glades) and Huntingdon Valley native Katie Walder (Gilmore Girls) star as Las Vegas couple Josh and Sarah - he's a croupier at one of the big casinos; she's a Ph.D. candidate in sociology - whose quiet, cookie-cutter lives in a quiet, cookie-cutter housing development are turned inside out when the ultimate neighbor from hell moves in across the drive.

A scrawny, Norman Bates-ian creature with stringy, greasy hair parted in the middle, Dale (Nathan Keyes) is instantly, and most creepily, besotted with Sarah.

That's because Sarah is the spitting image of Dale's mom, who was viciously stabbed to death by Dale's pop, as we see in a brief prologue.

The creepfest begins one afternoon when Sarah is jotting down some thoughts about the latest chapter in her dissertation, a study of the social effects of Internet porn. She falls asleep, only to wake up later that night dressed in an entirely different outfit.

She also has fragmented memories of a nightmare in which she was brutally murdered.

Her suspicions are aroused when she later discovers the top she was wearing in the laundry room. It's covered with bloodstains.

One night, Sarah and Josh share a similar dream that ends with their murders. Waking up, they discover their bedroom floor has been scrubbed clean.

It keeps happening over and over again: Sarah and Josh are killed in their sleep.

What's going on?!

It's clear Dale has something to do with these disturbing events. But what is it he's actually doing? Is he inciting these dreams? Or is the truth far more horrific?

Come Back to Me would be a most diverting little snack were it not for its many glaring problems. It suffers from a slipshod script and some of the most awkward dialogue this side of reality TV. Worse, Leyden doesn't seem to have enough confidence in the audience or his story to let it speak for itself. Instead, he interrupts the action with an endless string of explanatory speeches and expository flashbacks.

Sadly, he lays to waste a promising concept.

Come Back to Me *1/2 (out of four stars)

Directed by Paul Leyden. With Matt Passmore, Katie Walder, Nathan Keyes, Maura West. Distributed by Freestyle Releasing.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Parent's rating: R (bloody violence, profanity).

Playing at: Frank Theatres Montgomeryville Stadium 12

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