'Sleepwalkers' is one of the most appropriate movie titles ever. You've gotta be sleepwalking to get through it. Before you know it, you've woken up to the end credits and the New Age sounds of Enya, which are more interesting than the movie itself. It's also the perfect adjective for the performances and the work of the crew putting this 89-minute dud together. The plot doesn't make a lick of sense. Who'd a thought, a story involving a much-too-intimate mother and son, nomadic feline shape-shifters, a yard full of cats, and life-force sucking vampires (oh, the irony!) that look like giant hairless moles would turn out so terribly.
The movie marks Mick Garris' love affair with all things Stephen King, which has allowed him a decently busy career ever since, albeit with mostly forgettable adaptations of the famed author's work. Today, the filmmaker is likely better known for creating the short-lived 'Masters of Horror' television series, which was quite the favorite amongst horror fanatics, as well as its sister TV show, 'Fear Itself,' which was even shorter-lived, brought to a swift death by the 2008 Summer Olympics. Aside from these network shows, it's safe to say his best feature-length motion picture still remains 'Hocus Pocus,' the eccentric witch tale which he co-wrote. In 'Sleepwalkers,' Garris does fine behind the camera, initially creating an amusing air of mystery, but his style often falls into a workmanlike mode that eventually feels drab.
Many of the flaws can be related back to Stephen King's original screenplay and a hidden aspiration for the movie to be a great many things all rolled into one. The legendary master of horror, a moniker undeniably well-deserved, is without a doubt one of the most widely influential authors in motion picture history, especially in the horror genre. His stories have inspired many great and scary movies, a few of which continue to be remembered as masterpieces. King has also shown he can translate one or two ideas of his own into respectable features, such as the always fun 'Creepshow,' the competent 'Maximum Overdrive' and best of all 'Pet Sematary.' Yet, when it comes to this weird mess, a one-trick pony without the trick that just ends abruptly and leaves behind a laundry list of questions, something went wrong while trying to do too much with very little.
The script starts off as a kind of mystery thriller with Alice Krige and Brian Krause, an incestuous mother and son pair on the run and hiding out in Indiana where things quickly unravel for them. Part of the mystery is trying to determine what in the hell they are. A title card at the beginning with a definition of "Sleepwalker" offers a minor insight into their mythological origins but is at last of little use. We never figure out if they're were-cats, abnormal vampires, shape-shifters, skin-walkers of Native American folklore, or why cats are so deadly to them. The story, too, is a crackpot shape-shifter, suddenly switching gears into the horror comedy realm when Krause tries to take advantage of his latest virginal victim (the lovely Mädchen Amick) in a cemetery. It's never really sure if it wants audiences to laugh or cringe at the absurdity of Krause's cat-like features. Then things get really weird for the remainder of the time.
Revisiting 'Sleepwalkers' several years later (the first time was during its original theatrical run), it's difficult to disassociate the primary cast for their better-known roles. Krige is forever the Borg Queen in the Star Trek mythos, which is not a bad thing honestly; Krause is better utilized in the 'Charmed' TV series; and Amick will always be the miserable waitress Shelly Johnson of the cult TV show 'Twin Peaks.' Admittedly, the movie does hold my attention all the way to the end. This is partly because it's so damn weird and completely out of left field, but also because of the cameos which seem like inside tee-hee moments between the filmmakers and the audience.
Stephen King is the cemetery caretaker sharing a few brief words with Clive Barker and Tobe Hooper. Then, John Landis and Joe Dante suddenly show up as bickering lab technicians. Mark Hamill makes an uncredited appearance as a moustache-wearing detective at a murder scene. Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward played Ferris Bueller's parents a few years earlier. So, in a horror flick lacking the horror or anything else really worth appreciating, at least 'Sleepwalkers' offers this fun game of identify that cameo appearance.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Image Entertainment brings 'Sleepwalkers' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc inside a blue eco-vortex case. At startup, the disc goes straight to the main menu with music and full-motion clips.
'Sleepwalkers' sleepwalks its way to Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that keeps shape-shifting from excellent Blu-ray to a pretty good upscaled DVD.
When it looks great, it's practically fantastic. The 1.85:1 image (the back of the package weirdly states 2.35:1) displays terrific clarity and definition on several occasions, especially in daylight exteriors. With comfortably bright contrast, giving the picture a good punchy quality, details of clothing, foliage and the blue Pontiac Trans Am are crisp and distinct. Colors are accurate and cleanly-rendered with primaries looking particularly vivid in a few scenes. With a thin layer of grain throughout, black levels are rich and true without overwhelming background information in the shadows.
When the video looks bad, it's very noticeable, dipping in resolution quite drastically and suddenly. Often appearing more like DVD quality than high-def, the image softens and the color timing seems much warmer than normal. All the positives pretty much disappear, and the constant shifting back and forth eventually becomes a distraction.
The back of the packaging again lists incorrect information, this time mislabeling the audio as 5.1 when in actuality, it's in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo.
This isn't exactly a bad thing since the original design has always been in Dolby Stereo anyhow. In fact, the soundtrack is surprisingly impressive with a sharply-rendered and appreciably dynamic mid-range. Small background activity fills the screen with strong discrete details which broaden the soundstage and maintain it that way through the movie's entirety. Nicholas Pike's score takes advantage of this with excellent fidelity and instrumentation while Enya's oddly creepy melody feels particularly eerie with a wide, ethereal imaging. There isn't much going on in the low-end department, but bass is still noticeable and palpable during action sequences. Dialogue is well-prioritized in the center with crystal-clear clarity of each actor's emotive changes, especially in Krige's unique accent.
The only available supplement is the movie's original theatrical trailer in HD.
From an original screenplay by Stephen King, 'Sleepwalkers' is the Mick Garris-directed horror feature that tries to bring life to a strange mythological creature. Mostly boring and ultimately unmemorable, the movie can still be watched simply out of curiosity for a bizarre story that forgets to be scary and to laugh at the variety of cameo appearances of well-known faces. The Blu-ray shows up with an inconsistent, shape-shifting high-def transfer but a very good audio presentation. In the end, this bare-bones release will only attract the fans.