Original release: April 10th, 1992
Running time: 91 minutes
Director: Mick Garris
Writer: Stephen King
Cast: Brian Krause, Mädchen Amick, Alice Krige
I’ve never really been a cat person. I don’t know why; they’re fluffy, cute and very affectionate creatures (when they want to be), and by all counts I should love them – but I don’t. Perhaps it’s the way they look at look at me and scatter off across the street when they see me coming, or maybe it’s their claws or that hissing sound they make when they’re about to attack. There’s just something about them that’s always made me feel uneasy, but at least my aversion to them isn’t as extreme as the two main antagonists in this Stephen King film.
Set in an idyllic small town where Charles Brady (Brian Krause) and his mother Mary (Alice Krige) have just moved to, Sleepwalkers at times feels like a dreamy fantasy accompanied by the soothing sound of Sleep Walk, an instrumental steel guitar-based song written, recorded, and released in 1959 by Santo & Johnny.
Yet there’s something not quite right about this mother and son. They’re “Sleepwalkers” — nomadic, shapeshifting vampires who feed off young virgins to stay alive. Despite their abilities, which also include telekinesis, the supernatural pair have one weakness – cats. The feline creatures can see through their illusions and their claws are capable of inflicting fatal wounds to them, so while Charles is out procuring a young virgin for his mother to feast one, they try and avoid them.
Charles meets fellow high-schooler Tanya (Madchen Amick) and she’s immediately smitten with him and agrees to go out on a date. Of course it doesn’t go smoothly, instead of a sweet picnic in the woods, Charles attacks her, she manages to escape but not without first seeing his true face. Charles in then attacked by a cat belonging to a sheriff who tries to help Tanya.
Horrified, traumatised and not really knowing who or what Charles is, Tanya’s then pursued by Mary who wreaks havoc in her house and on her parents until she’s driven out by the family’s cat.
Knowing the only way to save her wounded son is for him to feed on Tanya, Mary is determined to bring her to him, after all, she’s the one who caused all their problems since they moved there. There’s also a little bit of jealously involved as Mary realises Charles truly has feelings for Tanya and thus feels threatened and wants to eliminate any potential competition.
Sleepwalkers is enjoyable, but it’s far from perfect. While it suffers from slow pacing and little character development, it’s further hindered by a weak script but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. With a dash of incest and lashing of teen melodrama it’s a film which tries its best to humanise its monsters and make us care for them, whether or not it’s successful in doing that depends on how much you like your horror combined with elements you find in a daytime soap – and cameos by King and John Landis!
There are some great moments, such as when Charles gets a corkscrew in the eye, when he disposes of a sheriff who tries to help Tanya and when Mary finds a way of handling the cats in the area. Together with the inclusion of Enya’s haunting Boadicea, Sleepwalkers is far from being among the worst King movies or the best, but comfortably sits somewhere in the middle.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
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