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Charles Brady and his mother Mary move to a small town. They are sleepwalkers - they can change their appearance and they need the life force from young women. Charles has picked out young Tanya as his next victim. He asks her for a date and invites her home...
For more about Sleepwalkers and the Sleepwalkers Blu-ray release, see Sleepwalkers Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on September 3, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Alice Krige, Brian Krause, Mädchen Amick, Lyman Ward, Cindy Pickett, Ron Perlman
Director: Mick Garris
» See full cast & crew
Sleepwalkers Blu-ray Review
Get That Cat Out of Here!
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, September 3, 2012
Sleepwalkers was released in 1992, but it feels much older. From telltale signs like the clothing and the Sony Walkman that the heroine uses to make her job less boring, the story is clearly set in the Eighties, and the use of what was then cutting-edge CGI to "morph" faces and objects confirms that the film followed Terminator 2, which first wowed a general audience with such now-familiar effects. But much of the film plays more in the mood of an old Fifties monster movie like The Blob: the small town setting, the coy behavior of the high school students, the old-fashioned values (with one notable exception) of authority figures and anachronistic details like the antique 45rpm records that play repeatedly in the house occupied by the monsters of the title. And what do those monsters most desire? Why, innocence, of course. The script for Sleepwalkers was the first one written for the screen by Stephen King that wasn't based on a book he'd previously published (although King reportedly wrote the tale initially as a short story). King has long had a gift for conjuring up places that exist in their own reality, detached from historical time and space, like his beloved Castle Rock. The small Indiana town in Sleepwalkers is another such locale. It's here that two ancient supernatural creatures, a mother and son, have most recently taken up residence, after wandering the earth, apparently for centuries. They're shapeshifters, whose origin appears to date back to ancient Egypt, but this is never clearly specified. The film opens with a definition from an apocryphal source, the "Chillicoathe Encyclopaedia of Arcane Knowledge"—further specified, with King's usual attention to detail, as the "1st edition. 1884"—that tells us all we need to know about "sleepwalkers":
Nomadic shape-shifting creatures with human and feline origins. 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.So: shape-shifting, cat scratch, life-force, virgin. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.
In the California town of Bodega Bay, which Hitchcock fans will remember as the site of The Birds (it's one of Sleepwalkers' inside jokes), police investigate the home of two people reported missing, where they find the gruesome corpses of dozens of cats. They also find human remains that don't match either of the house's missing residents. Of those two, no trace remains. Meanwhile, in Travis, Indiana, everyone at the local high school wants to know about the new transfer student, Charles Brady (Brian Krause). He's blond, handsome, charming, polite and intelligent. Lovely Tanya Robertson (Twin Peaks' Mädchen Amick, still stuck in high school) can't believe her luck when Charles shows interest in her. Her friends, Jeanette and Carrie (Lucy Boryer and Judette Warren) encourage her to leap on this opportunity, but Tanya proceeds with caution. She's obviously a "good" girl, with solidly respectable parents (Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett, who once were Ferris Bueller's parents). Charles has also caught the eye of a teacher, Mr. Fallows (Glenn Shadix, Beetlejuice and Heathers). Suspicious of Charles's advanced skills as a writer and searching for blackmail material, Mr. Fallows investigates the transcripts from the new student's former school in Ohio and discovers they're forgeries. Then he makes the mistake of trying to blackmail Charles for sexual favors and is heard of no more. If any of the good people of Travis could see Charles at home with his mother, Mary Brady (Alice Krige, the future Borg queen of Star Trek: First Contact), they might better understand what they're dealing with. After centuries of living only for each other, mother and son have developed a relationship that is closer, more intimate and more varied than just that of parent and child. They have become each other's entire world, as they barricade themselves in a house besieged by cats from all over, who seem drawn to the presence of these shifters as if they sense it's their duty to attack. (The Brady home is surrounded by baited traps as a precaution.) Within their home, Mary alternately berates Charles for failing to find her a fresh virgin on which to feed—Krige plays her like a junkie going through withdrawal—then caresses him as tenderly as any lover (and yes, the film does go there). For entertainment, they dance to Charles's favorite song, the steel guitar classic "Sleepwalk" by Santo and Johnny. Indeed, the simplest interactions between Charles and Mary Brady are played with such a lack of inhibition by Krige and Krause that they're far more unsettling than the more elaborate scenes relying on gore and special effects later in the film. Those, at least, have ghoulish humor to relieve the tension. The violence kicks off initially with Mr. Fallows, the disreputable teacher, but it continues with a local cop named Simpson (Dan Martin), who tries to chase down Charles as he's fleeing the scene. Because "sleepwalkers" can shift not only their own shape, but also that of objects around them (and even render themselves and objects temporarily invisible), Simpson's pursuit goes nowhere, but later he recognizes Charles's car by the roadside while Charles is trying to "harvest" Tanya for his mother. The result is one of a series of escalating encounters that builds to the film's messy finale, where the massing felines finally have their day. Watch for various celebrity cameos. Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker himself!) appears as a cop in Bodega Bay. Screenwriter King plays the nervous caretaker of a cemetery where mayhem has occurred, and directors Tobe Hooper and Clive Barker are forensic investigators working the crime scene. Directors Joe Dante and John Landis appear as police lab technicians. I keep trying to spot director Mick Garris in there somewhere, but so far no luck.
