Sleepwalkers or Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers has the distinct pleasure of not being as bad as many other movies with the acclaimed horror writer’s name attached to it. It helps that this is not an adaption for once. Instead King wrote the screenplay and Mick Garris directed. That being said Sleepwalkers makes many of the same mistakes and is as cheesy as the best or worst of King’s other work.
It doesn’t start off that way though, in fact initially it tells what is a really dark and twisted tale. A tale about the last two survivors of a shape-shifting species that feed on the life force of human female virgins. These two survivors are Charles (Brian Krause) and his mother Mary (Alice Krige) who are forced to move town to town to feed.
In each new town, Charles selects a girl, seduces her before taking her back to his mother where the pair feed on her life force. The result of this is shown in the opening as two cops investigate the latest abandoned home of the pair. Inside they find the decaying husk of a young girl who looks like she has been drained completely.
In the new town, Charles quickly chooses his target, a young girl called Tanya (Mädchen Amick). He quickly gets to know her and woes her with his charming ways. Charles genuinely seems to like her but his mother’s demands for food keeps him focused on the kill.
He is tired of running and just wants to settle for a while and knows that once he kills Tanya the cops won’t be far behind. The law isn’t their only problem though as the sleepwalkers have a weakness and it comes in cat form.
Cats have extreme hostility towards the sleepwalkers and gather in force when they come to town. Not only can cats see through the sleepwalkers’ illusions but they can fatally wound them with their claws.
Cats really are the worst!
The concept of Sleepwalkers is good and the setup pretty thrilling. The opening (crap jump scares aside) is well done and animal lovers will feel their stomach turning at the shot of dead strung up cats outside the sleepwalkers’ home.
It’s a grim start and for a period of time, the film takes itself seriously. Seeming to be focused on the plight of Charles and Mary’s survival as the last of their species. Even when it descends into pure cheese, which it does, there are flashes that make the pair just slightly sympathetic.
Unfortunately, the good work is undone by just how silly it gets. Highlighted by a sudden influx of bad puns and one-liners spouted by Brian Krause. He is a good actor, he has proven that with a huge career to date but Sleepwalkers was only his 4th movie and he really struggles here. He is far better when playing it serious and his interactions with his mother are some of the highlights. Even if it takes a really dark turn thanks to their incestuous relationship.
Alice Krige also suffers from the same problem. Sensual and commanding until the film demands she turn into an over the top cheese-fest of a villain. Of the main cast it’s only really Mädchen Amick who comes out of this looking good overall. She plays the sweet, innocent girl forced to fight for her survival well.
Interestingly enough the supporting cast has some big names to watch out for. We have Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman playing a nasty cop. The legendary Glen Shadix who gets a nasty death here. Stephen King in his customary cameo as a cemetery caretaker. Mark Hamill in an uncredited role as the cop who finds the first body at the start. As well as minor cameos for legendary directors and writers John Landis, Joe Dante, Clive Barker and Tobe Hooper!
So many greats involved and still Sleepwalkers is nothing but a sub-par horror. All because of its abrupt lurch from its early serious tone.
Stephen King's Sleepwalkers