Well, so far we've seen a great miniseries and a great movie. Let's mix things up and take a look at this turkey.
For any horror aficionado, watching a movie based on one of Stephen King's books is a real roll of the dice. On one hand, you can get some truly chilling works like The Shining or Misery. On the other hand, you can get some AMAZING movies like Maximum Overdrive or The Langoliers. Movies so ridiculously bad that they circle around into something beautiful. 1992's Sleepwalkers definitely fits into the latter category, but only if you have the constitution to make it past the first act. Let's see if we do.
The movie starts with the warning light for every work of cinematic quality, an encyclopedia definition of the supernatural creature that we'll be bearing witness to. Admittedly, if I actually read it through, I might have a little information on what the Sleepwalkers actually were, but I was too busy writing down the name of the book that the quote was citing: The Chillicothe Encyclopediae of Arcane Knowledge, because hell yes I wanna read that book.
The cold opening rolls around with a pair of police officers investigating a bizarre disappearance set around an abandoned car parked in front of a house that (ugh) is seemingly decorated with the hanging corpses of a couple dozen mauled cats. One of the cops kinda looks like Mark Hamill, until he takes off his sunglasses and reveals that he actually is Mark Hamill (Admittedly, even Mark Hamill only kinda looks like Mark Hamill). The two cops creep inside, the one behind Officer Mark so close that he may as well be inside of him, until they open a closet for the most obvious cat scare ever. The feline scampers off, leaving behind a desiccated corpse. It's a mummy wearing braces, with a rose tucked behind it's ear.
Flash cut to credits.
Things get back on track as we cut to Travis, Indiana, to a room occupied by a young, pre-Charmed Brian Krause as Charles, a beefy young man who likes to listen to music, obsess over the yearbook picture of a girl named Tanya and carve her initial into his bicep. Oh for cute.
Things don't get much better as he waltzes downstairs and dances with an older woman who turns out to be his mother. Red flags start popping off immediately as they get a little too close for comfort, as in, Oedipus close, then retire upstairs to do god knows what. Oh how I wish that the film was clever enough to stick to subtext in scenes like this. Another detail of note is that cats have started to gather around the house of these two, only warded off by the small bear traps that the mother has scattered around the house.
Our film then cuts to probably the only remotely relatable character in this movie, Tanya, as she works her student job at the concession stand of a theater. She sweeps the floor while jamming out to tunes on her Walkman.
I kinda like her.
Then Charles shows up and things start to go downhill. He startles her, they have a passing attempt at a meet cute, and he flirts with her inside of an incredibly vacant movie theatre. Finally he leaves, promising to see her at school the next day.
Once he returns home, it's clear that the amassing cats despise Charles and his mother for some reason. Charles chats up his mother about the encounter and says that she is perfect, while mom complains about her hunger. So I guess they're planning to eat her or something. Also, the two frequently exchange words like “Nice” and “Pure” when discussing Tanya, so I suppose they are after a virgin. Aint it always the way with soul stealing abominations?
At this point, I have to hit a tangent. Why is it always girl virgins that dark monsters, evil cults or nefarious elder gods are after? Are boy virgins not good enough? Buddy, stop being so picky about who's soul you suck. You don't have to starve, if you really need virgins, just swing by the comic book store and grab three or four. This whole seduction game doesn't have to be the only way you can get a meal.
Things shift to the next day at school, as Charles is providing a presentation of his creative writing project. Dirty cheater that he is, Charles actually just wrote a story about his own life as a paranormal shapeshifter that travels from town to town, always hounded and never allowed to find sanctuary. It seems like an attempt to inject pathos into the character, though it seems a little sloppily done. Imagine Clark Kent writing an entire article about what it's like to be Superman, just to fill a column. Tanya shows sympathy for the plight of the supposedly fictional Sleepwalkers, which causes Charles to actually show hesitance in his plans to soul suck her. This will not last.After escaping the tirades of an abusive english teacher played by Otho from Beetlejuice, Charles gives Tanya a ride home and she takes him up to her room, leading to a mildly charming scene where she keeps stowing and hiding her discarded underwear whenever Charles turns his back. It is at this point that I began to notice how painfully 90's both Charles's hair and wardrobe is. And I also wonder when this episode of Dawson's Creek will end so that we can back to something spooky. Tanya reveals that her mother does gravestone rubbings as a hobby, and Charles sort of awkwardly douche fades at her mom before departing on his admittedly pretty cool blue Trans-Am.
