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Review: Sleepwalkers

Stephen King's gory supernatural horror makes its UK Blu-ray debut on 26th October

Written by Jonathan Hatfull

Even in a canon as eclectic and wildly variable in quality as “Stephen King movies”, 1992’s Sleepwalkers stands out. Boasting the tagline “The first Stephen King story written expressly for the scream”, it’s a wild blend of gory horror and slapstick comedy, with innocent schoolgirls, incestuous shapeshifters and cat-loving cops who keep getting dispatched by small objects.

Alice Krige and Brian Krause star as the titular creatures, aka Mary and Charles Brady, a mother-son team of shapeshifting feline vampires who feed on the energy of young virgins. When they arrive in the picturesque town of Travis, Indiana, Charles (Krause) sets his sights on the lovely Tanya (Twin Peaks’ Mädchen Amick) …but will his efforts be undone by the local police and their adorable pet cat Clovis?

Sleepwalkers was the first King movie directed by Mick Garris, who would quickly go on to establish himself as the most doggedly faithful adaptor of the author’s work with The Stand and The Shining miniseries. His reverence for King’s words is already on display here as the film plays out like a condensed version of one of his less coherent stories, tilting madly from small town high school drama to almost-direct-to-camera one-liners (“Cop kebab!”) to tragic ancient monsters, with no regard for tonal consistency or plot beyond getting Tanya’s life force out of her. There’s no time to ask yourself what the deal is with that cat because by the time you’ve formed the question someone’s been stabbed in the brain with a pencil. Yes, the creature mythology is wildly underexplored but hey, there’s a scene where Stephen King gripes at Tobe Hooper and Clive Barker. It’s mad, it’s messy, but if you’re starting to get bored, Ron Perlman will be along in a minute.

That berserk energy and blind faith that the audience is on 100% board is what gives Sleepwalkers its weird charm. The performances are enthusiastic (the imperious Krige is particularly good and probably deserved a much better movie), the practical gore effects are impressive, and the body count is relentless, but it crumbles under close (or not particularly close) inspection, best remembered in fragments of “What was that movie where Alice Krige killed the guy with the corn cob holder?”

If the original poster art gives you a VHS thrill then Eureka’s Blu-ray is well worth a look, packed with plenty of nostalgic input from Garris, Krause, Amick and Krige, but anyone viewing for the first time should probably approach with caution. As Garris notes in his interview, Sleepwalkers was savaged by critics, and while it’s hard to say that it deserved good reviews, every now and then we all feel like re-watching that movie where that monster gets into a shouting match with a cat named Clovis.

Bonus content includes:

New Audio Commentary with director Mick Garris and film historian Lee Gambin

Audio Commentary with director Mick Garris, Mädchen Amick, and Brian Krause

"Feline Trouble" interview with director Mick Garris

"When Charles Met Tanya" conversation with actors Mädchen Amick And Brian Krause

"Mother & More" interview with actress Alice Krige

"Creatures & Cats: The FX of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers" featurette

Behind-the-scenes footage

Theatrical trailer


Director: Mick Garris

Screenwriter: Stephen King

Cast: Alice Krige, Brian Krause, Mädchen Amick

Distributor: Eureka

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 91 mins

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