This week sees the release of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, and proves to be the perfect set for some classic horror just in time for Halloween.
The film follows mother and son Charles (Bian Krause) and Mary (Alice Krige) Brady, who have recently moved to the small town of Travis, Indiana. Despite looking like regular human beings the two of them are actually Sleepwalkers, a pair of shape-shifting energy vampires who feed off the life force of virgin girls. The pair have set their sights on local girl Tanya (Madchen Amick) to be their next meal.
Over the course of the film Charles uses his charming personality to win Tanya’s affection, trying to lure her into a situation where he can feed off her. However, when his plan doesn’t go as expected he and his mother find themselves being hunted by local law enforcement.
Sleepwalkers marks the first time that Stephen King wrote an original screenplay, rather than having one of his existing works adapted to film, and because of this it definitely feels a lot tighter than some other films with his name attached. It moves at a pace that is sometimes lacking in other King films, and seems to have a much more relaxed feel to it, even going so far as to embrace some dark comedy, rather than trying for an oppressive atmosphere. Though this will also in part be down to director Mick Garris, who before this film worked on Critters 2, another horror with a comedic tone.
The film itself is, despite the dark tone of the subject matter, is quite a bright and lively piece, and even includes a car chase in the middle of the day, something that I wasn’t expecting from a film with King’s name attached. It seems to know that the very concept, two shape-shifting cat-like entities that suck the soul out of people, is ridiculous, and doesn’t try to make it anything else. That’s not to say there isn’t a decent level of threat though, as the Sleepwalkers themselves are still dangerous foes, and there are a number of scenes in the film that show off how vicious and powerful these entities are, with some good effects work involved.
The biggest downside, however, is that as an animal lover, and someone who has cats, it is at times pretty hard to watch. The film opens with a scene where there are dozens of murdered cats hanging in a tree, in various grotesque states, and towards the end Mary snaps a cat’s neck (something that Krige, in the extras, admits was a hard scene for her to film). Whilst I know these moments are fake, and that no cats were hurt, it still made the film difficult to watch and tainted some of my enjoyment.
Despite these moments, one of the best parts of the film is a cat; in this case Sparks, who plays Clovis, who belongs to one of the local police officers. Clovis absolutely steals every scene he’s in, and even has a few heroic moments that would have meant the death of Tanya if he wasn’t there to save her. It’s not often a cat gets to play a hero, but I love it when they do.
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This new release comes with a number of new special features, including interviews with the director, three lead actors, and special effects team, all of which shed some interesting light on the production of the film. The interview with Krige is particularly interesting as it gives viewers an insight into how she, as a classically trained actor, gets into the head-space of the characters she plays. The disc also includes two new audio commentaries, both of which are a lot of fun to listen to, and provide even more information on the production of the film than the extras.
Sleepwalkers is definitely one of the more interesting King films, and it’s a fun piece of early 90’s horror with some great actors and a bag full of cameos. If you’re not normally a fan of Stephen King movies this might be one that’s worth a watch, as it’s definitely a lot of fun.
Sleepwalkers is out on Blu-ray on 26th October from Eureka Entertainment.