GORE IN THE STORE
STEPHEN KING’S SLEEPWALKERS ****
Directed by Mick Garris.
Starring Brian Krause, Madchen Amick, Alice Krige, Sparks. Horror, US, 89 minutes, certificate 18.
Released in the U.K. on Blu-Ray on October 26th from Eureka Entertainment.
At this moment in time Stephen King adaptations are a big deal, attracting big budgets, stars and talented directors who have received acclaim for their previous genre efforts. The 1990’s though were a different time; for every MISERY or SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION the audience was rewarded with a CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV: THE GATHERING or THE LANGOLIERS to make sure that the entire range of the quality scale was represented. Regularly making an appearance on this scale, usually hovering on both sides of the midpoint, was Mick Garris with his television miniseries adaptations of THE STAND and THE SHINING among others. This collaboration, and friendship, got started with SLEEPWALKERS, an entertainingly bizarre film which marked King’s debut as scriptwriter with a story written solely for the big screen.
As Stephen King stories go SLEEPWALKERS is one of his more bizarre. Involving shape shifting, incestuous humanoids whose main weakness is cats and maintain their powers by sucking the life/souls from virgins, it embraces these aspects with a self-awareness that refuses to be taken seriously. Poorly reviewed at the time of its release it is perhaps understandable that its streak of dark, near absurd humour went unnoticed by mainstream critics who were perhaps blind sided by its more offbeat and tasteless elements. Why allude to an incestuous relationship when you can just dive in and show Alice Krige’s Mary and her son Charles, Krause, jumping into bed minutes after being introduced on screen and showing their true monstrous forms.
When Madchen Amick’s Tanya falls for Charles shortly after he moves to her small town, she soon learns to her dismay the true nature of her boyfriend. With the help of local sheriff’s cat Clovis, played by Sparks, who is described in the blu-rays special features by Garris as “the Robert De Niro of acting cats”, she makes her escape. The stage is then set for a cameo filled showdown where Charles and his mother hunt down their pray. If this all sounds a bit surreal then brace yourself for more strangeness. Highlights include death by corncob, a sheriff who drives around with his pet cat and more cats going head to head with monstrous creatures, reminiscent of the earlier King adaptation CAT’S EYE.
Garth Marenghi once commented “I know writers who use subtext and they’re all cowards!” so he would probably find much to admire here as SLEEPWALKERS comes on like a much hornier take on CAT PEOPLE completely lacking in anything resembling subtext. The film seems exclusively made for horror fans who are all too aware of the genre and the ridiculousness it often achieves. With its cameos from Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper and King himself among a host of other familiar faces, it proves this in spades as well as providing some still impressive make up and optical effects.
Fans of the film will be delighted with the care and attention taken in remastering the film which looks as good now as it did on its release. The generous extras include a thoughtful interview with Alice Krige and an affectionate and humorous one between Amick and Krause. Garris also gives an entertainingly informative interview as well as two commentaries that delve behind the scenes and his relationship with King. A booklet written by Craig Ian Mann that neatly contextualises the film and its place within genre history is also included for its first pressing. All in all it serves as a welcome reminder of the more bizarre and ridiculous aspects that the ubiquitous authors fiction can achieve. It may be far from being one of the best King adaptations but it definitely stands out as one of the most entertaining and outrageous.