Charles Brady and his mother Mary move to a small Indiana town, having recently fled Bodega Bay, California after draining and killed a young girl there. They are sleepwalkers - they can change their appearance and they need the lifeforce from young women. Charles has picked out young Tanya Robertson, whom he meets at a local high school, as his next victim. He asks her out for a date and invites her home... however, she did not suspect his real interest in her. On their first date, a picnic at a nearby cemetery, Charles attempts to drain the lifeforce from Tanya for himself and his mother. Written by
Director Mick Garris has commented on how "Sleepwalkers" was a troubled production, and one only has to watch in disbelief to see what he means. Before its 1992 theatrical release, I remember the film being heavily hyped as Stephen King's first foray into cinema with a completely original screenplay (and as was true with most adaptations of his work--with or without his involvement--at the time, the reviews were less than sympathetic). Ironically, Garris would become better known for helming TV-miniseries versions of some of King's best-known works ("The Stand"; "The Shining"; "Desperation"), directing right from the author's own scripts. Needless to say, these made-for-TV works outshine "Sleepwalkers," which simply further proves that King's writing style (heavy with internal dialogues and detailed, unspoken perceptions) is better suited to a format that can fully develop his themes and characters. This tale of an incestuous mother/son duo who shapeshifts into bloodthirsty felines, roaming from small towns to dine on virgin prey, is fairly decent for the first 50 minutes--King's use of 'local color' (and the resulting humor) is well-rendered, and Garris does a fine job of creating an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue. But just when "Sleepwalkers" seems headed for the zone of good (if not truly memorable) King adaptations, its final third devolves into overblown, ridiculous action sequences (as though the producers chopped away 30 pages of King's script for explosions and shootouts) and a queasy imbalance between absurd humor and sentimental melodrama. The end result hobbles the overall experience--had King's ideas been thoroughly fleshed-out, "Sleepwalkers" may have been a solid entry in his filmography...but as it stands, it feels like a lament over what could have been. The cats are incredibly cute, though.
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