Sleepwalkers Coughs Up a Hairball, Not Scares

In 1992, across two back-to-back months, two Stephen King movies made their way to theaters. One of those movies, The Lawnmower Man, bared little resemblance to King’s short story. Clearly unimpressed, the author sued to remove his name from the credits. As for the second movie, Sleepwalkers, King conjured up the story of ‘shapeshifting feline vampires’ specifically for the movie. And frequent King-collaborator, Mick Garris directed. But King should have considered wiping his name of this one, too. Though Sleepwalkers performed modestly at the box office, most critics and fans alike hated it. Yes, Sleepwalkers is a bad movie, but has it attained ‘guilty pleasure’ status?

Synopsis

Charles Brady is the kid in a small town. He’s charming, bright, and drives a cool car. And he’s a loving and devoted son to his mother, Mary. In fact, Charles defines the ‘boy next door’. But there’s just one problem. Mary and Charles aren’t human. They’re the last of the their kind – shapeshifting vampire-like creatures who feed on the lifeforce of virginal young women. Now Charles has his eyes on his classmate Tanya. As their lifeforce wanes, Charles quickly moves to use his charming outer demeanor to lure Tanya and drain her of all her life.

Sleepwalkers an Illogically Plotted Mess

When King directed Maximum Overdrive, he admitted that he was pretty much coked out during most of the production. Though he may have had all his senses while drafting the Sleepwalkers story, he clearly didn’t put in the same effort as he might have into a novel. To say that this is an illogically plotted movie would be an understatement. First, King’s mother and son monsters are a cross between lifeforce-sucking vampires and shapeshifting cat people. But cats are basically kryptonite to them for some reason. And at one point Charles’ face shifts into a baby. Don’t ask. Oh, the shapeshifting mother and son also have telekinetic powers that allow them to be invisible and change the appearance of their car. If you’re confused, don’t worry, because it’s not entirely clear that any of this is intended to make sense.

To say that this is an illogically paced movie would be an understatement.

Fortunately, Sleepwalkers doesn’t pause very often for its own convoluted internal logic to self-combust. That is, King’s script sets up needless conflicts to keep things moving along. If Charles isn’t ripping off his high school teacher’s hand he’s drag-racing a highway patrolmen. Conveniently, the same patrolmen’s cat rides shotgun. That there’s no need for these plot points is irrelevant to the story. For someone who’s frustrated by his need to move from town to town, Charles goes out of his way to attract attention. But these scenes do add some some campy violence to fill the voids. In what may be one of the more bizarre murder weapons in horror movie history, Mary stabs someone with a piece of corn on the cob.

Sleepwalkers Sucks the Life Out of Its Cast From Top to Bottom

No one escapes Sleepwalkers unscathed. Most of the performances range from campy to embarrassed. Not that King’s convoluted screenplay and cringeworthy dialogue do the cast any favours. Arguably, Brian Krause came out the worse from Sleepwalkers. He’s stiff early on but as the story ramps up Krause dials up the scene-chewing. To be fair, however, no one was going to come off well reciting lines like, ‘Cop-Kabob’. Not surprisingly, Krause never turned up in anything of note after this movie. Only Alice Krige (Ghost Story) rivals Krause in the camp-department. Despite some good acting chops, Krige opts to double-down on the melodramatics. In one of the movie’s oddest elements, the incestuous relationship between mother and son is just kind of there in the movie.

And there’s less chemistry between her and Krause then between the movie’s mother and son.

As would-be victim Tanya Robertson, Madchen Amick plays it stiff and awkward early before moving to hysterical victim. Again, how much of this is Amick’s fault is hard to discern. Specifically, Sleepwalkers doesn’t ask much of her character. And there’s less chemistry between her and Krause then between the movie’s mother and son. In addition, a young Ron Perlman pops up in a small role as a mean-spirited State Trooper. It’s a brief role that culminates in Mary biting off his fingers. Perhaps Sleepwalkers’ biggest highlight is the number of horror legends who pop up in cameo roles. Alongside King himself, Tobe Hopper, Clive Barker, Joe Dante, and John Landis all turn up. Even Mark Hamill makes an uncredited appearance.

Sleepwalkers a Hopelessly Inept Movie

Bottom line, Sleepwalkers is a bad movie that borders on inept. When a character goes through a window and it looks like a stunt dummy comes out the other side, you know you’re not watching The Shining. But Sleepwalkers has one thing going for it. As illogical and stupid as the movie gets, it’s never boring. In fact, Sleepwalkers quickly becomes rather funny stuff. With the right group of people and some alcohol, Sleepwalkers hits that sweet spot between painfully awful and guilty pleasure fun. So yes, Sleepwalkers is so bad it’s good.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL VERDICT: SO BAD, IT’S GOOD

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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