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 Stephen King's Sleepwalkers

Now, you and I both know it's easy to take stabs at Stephen King's film projects.  There have been some greats over the years but as Stephen's gotten older he's decided to have more and more creative control over what happens on the big screen.  Considering how there hasn't been a "classic" King flick since the 1980's, I'll go ahead and say this might not have been the best move on his part.  But Stephen King is still a great horror author, so how bad could this film be?  It's the very first story he wrote expressly for the silver screen, something they threw onto the posters.  Maybe to say "Hey, those other adaptations might not have worked out so well, but why don't you check this one out?"  Or maybe to say "Don't blame us, he did it."  I don't know.  What I do know is that Sleepwalkers (1992) is a spectacular film.  And by "spectacular" I really do mean it's like a spectacle.  If I walked down the street wearing a leather bunny suit it qualifies as a spectacle.  And that's exactly what Sleepwalkers feels like.  Though maybe the suit is vinyl.  Maybe latex.  By the way, the "Fear" mentioned on the poster isn't your fear at all.  The poster is talking about the MONSTER'S fear.  It'll make sense in just a second, I promise.  Let's see the opening shot of the film.  You'll find it establishes the crap out of this movie and um....sets up the ending.  Check this out:

So let's see.  You create a new monster and totally define it in the first five seconds of your movie.  We now know to expect shape-changing werecats (or Catweres, if you play Dungeons & Dragons) that eat the souls of virgins.  The 2nd line is the one to remember though:  "Vulnerable to the deadly scratch of the cat."  So cats are deadly to these things.  Got it.  I'm sure that won't come up in the film at all.  In fact, I'm sure it won't be mentioned a thousand times in the movie so when the film ends because of deadly cat scratch fever we'll all be surprised.  To paraphrase Willy Wonka:  Strike that and reverse it. 

Admittedly, the film's beginning catches my interest.  You know, because how can you not be enthralled by a scene involving Californian police exploring a crime scene decorated with dozens of piņatas made out of dead cats.  "Golly gee, someone sure hates cats" says Officer Obvious.  See?  This is already a good movie.  Instead of spelling it out for the audience, they let you figure out that whoever did this to all those cats must have been one of those evil hymen-draining Werecats mentioned in the film....about four seconds ago.

By the by, it's very hard to tell when this film was supposed to take place.  While there are video games in the background, the whole thing seems to be taking place in the 1950's or something.  The cars are old, the fashion is classic, and every one listens to music at least 20 years older than they are.  Stepping back, I can see what they were trying to do.  Edward Scissorhands did it...creating a faux-Utopia of yesteryear so that anything that didn't fit in was under high contrast.  In Sleepwalkers you kind of get this vibe, but just when it starts to sink in we get bombarded with cheesy horror movie catch phrases (great example soon to come) and people wearing rubber cat costumes. 

Charles, the young male Sleepwalker (don't think too much about the name of the monsters, there's no sleep or walking in this film) is busy in his room.  What's he doing?

Oh.  He's being the most Emo he can be.

Well, it's true.  When you go through your high school year book, circle a girl's name, play your favorite song, and carve her initials into your arm with a rusty pocketknife...I don't know what to call it.  "Tanya" is his virginal target.  By his logic, she's got to still be a virgin.  I'm not sure why because looking at her awards, it sure sounds like she gets around.  President of the Photography club sounds promising but this gets offset by the fact that very few CHEERLEADERS are known for being total virgins.   (To be fair, there are a lot of sort-of virgins that were cheerleaders.  Their dress can be white, just not the gloves.)   By the way, I think Charles might have been cast in this movie because of his broken weird-ass nose.  Because if you squint it's kind of cat-like.  Either that or whatever happened to his face made him perfect for cat make-up.  I don't know.  All I know is for a character who's supposed to be the most handsome guy in school he's eerily asymmetrical. 

When the film starts, there's this weird incestuous implication between Charles and his mother.  His mother, played by Alice Krige, is someone who the geekiest of you might recognize as the Borg Queen from all those Star Trek episodes/movies.  She makes a great psycho who honestly seems to care about her son. 

Yep, she cares about her son a lot.

Sleepwalker's repeating gimmick is unfortunately incest.  All WereCats seem to enjoy in their free time the sick fetish-fiction embodying bastards.  There's multiple scenes of them making out and they have sex a couple of times as the film progresses, once even on screen (as illustrated above).  Classy touch, Mr. King.  I particularly like the fact that Sleepwalkers glow purple whenever they consummate their incestuous love. 

Glenn Shadix, the actor who played Otho in Beetle Juice for those playing the Tim Burton Home Game, also plays a unique role in this flick.  Raising the bar of excellence, he proceeds to blackmail and attempt to molest young Charles the Cat-man.  He's also the only teacher featured in the film....makes me really worry about Stephen's childhood.  Then again, maybe I'm putting too much into this.  Maybe his mother wasn't a hot older woman who rocked him all night long and maybe his portly literature teacher didn't try to squeeze his junk.  Odds are that never happened.  Like, at all.  So stop assuming it.  Perverts.

Note to Child Molesters:  Do not try to touch the junk of a young man if he happens to be cat monster.  You'll pull back a stump and everyone knows you can't grab things, especially children, with a bloody stump.  

I'm not sure what the moral is of a virgin-eating werecat murdering a blackmailing molester, but I'm sure it's very meaningful to someone out there. 

