Sleepwalkers ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Horror of 1992 / Horror of the 90's

Mick Garris is probably the single most frustrating filmmaker who's ever worked in the horror genre. I can't think of another director who keeps coming so close to greatness and falls so hard. Every time. Well, except for Valerie On the Stairs- the single worst installment of Masters of Horror. That never stood a chance. And Sleepwalkers is easily his greatest achievement. Which could have been a real accolade, since it's pretty damn close to being outstanding, had this not also made the mistakes it did.

1. Why is Charles afflicted with multiple personalities? Is he sincerely pathologically paranoid and profoundly alone, or is he a sadistic asshole who enjoys killing children and raping girls? (Surprisingly, hearthrobby Brian Krause is better at playing creepy than deep.)

2. What again about Tanya makes her so attracted to the fugitive sleepwalkers? What in her life makes her feel so isolated from others? Her parents? Friends? Peers? Society? She fits in pretty well in my eye.

3. Is this a comedy or a sad movie? It sometimes succeeds at the former but for the obtusenesses listed above, it fails supremely at the latter.

4. The black cop. I winced every time he sang or harmonized a line. And I mean my face began imploding. He must have thought the cameras weren't rolling. They were. Oh... he was also the Lip Victim in Wes Craven's Shocker. He's not poorly cast, it just isn't possible to turn "Get the Bad Guy" into a musical without addressing the Glass Shield effect.

5. Why are virgins so important when Charles can clearly feed on anything? The mother puts so much pressure on him to secure said virgin, yet she asks: "Did you bring me anything?" And he assumes she's talking about Tanya, who they're still working on. She isn't. So, what does "anything" mean? A kid? Dog? Coconut? Will anybody do, virgin or no?

The rest is a tug of war between just getting us through a scene and having the scene be surprisingly better than it should be. I know I'm not the only one who noticed what an utter powerhouse Alice Krige is in this film. But I say, even without her, there's a lot here. In pieces. Many of the shots are stunning, colors pop at times, the effective swells in the music score, Krause's evil grin and excellent one-liner delivery (if only the lines themselves were smarter), and... The Action. It's entirely possible that Garris missed his calling. One of the reasons I like him is that he's very smart, soft-spoken, passionate, says all the right things. But with this film, he makes a great case for action and horror going together. And, at the same time, what's wrong with most action films: Madchen Amick is frequently slapped, smacked, and dragged around here and sometimes it's sexist, sometimes that's horror. But not if it feels like she's just a prop. Like that dummy of Priscilla Presley at the end of The Naked Gun Ricardo Montalban was tossing around.

It's simultaneously one of the best of this type (certainly more bang for your buck here than in The Kiss) and bordering on insufferable. All because you can see where clear improvements could be made. Sometimes you just have to tell Stephen King that he's wrong.

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