Finally, we enter Act 2 and things start to get fun. Charles is pulled over by Otho, who has done a little digging and discovered that his transcripts are fake, and that he is not who he claims to be. Instead of actively alerting the principal to this, Otho decides to blackmail Charles into sexual favours, because hey, this movie wasn't creepy enough. Charles responds by slapping on a bit of Buffy-style vampire makeup and tearing off Otho's hand.
Here we go.
Otho flees into the woods, instead of his car, and is swiftly devoured. Or rather, He lies prone while Kraus just kinda shakes his head over the guy. Wait, can Sleepwalkers just eat people's flesh? Or is he just mauling him? Whatever.
Charles rockets off, attracting the attention of a cop named Andy. His character trait is that he is WAY to into his cat, Clovis. Clovis that cat rides shotgun in his cruiser on a little pillow, even during high-speed chases like the one that ensues. The two cars motor along the Indiana countryside, with Charles even going so far to pull up next to the police car and flip him off while they are both going 90. If you are in hiding, and you go OUT OF YOUR WAY to antagonize a police officer, going so far to show your face to him in a midwestern town with a maximum population of about 3000, then you deserve what happens next.
Said reckoning occurs when Clovis pokes his head up and hisses at him, causing Charles to briefly freak out and loose focus on what I guess is his human disguise. His face morphs through a few scraps from Jim Henson's creature shop and he pulls into a side road, somehow breaking sight with officer Andy and willing himself and his car invisible. Because he can do that. This all may have been explained in the opening text blurb, but I have no idea what is going on.
Andy eventually gives up when he thinks he's lost him, though Clovis can apparently still see him.
Charles speeds home, in a car that is now a Red Mustang, only to get slapped up by his mother for failing to bring the girl. She again complains about her hunger and Charles promises that he will feed her. There is a brief moment where the film again attempts to inject sympathy for these two when they ponder whether or not they are the last of their kind, but that is Quickly overwritten in my brain by a full on Mother-Son sex scene.
AUGHAGUH. I'm not sure if it's better or worse when the camera strays off of them to a mirror, where it shows the true forms of the two Sleepwalkers: Some kinda naked mole rat looking things, that are still bumping and grinding on each other.
I had to stop for a second to pour myself some whiskey.
Then a little more.
Anyways. Tanya shows up the next morning, eager for a picnic that they set up in the graveyard while they do a few gravestone rubbings of their own. She is actively inside the house, and Mama Sleepwalker even threatens her with a pair of scissors and sticks a rose in her hair like the last girl, but then they just let her get on with the date. They let her leave! What are you waiting for?! Eat her!
When the two finally do arrive at the oddly hilly and expansive graveyard, Charles and Tanya wander into the trees and Charles offers this gem.
“Your mom's gonna want to know that we did some rubbing”
And Tanya quietly replies.
“Oh, me too, Charles”
They finally find a secure spot and have a bit of photography-based foreplay before things get hot and heavy. Again, Tanya mentions the sleepwalkers and wonders what Charles really is. He tells her he wants to show her and I start to panic, thinking that I am about to see arguably the only thing worse than Twilight:
We thankfully manage to avoid this when Charles decides he'd rather just suck out her life energy or what have you, and shows off a little more cat face. Tanya lucks out on multiple occasions and smacks him around with multiple conveniently close items. First she knocks him out with a camera, then violates Horror Movie Survival rule #5 and checks to see if he's really dead, then gets surprised and pinned AGAIN, and manages to gouge out his eye with a corkscrew, finally running off.
I should also note that at this point, cat-man Brian Krause's performance takes a steep turn into ridiculousville and never recovers.
Tanya runs into a passing Officer Andy, who manages to comfort her for only a few seconds before Cat Charles catches up and Heath Ledgers him with a pencil through the ear. To his credit, the only black man in this horror movie manages to stay standing long enough to shoot Charles a few times before he finally goes down. Charles and Tanya struggle before Clovis attacks him and all dignity that this movie might have had finally flees over the horizon.
We are treated to the glory of a man in heavy makeup wrestling with a cat for about a minute or so before he limps off and flees in his car. Tanya is tended to by a skeptical police force who investigates and Charles limps home, badly wounded and bleeding heavily from his fight with a 90 pound girl and a cat.