Cat People also seem to have all sorts of magical powers besides being able to clean their own rear end with their tongue.  This includes being able to make themselves invisible and make their car shapechange into another car.  I guess when you're pulling a mythical monster out of your ass you can give it whatever powers you want.   Sadly these powers are only to justify an extended car chase scene...because a film back in the early 90's (and late 80's) just wasn't a real film unless it had a crazy car chase in it. 

Let's get back on track with the plot.  Charles goes after Tanya and it turns out that, for someone who's the super-virgin of the high school, she's super easy.  He stays a few nice things to here and POOF!  They're making out at a graveyard.  This devolves quickly into a weird date rape simulation.  He's a little rough, she complains, and he says, still pinning her down, that he thought "they understood one another."  Biting her lip, she gives in like anyone who's stayed a virgin for 18 years would.  Well, maybe not.  She does draw the line when Charles starts sucking out her soul and turns into a cat-like mutant of some sort.  She puts a corkscrew through his eye and runs into the arms of a waiting police officer just outside the graveyard.  And thus the date-rape 1950's simulacrum fades and we're back to a bad horror movie.   

I'll give the film credit for stabbing a police officer with a pencil.  What it loses points for is what immediately happens after.  Charles throws the now-stabbed cop out of the way, looks right at the camera and says to the audience:

"COP-KABOB! AHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA! (ahahaha)"

Now, very few horror movie monsters can get away with talking to the audience (or at least talking to the camera as if it were a character).  Freddy Krueger and Vincent Price both did it rather well.  Hell, even that awful horror movie "Funnyman" did it with style.  But this?  This is embarrassing for everyone involved.  Goofy murder catchphrases are best when you can forget them quickly and this?  This picks it up off the ground and rubs your nose in it. 

Luckily karma is a bitch and Charles gets what he deserves.

Apparently the cop had a cat who proceeds to EAT OFF CHARLES' FACE.  Cats apparently hate werecats something fierce and apparently all it takes is one normal cat to beat the ever-loving crap out of one magical shape-shifter.  This isn't a flesh wound at all.  Charles is pretty much seriously messed up for the rest of the film and pretty much escapes to his home before slipping into a deadly cat scratch coma.

It'd be one thing if cats happened to attack the Sleepwalkers whenever their paths crossed.  But no, it really, really sucks to be a werecat.   Check out Charles's front yard:

Yep.  Cats from all across the county are drawn to the werecat's home so they can scratch them to death.  Werewolves get a better deal, obviously.  Sure, they're vulnerable to silver, but all the silverware in town doesn't fly up into the air and wait outside their window for a chance to stab the poor lycanthropes.  We're only half-way through the film and we already know how the monsters are going to die.  Makes me wonder why they didn't move to....China or some other country where people eat cats.  Then at least their front yard would turn into a delicatessen and not a pit of feline doom.

Charles's mother, Mary, tries to avenge her son by kidnapping Tanya from her home.  There's very few surprises left in the film, but Sleepwalkers does feature one of my favorite goofy death scenes ever:

When you kill a cop by stabbing him in the spine with a corn-on-the-cob, at least you know you're being original.

Charles wasn't quite dead, so Mary makes Tanya slow-dance with him until he's ready to suck away her virginity.  I mean soul.  

Apparently the cat-monsters aren't related to normal cats, but are a human crossbreed involving those pug-ugly Mexican hairless cats that people only keep around because they like to win "Ugliest Pet Around" competitions.  I guess they didn't want to use a lot of hair in the costume, otherwise people might confuse the Sleepwalkers for werewolves or something.  Or maybe Lizard Cat People are just a lot scarier than I think they are.

Despite the refreshing mint flavour of Tanya's soul, the cops arrive, there's a struggle and he ends up being very dead.  He was almost dead anyway, but his mother's still around and she's pissed.  She keeps screaming "You killed my only son!" over and over again.  She chases Tanya outside....where IT happens.

Mother Mary turns into the rubber cat-weasel thing just like her son did and is almost immediately jumped by the 10,000 cats that were waiting outside.  It's pretty surreal.  Mostly because when you step back you realize you're watching a woman in a rubber cat costume wrestling with cat puppets while interns throw more cat puppets at her.  And that bit about cat scratches being really deadly to the Sleepwalkers?  They weren't kidding. 

I would say that cat scratches that cause you to burst into flames definitely qualify as deadly. 

And there you go.  The adventures of the most flirtatious virgin in town and her encounter with a single mother monster and her incestuous cat-son.  I really think the film would have been a lot better if they hadn't totally explained everything you needed to know about the monsters in the first film.  Mysterious things in films are often better...and keep the audience guessing.  If every monster film started off telling you exactly what the monster was and how it would eventually die, I doubt the genre would have survived as long as it has. 

In closing, Sleepwalkers isn't the worst horror film out there but dear GOD you've got to hate it for being boring.  Not that things don't happen.  It's just that what happens you know about way before it even comes close to showing up on screen.  I'm still waiting for the sequel:  "Sleepwalkers 2:  The Girl Gets Away because the Incestuous Cat Family decides to Live Away from the Prying Eyes of Mankind.  Also, because They are in Heat."

-Jared

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Copyright 2007 Jared von Hindman or maybe just Jared Hindman.  It depends.  Any images used that are not Jared's are used via Fair Use review purposes and belong to their respective owners....who are nice people that don't want to sue me.

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