The purrfect way to check out on Stephen King’s cult horror
Although there have been many great adaptations of Stephen King’s work over the years (The Mist, Shawshank, Misery), there has been a surge of late with a IT adaptation, Netflix productions of Gerald’s Game and 1922, and the recent Castle Rock series (we shall not speak of the Dark Tower movie). This swell of interest in his work has prompted many (including Shout! Factory) to delve into some of his more…interesting works. Sleepwalkers is a rather bonkers affair, combining a unnerving tale with campy carnage, a game cast, and Clovis the cat. In a nutshell it showcases much of the greatness and WTFuckery of King’s output, and this new Blu-ray is a great way to appreciate it for the first time.
Brian Krause and Alice Krige star in this terrifying tale of modern-day vampires who move from small town to small town to prey on virtuous young women. Imperceptibly inhuman to everyone except for felines, these vicious shape-shifters have their eyes on a new victim: Mädchen Amick is Tanya, the sexually curious virgin who falls for Charles, the new boy in school (Krause). Mutating at will from golden boy to savage monster, Charles stalks Tanya to feed his seductive mother. As the tension mounts (and the casualties pile up), the town’s tabbies gather for a final, chilling showdown with the monsters in their midst — and we all know it’s not nice to hurt people’s felines.
Sleepwalkers opens in impressive fashion: two cops enter a house surrounded by strung up cats, within finding the macabre sight of a woman, shriveled and drained of life. It’s a dark setting to introduce the titular creatures, Charles Brady (Brian Krause) and his mother Mary (Alice Krige), mythical shapeshifters that must feed on the souls of virgins to maintain their youth. Relocating to Travis, Indiana, they select their next victim, Tanya Richardson (Mädchen Amick), with Charles joining her school in order to win her trust and bring her home to mother. This sets the scene for an intriguing dance between predator and prey. After an initial sweet courtship, Charles reveals his true self to the Tanya, and this crazed beast emerges, one that toys with its prey before she is able to fight him off, wounding him in the process. In this weakened state, it’s down to Mary to fend for them both.
This manic feeling that is unleashed when Charles transforms exerts its influence over everything that follows. There are brutal moments of violence, some of it entertainingly excessive (watch for the corn cob) and verging on slapstick. Gaudier theatrical elements get ramped up, such as a vulnerability of these shapeshifters to cats, but with the backdrop of more unsettling incidents and truths, notably the reveal that this monstrous pair engages in an incestuous relationship. It adds a disturbing and tragic layer to the film, one that furthers their isolation and gives depth to the grim prices they pay for immortality.
Krige sets a benchmark here for the ‘mothers as monsters’ in films, with a cool calculating demeanor giving way to that of a unhinged protective mother/lover (ew). She nearly steals the show, but let’s not be fooling ourselves now; the real star here is Clovis the cat. The charms of Amick are on full display from the off here, but special mention is deserved for a dance in a cinema to Do You Love Me by The Contours. It’s one of many memorable deployments of music in the film that also includes Enya’s Boadicea track no. 16 over the opening credits and the recurring use of Sleepwalk by Santo and Johnny throughout. In a nutshell, these choices encapsulate the manic nature of the piece, and yet, they all work. Director Garris does well to capture and blend the differing tones of the script, delivering well deployed jump scares and a unnerving vibe that persists amidst the schlockier elements. These are memorable moments that entertain, with great special effects (for its time), not to mention some delightful cameos from horror directors and genre actors. The manic, camp nature of Sleepwalkers could put off some, but is equally able to elevate it to cult status.
The release presents an image that is of good quality. Blacks are solid and deep, colors are natural, detail and texture are good. There is some evidence of blur and dirt, and the image quality isn’t quite as pristine as some recent Shout! releases I’ve seen, but it’s still a pleasant presentation. Special features are plentiful and elevate the package:
- NEW Audio Commentary With Director Mick Garris And Actors Mädchen Amick And Brian Krause: This is a really great commentary. Garris is a font of information, about this film and the horror genre in general, while Amick and Krause have a great rapport and offer some great behind the scenes tales as well as their own takes on the creatures depicted in the film.
- NEW Feline Trouble — An Interview With Director Mick Garris: The director talks about his experience directing for the first time, nearly losing the opportunity, and also about some of the great cameos he worked into the film.
- NEW When Charles Met Tanya — A Conversation With Actors Mädchen Amick And Brian Krause: Amick and Krause are back! The pair discuss the prosthetics used, what they were like to work with, experiences during the production, and how they see the story continued after the film ended.
- NEW Family Values — An Interview With Actress Alice Krige: The actress talks about what drew her to the role, her experiences on set, and how the film has impacted her career, notably in regards tot he cult fandom she garnered.
- NEW Feline Trouble: The FX Of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers — Interviews With Special Make-up Effects Creator Tony Gardner And Prosthetics Designer Mike Smithson: Focuses on the special effects, and rightfully so. Looks at how the designs came about, including earlier versions, how the sits were assembled and used, and how the cats were wrangled for some of the scenes.
- Behind-The-Scenes Footage: On set footage, gives some cool looks at the prosthetics used.
- Theatrical Trailer & TV Spots: It’s remarkable how this film was sold.
- Still Gallery: Stills, posters, promo shots, and production images.
Underneath the camp, B-movie excess that takes over Sleepwalkers, there is an unnerving and tragic tale. Director Mike Garris effectively combines the two in entertaining fashion, aided by fine work from Amick, Krause, and Kriege. Shout! Factory have done admirable work putting together a fresh set of extras that complement the film and its cult status.
Sleepwalkers is available via Shout! Factory from November 6th, 2018.