Stephen King is a pop culture entity that is guaranteed to stay in the public consciousness for a very long time. Every few years he fades in to the background for a while, and then re-emerges to take pop culture by storm. The last few years have been yet another Stephen King renaissance with the new popularity of classic novels, the smashing popularity of “It” and the re-release of a lot of his famous and infamous cinematic entries. Everything from “Christine” to “Maximum Overdrive” has been given a physical release, and it’s a lot of to see how much King has carved his way in to pop culture, with various hits and stumbles. “Sleepwalkers” is a stumble.
One of the more bizarre entries from King, “Sleepwalkers” is a science fiction horror hybrid starring Brian Krause as a new kid named Charlie, who arrives in a small town who moves in with his mother, played by Alice Krige. After shifting from town to town, they hide their true forms as supernatural shape shifting feline like vampires that feed on the life force of virgins. When Charlie meets Tanya, a virginal movie theater worker, he hopes to lure her out and feed on her life force, supplying enough sustenance for him and his gradually starving mother. But when his true form is revealed during an outing with Tanya, Mary makes it her mission to kidnap Tanya and feed on her once and for all.
“Sleepwalkers” is one of the more ridiculous of the Stephen King horror films, but it hurts so good most of the time. Ever since its release in 1992, I’ve had a weird relationship with it, finding it almost impossible to finish, but enjoying how utterly bizarre and stupid it tends to be. Even at his worst, Stephen King offers up something you’ve never really seen before, and there is a sure bet you haven’t seen a lot of movies about anthropomorphic vampiric feline people wreaking havoc in a small town. We’re never quite clued in to what the Sleepwalkers actually are, as King keeps a lot of their background in the dark, or left for us to decipher. King has a good time toying with the audience though, by relying on a ton of incestuous overtones that are used as a means of explaining how the monsters feed on life force.
Much of the screen time shared between Kraus and Krige is painful and uncomfortable, with King almost purposely never quite clarifying if the pair of monsters is in love, or just relying on one another for the sake of food. There’s also Mädchen Amick’s Tanya who, while sporting one of the best screams I’ve ever heard, is one of the more unusual characters. She listens to bad covers of classic soul, and has an unusual fascination with cemeteries. For what reasons, it’s also never quite clarified, but it’s a quirk for a character that’s injected for the sake of giving the collective audience furrowed brows. Everyone in “Sleepwalkers” is at the height of over the top, from Mick Garris’ weird direction, Brian Krause’s uneven performance, and Alice Krige who goes all out villainous in the climax. There’s also Ron Perlman who has a number of three short scenes, and chews the scenery with as much zeal as humanly possible.
Everything about “Sleepwalkers” is just so inexplicable, you essentially give up trying to make sense of a lot of it, and that’s why it’s such a goofy guilty pleasure. There’s death by corn on the cob, death by pencil, and some of the most inept police ever put to film. Also I’m not sure why Charlie can shape shift in to the face of a little boy, or why cats are the space vampires’ worst enemies, or what kind of power changing the shape of your car is. And if they get sustenance by sucking life forces, why do they eat food? To add to the eccentricity there are also a slew of cameos from folks like Mark Hamil, John Landis, Joe Dante, Clive Barker, and Tobe Hooper for reasons I’m sure only Stephen King can justify. “Sleepwalkers” is not a good movie, nor a scary one, but you’re guaranteed a good time with its inherent stupidity and silliness.
The new Collector’s Edition from Scream comes with an audio commentary from Director Mick Garris, and actors Mädchen Amick and Brian Krause. “Feline Trouble” is an eighteen minute interview with Mick Garris, and how he approached Stephen King’s original novel for the film. “When Charles Met Tanya” is a fifteen minute conversation with Mädchen Amick and Brian Krause, both of who have a fun and candid conversation about their life before the movie, previous work with one another, and working on certain points in the movie. It’s a new trend Scream Factory is engaging in with interviews and it’s a lot of fun to watch the back and forth between cast members.
“Mother & More” is a fifteen minute interview with Alice Krige, who discusses her approach toward her role in the film with a lively conversation. “Creatures & Cats: The FX of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers” is a fifteen minute interview with make up effects creator Tony Gardner and prosthetics designer Mike Smithson, both of whom discuss bringing the creatures to life, and working on past films together, as well as their future work on “The Tommyknockers.” Finally there is a minute of Behind the Scenes Footage, the original theatrical trailer, TV Spots, and an HD Still Gallery.