Directed by Mick Garris.
Starring Brian Krause, Mädchen Amick, Alice Krige, Ron Perlman, Glenn Shadix, Joe Dante, John Landis, Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Mark Hamill.
A vampiric mother-and-son move to a small town to seek out a young virgin in order to suck out her lifeforce . Sort of.
Fed up with preachy social commentary in your horror? Care to watch something fun that had more than the budget of an iPhone contract behind it? If so then Eureka Entertainment have the ideal piece of Halloween viewing for your lockdown pleasure this year in the shape of Sleepwalkers, a 1992 movie from the pen of Stephen King that isn’t based on one of his books.
Directed by King superfan Mick Garris (Psycho IV: The Beginning), Sleepwalkers is a very strange story about Charles (Brian Krause – Return to the Blue Lagoon) and Mary (Alice Krige – Thor: The Dark World), a mother and son who have recently moved to a small town. The thing is Charles and Mary are sleepwalkers, a type of vampiric werecat with various powers who must feed on the lifeforce of virgins to survive but who are also drained of power by regular household cats, who can see through their shapeshifting disguises. Brian takes a fancy to Tanya (Mädchen Amick – Twin Peaks), a local girl who also fancies Charles, until he reveals his true intentions during a date to a cemetery that doesn’t turn out too well, setting off a chain of events that involve morphing creatures, a police cat called Clovis and a lot of gore.
So essentially Sleepwalkers is the vampire mythology given a Stephen King twist, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the film made a lot more sense than what it does. The biggest flaw with it is that we are never given a proper background on who or what the sleepwalkers are. There are dropped lines here and there about needing to feed, and the cat thing is quickly explained by Mary setting up bear traps to catch any cats that wander near her home, but the whole mythology is largely unexplored and we have to put the pieces together, such as why Charles and Mary are mother and son and yet they have sex with each other – it is because Charles has to sap the lifeforce of the virgin and feed it to Mary via sex… of course. We also never get the full run down on their powers; they can make things change appearance or disappear, they can morph into their true form and back at will and they are telekinetic but this is information you mostly have to acquire from research rather than having it explained in the script.
In any other big budget studio movie these types of flaws could be devastating to its reception but Sleepwalkers has one big thing in its favour, namely that it is so much damn fun! The usual King-isms of small towns, muscle cars, a slight 1950s feel – helped along by a short musical number that Mick Garris came up with – and high schools populated by actors clearly half a decade older than they should be are present and correct. Add to that an amusing appearance by Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice) as a sleazy teacher, early ‘90s morphing effects that haven’t aged as terribly as you would have expected and a memorable performance from Sparks as Clovis the cat (excellent name for a cat) and you get the impression that Sleepwalkers is probably not meant to be taken as seriously as a lot of other Stephen King properties, something that Mick Garris is clearly very aware of as he inserts a lot of cameos from notable horror directors as a nod to the fans, just in case the sight of cats ripping open monsters’ faces wasn’t enough of a laugh for you.
Coming complete with interviews and commentaries from Mick Garris and the main cast, Eureka have given the film a decent clean up – or as much as you can do with an early ‘90s movie full of embryonic CGI effects shot in that rather flat way that movies made back then were, but it does look very clean and bright nevertheless – and packaged up Sleepwalkers in a gorgeous slipcase to add a bit of spooky glamour to your Blu-ray shelf. It is weird that the criticisms you can level at Sleepwalkers – trashy, unimaginative, tonally messy, serviceable but hardly dazzling production values – actually work in its favour as the movie itself is so entertaining, pretty much hitting the ground running (featuring an uncredited cameo from Mark ‘Luke Skywalker’ Hamill) and barely letting up until the completely silly but no less engaging bloody final act.
Mick Garris may have created Masters of Horror but he has never reached the creative or commercial heights as the filmmakers he courted for that TV series. However, if you put entertainment above technical achievements and just want to enjoy some no-brainer nonsense for an hour-and-a-half then Sleepwalkers might just be the perfect antidote to the humourless misery of 2020, which is something the filmmaker should probably be very proud of.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★