Starring: Mädchen Amick, Brian Krause, Alice Krige, Ron Perlman, Joe Dante, John Landis, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Mark Hamill, Tobe Hooper, Glenn Shadix
Written by: Stephen King
Directed by: Mick Garris
Distributor: Scream Factory
Original Year of Release: 1992
Run Time: 1hr, 31 min
The first time I saw Sleepwalkers was for the oddest of reasons. I was working in my first video store and the films at my disposal (all free) were countless. Somewhere, I found a list of every film that Mark Hamill, yes, Luke Skywalker, was in. Certainly, I had seen the likes of Corvette Summer and The Big Red One, however, Sleepwalkers was relatively new (it was 1994). Imagine my surprise that by the time the film was over, Hamill never appeared again outside of the opening scene.
Now here we are, decades later, and Stephen King is getting a revival, Mick Garris (the film's director and screenwriter of Hocus Pocus) hosts one of my favorite podcasts, Mick Garris' Postmortem, and I know a lot more about cinema than I did when I worked at the video store. For example, I know what all the houses look like on the Universal Back Lot. Not only have I been there, but I have seen The Munsters, The 'Burbs, and Dragnet (to name just a few) which all use the same block. I also know what directors Clive Barker and Joe Dante look like because I have seen each give talks in Los Angeles. Why is this important? Well, those two men, along with several other famous directors, make cameos in Sleepwalkers. In short, the fourth wall, which separates the audience from the makers of the film is completely gone for me. To take it one step further, the movie theater in the film, The Aero (also in Donnie Darko), is where I saw Joe Dante talk about The 'Burbs, which was filmed on the Universal Back Lot. Long story short, I had more fun seeing all these places, pointing out who was some random lab technician, and realizing that Mädchen Amick's parents in Sleepwalkers are also Ferris Bueller's parents (Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward) in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
The story of Sleepwalkers revolves around two shapeshifting cat-like creatures that thrive on young womens' souls (or is it their life essences?). We are introduced to an incestuous relationship between mom (Alice Krige) and son, Charles (Brian Krause) who move from town to town to feed on the unsuspecting. Charles woos them and then mom sucks them dry. I mention the incestuous part because for 1992 horror, it was somewhat shocking. However, in this Game of Thrones era, it's no big thing.
It appears that things are getting pretty desperate for both Charles and his mother. They are being stalked by ordinary house cats (we never get an answer for why they respond to those cats like vampires to garlic) and a teacher of Charles' fiction writing class takes a quick disliking to him. It is here where the film goes off the rails. In the scene below, Mr. Fallows (Glenn Shadix) sexually molests Charles and instead of hiding in plain sight, what Sleepwalkers do, Charles removes Mr. Fallows’ hand. So instead of getting dear old mom and heading out of town, Charles then upsets a police officer, in a high-speed chase, exposes himself as not human, and then tries to run down a little girl. Yep, this ancient mystical creature pretty much says “come and get me”.
Even the best and worst of all vampires and creatures of this nature have mastered the art of conversation and how to hide. Charles pretty much throws in the towel and that's not even his motivation. This course of events all but resets the audience to a whole new slate of characters, outside of Charles, his love interest (Amick), and his mom. So with each insane attempt to hide, you just keep reminding yourself how none of this would have happened if Charles would have just killed his teacher, buried the body, and went home. Thankfully, Clovis "The Attack Cat" saves the day. Nope, not kidding about Clovis either.
Sleepwalkers is fun for the true horror aficionado that will love to see a crazy Stephen King story that should be remade. They will also rejoice in the collection of cameos and actors that Mick Garris put together for this little film that was shot on the Universal Back Lot for the mighty sum of $15,000,000 (it did make twice that, FYI). The film never looked better and diehard fans will love every new special feature Scream Factory has commissioned. However, if this is your first viewing and you have no idea who Tobe Hooper or John Landis are, it's probably best to walk away.