During the scene with Tanya and the police, we get the obligatory Stephen King cameo that lasts about three minutes too long. (It's a shame, because if anyone looks like a cat person in this movie, it's him). They finally take her home and Tanya requests that Clovis the Wonder Cat be brought to her house that evening.
The cops find Charles's address and show up to his house, which at this point is surrounded by so many cats that it looks like something out of The Birds. Within, the Mother is nursing to a badly wounded Charles and must invisible them both to hide from the police raid. This scene is highlighted by the appearance of a young Ron Perlman, who I have to say, looked pretty bad before he got old. The dude looks like Tom Waits had a rough night of intimacy with an Easter Island head, and somebody used the Photoshop blur tool on the product of that union.
That was mean.
While Tanya recovers at home, The Mother realizes that the only thing that can help her dying son/fuck buddy is the sweet, sweet lady-virgin soul juice that they spent entirely too long to obtain from Tanya. She goes on the war path, knocking out cops, finding Tanya and roughing up her parents and the cop stationed with them in search of the girl. Deputy Dumbles in this scene deserves special mention, as once he gets punched across the room, he proves to be such a bad shot that he empties an entire clip at Mother, failing to hit her and shattering the same vase TWICE, thanks to some clumsy editing. He limps off and calls for backup, then gets stabbed through the spine by a half eaten corn cob. Incredible.
At this point I had to inquire. This woman can clearly throw entire houses full of people around and seems like a fully capable hunter. Why is she so dependent on her son for sustenance? Madam, you seem like an equally powerful predator. Pull a little more weight in this messed up relationship you have with your boy.
Mom drags Tanya out of the house and is briefly waylaid by Perlman, whom she swiftly fucks up. As more police officers arrive, Mother grabs Perlman's gun and- Oh for god's sake.
With two separate shots, she completely detonates two cars like they were stuffed with nitroglycerin. What they hell was that gun loaded with? Do Indiana cops regularly carry depleted uranium rounds in their service issues? Is this some random, previously unexplored fireball-power that the Sleepwalkers have? All sense has abandoned the movie at this point, so I suggest you just enjoy the ride
But not to worry! Clovis is leading an army of cats! The cats are on the way!
By the time Mother drags Tanya home, Charles has clearly died of his injuries. Mom is absolutely hysterical and I am terrified that I am about to see a woman try to have sex with her son's corpse. Instead, thankfully, she puppets his body into motion with, again unmentioned, telekinetic powers and has Tanya dance with the gruesome corpse of a shapeshifting cat monster.
Exactly how much acid was circulating through the studio when they got to this part of the movie?
The Sheriff, after sensibly calling for backup, decides he might as well just go into the house alone, and watches Clovis dart past him, climb a tree and...break a window? That cat must have a mean right hook.
Downstairs, Charles has regained some level of animacy and goes full-on hairless cat monster, trying to eat Tanya yet again. Refreshingly, the poor girl has had enough of this shit and gouges out the creatures other eye, beating it to death in a fit of rage. This prompts Mother to hulk out, Clovis and his army finally descends and we're back to Cat WrestlingTM.
The Sheriff hits the Mother Monster with a grand total of one shotgun round (though it's kinda funny when he blows off one of the cats clinging to her) before he decides it's a fruitless endeavor and flees outside with Tanya. He has one clever moment using one of their bear-traps as a Scorpion-Style grappling spear before he gets body slammed onto a picket fence. Brutal.
But the cats are back! They claw up Mother real good before she bursts into flames (?) and finally collapses, dead and probably reeking of burning cat hair. A traumatized Tanya watches the corpse burn and cuddles Clovis as the movie finally ends.
Let me think; emotionally scarred, probably going to become a recluse and has been taught that felines are the only protection from horrible soul-sucking monsters that can masquerade as sexy men. Yep. We have just witnessed the birth of a crazy cat lady.
I mean damn. What exactly is there to say about this movie? The story is either boring or ridiculous, the actors give lukewarm performances at best until they go screaming off the deep end in the final third, and the plot follows the depressingly usual Stephen King formula of abandoning any sense of paranoia or building tension in favour of Big Scary Monster at the end. I'd say it's still a hoot to watch of you're drunk enough and have a few friends, but such is true of every bad movie. I suppose the moral we can pull away is simple: Lose it fast ladies, or some gross cat monster will try to suck out your life force.