Sleepwalkers Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sleepwalkers is one of the few remaining Sony titles licensed to Image Entertainment, and the 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray is up to the usual standards of the Sony/Image releases. The image is clean and detailed, with a natural-looking grain pattern and no evidence of inappropriate digital filtering or artificial sharpening. The image runs slightly to the soft side, but not exceptionally so. (The cinematographer was Rodney Charters, who would go on to shoot all eight seasons of 24.) Colors are distinct without oversaturation, black levels are appropriate without crushing, and contrast is not overcranked. While Sleepwalkers may not be demo material, the image is a faithful rendition of the small town, everyday world that King and director Garris sought to create, so that they could shake it up by injecting monsters into the mix.
Sleepwalkers Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Sleepwalkers was released to theaters with a stereo soundtrack. Contrary to the listing on the Blu-ray case, it has not been remixed for 5.1 for this release but is being presented here with its original track encoded as DTS-HD MA 2.0. As it happens, the stereo track is quite good, with excellent fidelity and presence that allows the dialogue to be clearly heard and the musical selections, especially the all-important song "Sleepwalk", to fill up the viewing room. When the track is played through a good surround decoding system such as DPL IIx, there is even a noticeable surround field, including one instance of an impressive 360-degree pan during a sequence in a cemetery. Sleepwalkers also contains a notable example of what I consider to be the best kind of sound editing in movies, because it works equally well with mono, stereo or 5.1 systems. Tanya Robertson is wearing her Walkman headphones during work at the local movie theater and begins sweeping up at the end of the night. At first you hear only the tinny, distant sound of "Do You Love Me" playing in her ears, but suddenly the perspective switches, and you're hearing the song from Tanya's point of view, loud and clear, drowning out everything else. It continues that way for over half a minute, inspiring Tanya to dance through her work, until suddenly she realizes she's not alone. Using sound to tell a story in that manner doesn't require a multi-speaker array. It just needs imagination.
Sleepwalkers Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Other than the film's trailer (SD; 1.78:1, enhanced; 1:52), the disc contains no extras.
Sleepwalkers Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
After Sleepwalkers, Mick Garris became the go-to director for Stephen King, helming TV miniseries adaptations of The Stand (1994) and The Shining (1997), as well as TV movies of Quicksilver Highway (1997) and Desperation (2006), the short-lived series Bag of Bones (2011), and Riding the Bullet (2004), which was intended for theatrical release. King must have liked what he saw in Sleepwalkers, and it's not hard to understand why. Garris captures that ordinary, almost trite quality that King successfully establishes just before things take a dark and sickening turn. Sleepwalkers is entertaining in its own right, and it's also an opportunity to watch a fruitful partnership being born. Recommended.
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Sleepwalkers Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Sleepwalkers Detailed - July 18, 2012
Image Entertainment will release on Blu-ray director Mick Garris' Sleepwalkers (1992), starring Brian Krause, Madchen Amick and Alice Krige. The Blu-ray will be available for purchase online and in shops across the United States on September 4th.
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