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Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #285

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Number of Views: Two
Release Date: April 10, 1992
Sub-Genre: Supernatural/Splatter
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $15,000,000
Box Office: $30,524,763
Running Time: 91 minutes
Director: Mick Garris
Producers: Michael Grais, Mark Victor, Dimitri Logothetis, Nabeel Zahid
Screenplay: Stephen King
Story: Stephen King
Special Effects: Vance Hartwell, Dennis Dion, Carolyn Oros
Visual Effects: Jeffrey A. Okun
Cinematography: Rodney Charters
Soundtrack: Nicholas Pike
Editing: O. Nicholas Brown
Studios: Columbia Pictures Corporation, Victor & Grais Productions, Ion Pictures
Distributors: Columbia Pictures
Stars: Brian Krause, Mädchen Amick, Alice Krige, Jim Haynie, Cindy Pickett, Ron Perlman, Lyman Ward, Dan Martin, Glenn Shadix, Cynthia Garris, Monty Bane, John Landis, Joe Dante, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper, Frank Novak

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Suggested Audio Candy:

Enya Boadicea

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Stephen King’s ears may well be burning right now. As well as recently fashioning fiction based on some of his fine literary feasts, I have also seen fit to dig around in the great man’s vaults and take another look at a smattering of the numerous big screen adaptations of this man’s intellectual wares. I can already hear many of your thoughts right now; “Uh oh. Here comes Sleepwalkers. Grab your umbrella as it’s gonna be raining cats.” Well you may be surprised to learn that I have no intention of flogging this dead horse, instead I aim to resuscitate it and sell it to science. You see, whereas this film fell from the skies faster than a kamikaze pilot suffering from a mid-flight stroke, it’s actually rather a dainty little delight.

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Let’s not get things twisted; Mick Garris’ crude curiosity isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of even my imagination and I’m not about to place my balls on the chopping block and suggest any different. However, there are fundamental rules to making a horror movie worthy of our time and many of them are adhered to here. Indeed, King himself is actually rather fond of Garris’ treatment and its hard to argue when the toughest audience of all to impress actually has a soft spot. In his opinion it’s a whole lot of fun and one of the bloodiest interpretations of his work yet. I make him right, after all, who am I to argue with the king of the swingers over a spoiled banana? He’s the jungle VIP for crying out loud! Besides, Enya’s enchanting Boadicea will win you over if all else fails.

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There are a number of myths surrounding Sleepwalkers and one such mistruth is that it bombed theatrically. Actually, while not affording the writer his own personal island just off the coast of Antigua, it saw respectable returns to the tune of around $30m. Considering it was such an ambitious project and evidently involved a silo-load of effects and animatronics, it was shot on a barely workable budget. Garris deserves a hand-shake just for realizing his vision with such financial blinkers making it awkward to say the least. King is open about his admiration for the director of the legendary Phantasm and stated that he would work with him again in a heartbeat. Well hell, while we’re all opening up; Mick I loves ya too buddy. Sleepwalkers or no Sleepwalkers. There, I feel better already.

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The story involved a dashing twenty-something mommy’s boy named Charles Brady (Brian Krause); a young man with a rather unhealthy connection to his overbearing mother Mary (the deliciously demanding Alice Krige). While Norman Bates would likely cringe at the prospect of spooning his considerable elder while his perky pencil prods at her exposed femur, Charles can’t really be blamed for struggling to rebuff her advances. It Mary were my mother, it’s probable I would have a go too. What? Don’t be getting on your soap boxes now. Okay, maybe there is a time for one’s filter to become active. The fact remains that she’s a hot mama and, moreover, spends most of the day in tantalizing nightgowns surrounded by purring pussies. What’s a man to do? You can’t give Christopher Walken a firearm and a red head scarf and not expect him to fire off a few rounds. Cut Charles some slack please.

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Anyhoots, mother and son are the last of a fast floundering breed with particular symbiotic cravings. In their circles it is perfectly acceptable to engage in a little incestuous coitus once in a while, should such be necessitated. Mary’s estrogen levels are through the roof and Charles just looks so dang good in a pullover. However, all this ominous fumbling isn’t helping matters as they are both hurtling towards extinction faster than a banana in a bobsled and the only thing that can reverse the slide is…that old favorite…the life-force of a female virgin. After all the practice Charles has had pilfering from mommy’s pantry, he is primed to go forth and multiply. The poor lad looks exhausted; before he can restock the cupboard he is sent out to seduce and destroy. Anyone with a third of a brain knows that a man loses all interest in anything whatsoever after shooting their magical beans. As a direct result the whole process is slowed considerably as he stumps on getting to know Tanya instead.

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Tanya (Mädchen Amick) is your all-American girl next door type and isn’t about to jump into the sack with the first admittedly charismatic cad who comes sniffing; while anger management clearly didn’t teach Charles shit as the bodies begin to pile up faster than you can say “here kitty.” Invariably the net commences closing in as the local constabulary begin to follow the sweetcorn trail back to his homestead and dear old mom. Bless her, as if there’s not enough to worry about with keeping her head down so as not to arouse the interest of every cat in the neighborhood; now she’s got 5-0 on her gown-flaps too. Felines are her type’s nemesis; they know exactly what she’s up to and aren’t taking it lightly. A cat’s eye sees all right? Ask King himself and he will concur. So it doesn’t take much for them to see their thin veiled humanity for what it really is…a bunch of cobblers and a spinning top.

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All hell breaks loose and it is here where Garris keeps us from piling through the cat flap. It’s hard to argue with a man who punishes a decorated member of the constabulary with corn on the cob. Everything becomes that infernal ball from Phantasm and, it has to be said, said vegetable climbs in up to its waist in the poor douche’s shoulder. Then there’s Ron Perlman; I challenge you to find a film which hasn’t benefited from shoehorning in his glorious elongated face. There’s just too many reasons to marginally love Sleepwalkers to become snagged in technicalities. It does what it sets out to with the minimum of fuss, entertains the hell out of us for a full 91 minutes and then turns its back on us instantly just as a cat would after receiving adequate petting. Could it actually be a classic? If you compare it to Sometimes They Come Back…Again then I guess the answer to that is a jubilant yes.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 4/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Don’t forget your serviettes. Sleepwalkers was sadly cock-blocked by the MPAA and cuts were made to afford it an R rating. Don’t distress, as there’s plentiful broth left in the casserole dish. Blood trickles, sprays and jettisons as limbs are removed and garden vegetables plundered aplenty. The visual effects, particularly those transformations, are somewhat crude of course. However, when you consider that production was hamstrung by a cripplingly fragile budget, Garris and his team worked small marvels.

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