Sleepwalkers (1992)


“There’s a Lot of Cats!”

Main Cast: Brian Krause, Alice Krige

Director: Mick Garris

Stephen King’s 1992 movie, SLEEPWALKERS, an original screenplay that had no pre-existing novel or short story to go with it, starts with the promise of great intrigue.  Unfortunately, the rest of the movie fails to deliver and, in the end, turns into a mess of muddled backstory and poor character development.

We open in Bodega Bay, CA where Lt. Jennings (cameo by Mark Hamill) and his fellow officers are on the scene at a house where dozens of cats have been strung up outside like Christmas decorations, while inside they find the dried out husk of a body that used to belong to a teenage girl, and now looks like it’s been mummified for centuries.

Immediately, we’re then transported to Travis, IN where teen hunk Charles Brady (Brian Krause, RETURN TO THE BLUE LAGOON) and his mother, Mary (Alice Krige, STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT), talk about how Charles is going to the movies later in hopes of asking out a girl in his creative writing class.  They then dance a little before Charles sweeps his mother into his arms and carries her upstairs.


Later, Charles goes to the movies where he runs into teen beauty Tanya Robertson (Madchen Amick, Twin Peaks) who gives him popcorn and a drink on the house.  He offers her a ride home, but Tanya’s dad usually picks her up.

The next day at school, Charles is reading a story he had written about a mother and son duo of sleepwalkers who are forced from their home and must live on the run, always persecuted by humans.  Subtle.  Tanya likes the story, but the teacher, Mr. Fallows, doesn’t appreciate being corrected in front of the class when he says a box has four sides and Charles contends it in fact has six.  After school, Charles gives Tanya a ride home where the two agree to meet the next day to go to a local cemetery for a picnic.

On the ride home, Mr. Fallows pulls Charles over and confronts him with the truth that Charles’s school transcripts are fake.  Charles chases the man into the woods and kills him.  High on life, Charles speeds down the highway afterward where he’s soon chased by a local cop.  He refuses to pull over and then tries to run over a little girl getting off a school bus.  Charles is having a good time eluding the cop until he sees the cop has a cat in the car with him.  Sleepwalkers and cats don’t get along and Charles panics, allowing his true face to be seen by the cop before ducking onto a side road and rendering himself and his car invisible.

The cop goes on without him and Charles transforms his car from a Trans-Am into a Mustang, and drives home where his mother is angry that Charles hasn’t sucked out Tanya’s life essence in order to feed it to Mary.

Like I said, the movie starts off pretty good, but then just gets weird and poorly explained.

Charles and Tanya make it to the cemetery the next afternoon where things get heated, but when Charles tries to drain Tanya’s life, she fights back.  Losing his concentration, Charles’s Mustang transforms back to a Trans-Am and at this convenient moment, the cop who had chased him yesterday happens by, sees the car, and stops.  Luckily for Tanya it allows her the chance to escape, unluckily for the cop Charles kills him.  Thank God for Clovis, the cop’s cat, who attacks Charles, mangling and almost killing him.

Charles barely makes it home, and when Mary sees what’s happened to her only son, she goes on the warpath.  She intends to eat Tanya’s essence, saving herself and Charles, if it’s the last thing she does.

Good Lord, this movie.  When I first heard King had written an original movie, I was psyched.  I couldn’t wait to see this one.  Well, that’s not true, I COULD wait and didn’t actually see it until it hit video.

I’m glad I didn’t bother seeing this stinker in the theater.  I can’t place all the blame on King, though.  I think he had the bones of a decent idea, if a bit clichéd, it just wasn’t as fully developed as it needed to be to make it comprehensible to audiences.  Are Sleepwalkers even a real thing?  The movie claims they are “[N]omadic shape-shifting creatures with human and feline organs.  Vulnerable to the deadly scratch of the cat. The sleepwalker feeds upon the life force of virginal human females.  Probable source of the Vampire legend.”  But I’ve yet to find any mention of them outside this movie, so if they are a made up creature, they’re very poorly conceived.

For one, if they are part cat and, in their true forms, look like giant, bald, bipedal cats, then why are cats so dangerous to them?  Isn’t that like humans being deadly to the touch of other humans?  That just doesn’t make any sense.

Also, the incestuous relationship between Charles and his mother doesn’t feel like a necessary part of the plot, and only added for shock value.  It was pretty shocking and turned a lot of viewers off.  Charles and his mother talk at one point about whether they’re the last of their kind, so maybe they’re just trying to continue the bloodline, but if so, this is never clarified. 

I said I can’t place all the blame for this one on King, and that’s because at least a full half of it has to go to director Mick Garris.  You wanna talk about lame King adaptations, Garris has been at the helm of too many of them to make me think they were flukes and instead has me convinced he’s just not a good director.  Sure, he loves the horror genre, that’s evident in his career choices, but he’s just not delivering on the promise of HORROR.

SLEEPWALKERS is a prime example.  Visually it’s not a terrible movie, and it was one of the first to use morphing effects, which come across as effective, though now dated.  But as a storyteller, Garris is the pits.  We get a clear sense of time and place, we know where each scene is taking place and we’re pretty clear on when one scene happens in relation to the one before it, but as for explaining anything at all, or giving us characters to care about, Mick Garris is flailing about here. 

Even the moments meant as jump scares here fall flat.  It’s just not a frightening movie.  Every frame screams “made for TV”, and considering the bulk of Garris’ resume up to that point was made up of TV series and TV movies, is it any wonder?  I just don’t get King’s loyalty to Mick Garris, but the man is not a good director of King’s work, period.

I admire the actors for giving it their all, despite SLEEPWALKERS being a complete mess almost from the start.  They did what they could with the material and they tried to make it work.

I do believe this movie could have worked, had the backstory been better developed and more fully explained.  At least maybe we would have understood what was going on without having to watch it more than once or, years later, consult the internet to help untangle some muddled plot threads. 

In the end, I cannot, in good conscience, recommend SLEEPWALKERS, neither to King fans nor horror fans.  On my DVD case, one of the blurbs claims this movie is “Sexy, sleek and horrifyingly scary.”  Yeah well, I wanna see whatever movie that guy was talking about because it sure isn’t this one.

King on Film

Carrie (1976)

‘Salem’s Lot (1979)

The Shining (1980)

Creepshow (1982)

The Boogeyman (1982)

Cujo (1983)

Disciples of the Crow (1983)

The Woman in the Room (1983)

The Dead Zone (1983)

Christine (1983)

Children of the Corn (1984)

Firestarter (1984)

Word Processor of the Gods (1984)

Cat’s Eye (1985)

Silver Bullet (1985)

Srazhenie (1986)

Gramma (1986)

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Stand By Me(1986)

The Lawnmower Man (1987)

Creepshow 2 (1987)

A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987)

The Running Man (1987)

Sorry, Right Number (1987)

Pet Sematary (1989)

The Cat From Hell (1990)

The Graveyard Shift (1990)

IT (1990 Mini-Series)

Misery (1990)

The Moving Finger (1991)

Sometimes They Come Back (1991)

Golden Years (1991)

The Lawnmower Man

The Dark Half (1993)

The Tommyknockers (1993)

Needful Things (1993)

The Stand (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

The Mangler (1995)

Dolores Claiborne (1995)

The Langoliers (1995)

Sometimes They Comes Back … Again (1996)

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)

Thinner (1996)

The Shining (1997)

Ghosts (1997)

Chattery Teeth (1997)

The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson (1997)

Trucks (1997)

The Night Flier (1997)

Chinga (1997)

Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)

Gerald’s Game (2017)

1922 (2017)

The Stand (2021)

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