Although Stephen King is famed for his best selling books and their blockbusting filmic adaptations, Sleepwalkers marks the first time the master author wrote an original story intended for the screen rather than transforming one of his books into a script.
The story sees King riffing on the vampire myth to make his own original monsters with the titular Sleepwalkers described as ancient beings who use their shapeshifting powers to hide amongst us and feed on our life force.
Possessing telekinesis and illusion powers the Sleepwalkers appear to look like people but are actually giant Werecats who ironical are afraid of normal domestic cats. Not only do kitties hate these killers but they also hunt them and their claws are fatal to the Sleepwalkers.
Opening on a abandoned house where hundreds of cats hang dead from the trees we see two cops (one of which is played by an uncredited Mark Hamill) discovering the decomposed corpse of a child, the implication being that the nomadic Sleepwalkers have killed and feasted on the energy of an innocent then slipped the cops net and moved on to another town.
That town is Travis, Indiana where we meet the murderers, mother and son Charles and Mary Brady played by Charmed’s Brian Krause and Star Trek: First Contact’s Alice Krige. The ancient beings arrive already looking for their next meal with Brian selecting the sweet and chaste Tanya (Twin Peaks and Riverdale’s Mädchen Amick) who works at the small town cinema.
From here it is a game of cat and mouse as Brian seduces Tanya at high school in an attempt to get her alone and bring her to his mother to devour. Luckily for everyone local cop Andy Simpson (Dan Martin from Heat) is on patrol with Clovis his attack cat and a speedy and strange encounter with Brain insights the dutiful detective to investigate the unfamiliar Brady family further.
Hugely enjoyable from start to fantastic finish Sleepwalkers plays out like a twisted Twilight with the doomed romance of Charles and Tanya set against his intense and incestuous relationship with his mother. Not a film that is afraid to take its audience out of its comfort zone the frequent scenes of mother and son making out enhance both the supernatural beings otherness and their strange life totally outside of conventional small town America.
The main cast are perfect and Mädchen Amick is hugely likeable and relatable while Brian Krause turing on the right amount of charm before going psycho. As the monstrous matriarch Alice Krige oozes equal parts uncomfortable sexuality and fierce maternal aggression and her paranoia about being replaced in her sons affections is always evident.
The supporting cast are also excellent including the aforementioned Dan Martin and his heroic feline sidekick played by Sparks who truly is a great animal actor. Also worth a mention are Jim Haynie as the local Sheriff, Ron Perlman as his superior and Ferris Bueller’s parents Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward typecast somewhat as Tanya’s mum and dad.
Sleepwalkers is also packed with horror cameo’s for fans to spot including John Landis, Joe Dante, Clive Barker and Tobe Hooper all popping up along the way and there is also a great turn from Stephen King himself as a put upon cemetery caretaker.
Hocus Pocus and Critters 2 helmer Mick Garris does a fine job directing taking what seems like a conventional tale to insane places in the final act as the Brady’s lives spin out of control and the huge army of cats amassed on their front lawn decide to finally act.
Packed with gore, action, horror, drama, throwaway one liners and some extremely 90’s special effects and make up Sleepwalkers is immensely entertaining and even better if you like cats as much as I do. Possibly one of my favourite Stephen King films its crazy storyline and shocking set pieces shows the author creating something cinematic rather than literary and having a lot of fun doing it.