MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Horror/ Stars: Brian Krause, Alice Krige, Mädchen Amick, Lyman Ward, Cindy Pickett, Ron Perlman, Jim Haynie, Dan Martin, Glenn Shadix, Stephen King, John Landis, Joe Dante, Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper, Mark Hamill/ Runtime: 91 minutes
Have you ever wondered how some people can be so talented when it comes to certain creative areas yet be so terrible, goofy, schlocky, or all of the above in other pursuits? I feel that Stephen King is definitely one of these people. This is because here is a man who has literally made everything in the world terrifying with his writing yet whose writing in turn has inspired all but a handful of equally as nightmarish film adaptations and/or original films. Every so often however, you get a film of his that may not be scary, but it is, in its own special way, kind-of entertaining. This I feel is the case with the movie Sleepwalkers. Indeed is this a movie that is scary? Nope. Negatory. No way in Hell. Is it entertaining though? Oh believe me this is a movie that is entertaining in all the cheesy schlocky best ways possible….even if it does abandon all sense of mystery and suspense about halfway through and just decides to take a permanent detour straight into cliché territory.
The plot is as follows: Sleepwalkers follows the “riveting” (word in quotes entirely on purpose) saga of a young man named Charles Brady. Having just moved to a small town in Indiana with his mom, Charles finds himself setting his eye on a virginal beauty named Tanya to try and get to know better. Thus it is that shortly after he has managed to charm both her and her parents that our Prince Charming decides to ask her out on a date. Of course with this being an entry in the horror genre of film and it being written by Stephen King, it should be assumed that there is something amiss about this whole situation. Indeed it isn’t too long shortly thereafter that Tanya finds herself engaged in a battle against a horrific evil that has set its sights on her, and where nothing less than her very life is at stake…..
Now this film manages to possess a cast that does, from an acting perspective, a surprisingly decent job performance-wise. This of course starts with Brian Krause and Alice Krige who actually manage to give good performances as the mother and son duo at the center of the horror as well as cult favorite actress Mädchen Amick who manages to give a human relatability to her role as the girl whose life is turned into a living nightmare by the events in the film. Yet it also appears that even the supporting cast members including Ron Perlman, Lyman Ward, Cindy Pickett and cameo appearances from such people as John Landis, Clive Barker, and Mark Hamill (!) seem to really be making the most of what had to be undoubtedly one of the cheesiest scripts they had probably been sent. Indeed the fact that the cast of this movie are able to make this work as well as they do is a testament to the dependability of a hard-working actor giving something their all…no matter how schlocky it may be.
Now although not the best that they could or should be, the make-up effects contained herein this cinematic adventure are actually not bad. Indeed these may not be as revolutionary as Werewolf in London for example, but ultimately they do their best to serve their occasionally-gruesome purpose to the best of their ability. The same can also be said for the optical effects which, despite looking pretty dated if not something you see in a Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie, by today’s standards, are still an interesting time capsule for those who would like the opportunity to get to see what CG effects looked like in some of their earliest utilizations.
Yet the main area where this cinematic excursion tends to fail pretty much throughout is in not only the plot, but in also the dialogue that attempts to keep the film moving forward. This is because, without going into spoilers, just about all of the mystery at the heart of this film’s story decides to abandon ship by about halfway through thus leaving the audience to be able to predict just about everything that happens in the rest of the film and in the process destroy any sense of tension and suspense whatsoever. And yet the most surprising thing about this is the fact that since this is a horror picture written by Stephen King, you would think that those would be the two elements that would be the strongest ingredients in this film’s mixture, but alas they just seem as half-baked as everything else. In addition, the dialogue in this film seems seriously bipolar. I say this because the dialogue manages to actually pull off switching without warning from campy to foreboding and overly-serious very well. This may be unintentionally hilarious, but from a filmmaking perspective it also has the effect of making most of the characters in the film really feel unbalanced in quite a few significant ways. Indeed it really feels like Stephen King was having a massive internal struggle on whether or not to present this film as a horror-comedy or a true-blooded horror flick, and so he decided to try and combine the two into the same film. A decision that as such showcases results which are hilariously baffling at best, and utterly migraine-inducing at worst.
All in all it should be said that without a doubt Sleepwalkers is most certainly not horror at its finest. I say that because this film is nowhere close, unlike a lot of horror gems, to being able to either truly frighten or to provide a fun distinct sense of camp/stupidity to the proceedings. Instead, this film, as stated previously, is unique in that it attempts to walk the line between the two a ‘la An American Werewolf in London. Yet while this is a noble goal, it should be said that where this film winds up is somewhere in the middle of both. This is because Sleepwalkers is never at any time too over-the-top for you to laugh out loud at the sheer stupidity of, nor is it ever truly scary enough to make you want to shiver and squirm in your seat with terror. Thus as a finished product, Sleepwalkers really is an extremely simple yet entertaining in some weird way piece of filmmaking. This is because although horror fans will probably enjoy this with enough alcoholic beverages in them, it is also nevertheless ultimately something that the general movie goer should either avoid outright or just use as background noise to help them sleep at night. On a scale of 1-5 I give Sleepwalkers a 2.5 out of 5.