Sleepwalkers (Blu-ray)

Cover art:


Sleepwalkers (Blu-ray)Starring Alice Krige, Mädchen Amick, Brian Krause, Ron Perlman

Directed by Mick Garris

Distributed by Image Entertainment

Sleepwalkers is a real oddity in director Mick Garris’ career. Not because of the subject matter, but because it’s actually a pretty solid movie. Sure, it has plenty of problems: clunky action, jarring tonal shifts and a bland leading man for starters. But what it lacks it makes up for with a genuinely twisted premise (thanks, Stephen King!) and a terrific performance from resident villainess Alice Krige. Over the span of two and a half decades, this remains the brightest spot on Garris’ resume. A curious effort that never quite gels but always entertains.

And I just love the premise: cat monsters. A mother and son (Krige and Krause) relocate to the all-American town of Travis, Indiana. It’s rather quickly revealed that they’re ancient supernatural beings in disguise, and their motivation doesn’t extend much beyond feeding on the blood of humans. When the super cute Mädchen Amick catches the eye of Krause, things get complicated.

Sleepwakers is something of a schizophrenic experience, and it’s hard to tell whether or not this was the intention of King’s script (doubtful) or studio tinkering (more likely). The first half of the film is really strong. It presents intriguing villains, a fantastically uncomfortable incest subplot (which it doesn’t shy away from showing – a full twenty years before becoming a seeming staple on every HBO series), a likable heroine and another look at small town life through the eyes of Stephen King. And it’s really good stuff. It gets under the skin (dat incest) and creeps you out, but it isn’t afraid to delve into amusing character asides as well. In fact, my favorite scene in the entire film is probably Amick’s little dance number in the movie theater lobby. Innocent fun, and it’s where this movie thrives.

Around the halfway mark things take a turn. Instead of seeing the story through as it was originally presented, Sleepwalkers switches gears into an FX-laden creature feature – tongue planted firmly in cheek. Like a lot of early 90s offerings, our villains are suddenly spouting one-liners that might even make Dr. Giggles wince. That it works at all is a testament to Krige’s excellent performance – she’s having a lot of fun without going too over-the-top. And it’s weakened by Garris’ inability to capture the carnage with the kind of energy it needs to be really fun. Let alone the fact that the first half of the film is still the more successful of the two, and I can’t help but wonder how this film was originally supposed to play out.

For everything that doesn’t work, this is still an easily digestible experience. The innocent small town atmosphere gives the film a nice feel, the creatures are nifty creations and any movie with cat heroes is a winner in my book. On top of that, horror geeks have got to smile at the cameos by Stephen King, Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper, John Landis and Joe Dante. Really persistent horror geeks will also smile at the brief presence of Friday the 13th Part 2’s Stu Charno as well. Plus, Mark Hammill and Ron Perlman are always welcome presences. This isn’t a great film by any stretch, but it remains a harmless little time killer.

When I saw that Image was releasing Sleepwalkers to Blu-ray, I balked. Having been badly burned by two of their releases last year (The Hills Have Eyes and Hellraiser II for curious parties), I wasn’t expecting much. But hell if I wasn’t completely surprised by their high definition presentation here. Sure, Sleepwalkers isn’t reference material, but for a twenty-year-old film, this looks pretty damn great. Colors are strong and vibrant. Skin tones are natural and finely textured. Backgrounds are alive with details. Blacks are deep and grain remains intact. In fact, I couldn’t find any fault with Image’s Sleepwalkers disc. If you’re even a marginal fan of this sucker, this is a worthy Blu-ray offering (and the price is right). It looks true to its source, and that’s how you’ve got to judge these things.

The DTS 2.0 track is pretty solid. It’s a very vibrant listen, offering the kind of fidelity that would’ve accompanied this flick if you were seeing it theatrically on opening night. Don’t be discouraged by the lack of surround sound; this is a clean and crisp track that gets the job done and does it well.

The only extra offered here is the theatrical trailer. It’s a shame because I would’ve killed for a Stephen King commentary track in which the author explained differences between his script (and unpublished short story) and the finished film. As it stands, however, you really couldn’t ask for a better technical presentation from Image. Sleepwalkers is pretty fun late night weekend fare, and fans of the film aren’t going to want to pass this up.

Special Features

  • Theatrical trailer


    3 out of 5

    Special Features:

    0 out of 5

    Discuss Sleepwalkers in our comments section below!

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  • Matt Serafini

    Author (Under the Blade, Feral), slasher movie enthusiast, N7 Operative. Plays games, watches movies, reads books. Occasionally writes about them.

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    • Pennywise

      While I disagree that this is Garris’ best film (that would be The Stand), I’ve always had a soft spot for this little slice of cheese. And you’re right, Alice Krige makes the whole thing.

      Also, to Caterpillar, I’m pretty sure that the rumors of titles like Re-Animator and Hellraiser II being upscaled from SD sources was debunked. If you know of proof to the contrary, I’d love to see it since I recently bought both for cheap and haven’t watched them yet, but I did read that the upscale thing was just unconfirmed speculation. I’m not saying the PQ isn’t very underwhelming, especially on Hellbound, but I think that’s more the fault of Image being given really bad HD transfers. As you yourself said, they can only work with what they’re given.

      Although I just remembered that the other film you mentioned, The Hills Have Eyes, was eventually confirmed to actually be an upscaled DVD transfer. So I don’t really blame you for doubting Image.

      • Masked Slasher

        I spent a lot of time comparing Re-Animator’s DVD/Blu-ray transfers this weekend.

        It’s definitely NOT an upconvert (just a decent, if unspectacular transfer), and I hope to have the review up here later today.

        Hellbound looks like shit and the Blu-ray is a total waste of money. But I’m hearing that it’s the same HD transfer that’s available in every country that has a Blu-ray.

        It needs a remaster, that’s for sure.

    • thewordvirus

      I don’t know that this is the shining spot in Garris’ career. I always thought “The Stand” and “Critters 2” were his best films. And he also was the screenwriter for Batteries Not Included and Hocus Pocus, to name just a few. Garris has plenty of better films than this. He’s a pretty underrated filmmaker and screenwriter, though admittedly uneven.

    • Caterpillar

      The transfer is good because SLEEPWALKERS is a film Image Ent. licensed from Sony. Sony, being a huge Hollywood studio, can afford to do decent HD transfers even of their fourth tier catalog titles. Image basically uses whatever they are given and slap it onto a BD. In the case of SLEEPWALKERS that’s a big studio HD transfer. In the case of THE HILLS HAVE EYES and RE-ANIMATOR, it’s a goddamn upscale of a SD DVD master.

      As for SLEEPWALKERS, I last saw it on VHS in 1993 and while I didn’t especially like it then, I’m curious (and possibly nostalgic) enough to pick this BD up. I’m actually disappointed that we’re getting no extras whatsoever. Surely Garris would’ve jumped at the chance to do a commentary…

    • Foywonder

      Far, far too generous to this very lousy movie. This is and has always been one of the worst big screen Stephen King movies. Even Thinner was more entertaining than Sleepwalkers.

      • Vanvance1

        Thinner is pretty damn good. Considering how thin the material Holland was working with, it’s very entertaining.

        I’m agreeing with the review. It’s a mildly amusing movie. Garris love horror but he has poor directorial chops.

        • Uncle Creepy

          Yeah, count me in with the I dug it folks.

    • Terminal

      I’m not a fan. I think this movie is terrible.