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Mick Garris’s Sleepwalkers (1992)

The early nineties though, were an odd time for horror films, though there were obvious exceptions such as the nifty original Candyman (1992), the opening of that decade wasn’t exactly awash with classic scares. Coppola’s instantly dated foray into the vampire world would seem to attest this, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), was a messy, camp romp which, like the beleaguered count himself, didn’t seem to know what year it was in. It was an awkward period caught between the cartoonish eighties slasher movie and the dawning of post-modern fare like Craven’s Scream (1996) or Hideo Nakata’s Ring (1998). If Sleepwalkers (1992), the Mick Garris (Amazing Stories, Hocus Pocus) directed Stephen King adaptation belongs anywhere, it is in that troubled timeframe. 

The plot, a bonkers supernatural, shapeshifting weirdo take on the vampire legend, wrestles somewhere between Cat People (1982) and The Breakfast Club (1985), shifting awkwardly from creepy southern gothic to teeny bop slasher without any apparent reason. And the film spends much of its run time trying to decide who our focus should be on, players are introduced and frustratingly discarded, leaving us wondering why they were ever featured in the first place. Characters such as Captain Soames (Ron Perlman) and Deputy Andy Simpson (Dan Martin) are little more than one-dimensional markers, all set-up and no payoff. The latter seriously seems to only exist temporarily so that the writer can sandwich in a feline related bit of malarkey which allows the protagonist to escape, because what scares the bejesus out of these ancient villains more than anything else, it turns out, is your average ginger Tom.  

But one of the main problems with it, is that its dreamlike allusions also seem to spill into its overall structure, unbuckling any sense of satisfying narrative cohesion. And while this can be an admirable thing, David Lynch, for instance, uses lurid landscapes and off-kilter un-realities to toy with our mind-sets, here the playbook seems to be to throw as much stuff at the screen as possible in the hope that the mess which it creates may be interpreted as some sort of entertaining nightmare. And while it does rattle along pleasingly, you do get the sense that this is a more panicked production than a thought-out process. 

On the plus side, Alice Krige (Star Trek: First Contact), the matriarchal big bad, is certainly at her coldly disturbing best, in fact it’s difficult to imagine who else may have carried off this batshit crazy blood-sucking mother-lover with quite so much aplomb, and Madchen Amick fresh from Twin Peaks, provides some virginal polarity to the overtly sexual monstrosity of Brian Kraus’s character Charles Brady. But Silly cameos by the likes of Mark Hamill, Joe Dante and John Landis detract from the action rather than add anything to the mix and the overall feel seems to be of a film which is desperately trying to find a winning formula to pin its hopes on. 

Screenwriter King seems determined to plunder his past in a strange parody of sorts. Much is toyed with here from a Carrie-like domineering mother, through to a creepy graveyard, as in Pet Sematary (1989) and there’s even an appearance-altering car ala Christine (1983), but by riffing on much better recreations of his books, both he and Garris simply underscore their own product’s obvious short fallings. That said, it genuinely oozes with a kind of oddness we get all too rarely, and as misfiring as it is at times, at least it doesn’t ever fall into the kind of tired ‘pattern’ that many other American horror films of that era certainly did.  And if this kind of daftness is something you’d like to get your claws into, then you couldn’t wish for a better package. Needless to say, Eureka have pulled together an array of cool special features for this nicely presented reissue, one of the highlights being a brand-new commentary with stars Mädchen Amick And Brian Krause. 

Sleepwalkers (1992) 

  • Limited Edition O-Card slipcase with silver laminate finish
  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
  • DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 audio options
  • English subtitles (SDH)
  • New Audio Commentary with director Mick Garris and film historian Lee Gambin
  • Audio Commentary with director Mick Garris, Mädchen Amick, and Brian Krause
  • “Feline Trouble” interview with director Mick Garris
  • “When Charles Met Tanya” conversation with actors Mädchen Amick And Brian Krause
  • “Mother & More” interview with actress Alice Krige
  • “Creatures & Cats: The FX of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers” featurette
  • Behind-the-scenes footage
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Limited Edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann

Released 19th October from Eureka Entertainment 

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About Andrew Graves

Andrew Graves a freelance writer and film tutor, his last non-fiction title Welcome to the Cheap Seats: Silver Screen Portrayals of the British Working Class, was published by Five Leaves Books last year. His next book, an analysis of Alice’s Lowe’s film Prevenge will be published by Auteur Publishing next year. He is creator host and writer of Mondo Moviehouse – The Weird World Cinema Podcast.

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