Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Movie Review: Stephen King's Sleepwalkers

  It seemed like that, at least for a while, there was a hot trend in Hollywood to make Stephen King stories into films.  While none of them lived up to the book-version (and some, like The Lawnmower Man, had almost nothing to do with the actual story), most made fair horror films.  Sleepwalkers is, in my opinion, one of the best of the films based on the works of Stephen King.

  And, Stephen King, Jon Landis, Joe Dante, Tobe Hooper, and Clive Barker (famous horror film directors) all have a cameo in the film.  Mark Hamill even has an uncredited role.

 Part of why I dig this film is that it has its own unique, but familiar, mythology, laid out artfully toward the beginning of the film with whatever holes filled in as the story unfolds.  "Sleepwalkers" are ancient, nearly immortal creatures, who appear to have openly ruled sometime in Egypt's ancient history.  They are shape-shifting beings who's natural form is a humanoid cat.  Coincidentally, their natural enemy is the common housecat, who's scratch causes an extreme allergic reaction and eventually death to the Sleepwalkers.  House cats are
drawn to Sleepwalkers, instinctively seeking to kill the creatures.

That's not a pencil sharpener.
 Sleepwalkers survive by feeding on the life force of others.  They appear to have a matriarchal society, with the females sending out the males to hunt and gather the required life force, and then transferring that life force to the female Sleepwalker during intercourse.  At least the male displays additional "psychic" abilities, able to either change the shape or appearance of other objects temporarily (he changes his car at one point in the film to evade a police officer, making it initially invisible and then a different color and model).  Both male and female creatures are extremely strong, especially in their cat-creature form.

 The story focuses on a Mother-Son pair of Sleepwalkers who are, as far as they know, the last, though the Mother does not want to admit it.  Because of their nature, the males appear to mature at an accelerated rate.  Charles Brady, the male Sleepwalker, while physically appearing to be about 18 and displaying extreme intelligence, also appears to be in many ways naive about both the world and his own nature.  He questions the Sleepwalkers' need to exist as they do, and wonders if he can ever hope to be "normal".  His mother fears abandonment, suggesting that while he might survive without her, she cannot survive without him, and neither would continue to be immortal. 

Seeing this guy get his is the highlight of the film.
 They move from small town to small town, feeding on the local virgins (who are becoming more difficult to find) while running from both the authorities by changing their identities and the inevitable hordes of house cats that come to kill them.  The story picks up after their most recent re-location, where young Charles goes out into the community again to find "that special someone" that will provide the necessary energy to keep his mother alive.
 The special effects are decent, relying on traditional effects and some electronic trickery.  The story moves along quickly, encouraging the audience to be sympathetic toward the plight of the monsters before they reveal themselves fully as dangerous predators.  The acting is all excellent, with the comedic relief well placed and not distracting from the story.  

 And, of course, there is the infamous mother-son sex scene.

The fit has hit the shan.
 Sleepwalkers is a cool story and a fun film.  Many fans, like myself, were only dissatisfied that this provided only an introduction into this mythology, although that is also part of the films allure.  We are meant only to catch this final glimpse of them before the disappear forever.  That which is known with any greater familiarity fails to keep its ability to inspire awe or fear.  

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