Release Date(s)1992 (November 6, 2018)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
Cats, cats, and more cats – that’s the thing to keep in mind when diving into Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers, a story about two nomadic, vampire-like creatures who feed off of the life energy of virgin women to survive, living in mortal fear of cats who not only see through their human forms, but also pose the biggest threat to their well-being. This off-the-wall horror tale managed to make a small dent in the genre world in 1992 upon its initial theatrical release. It seemed to be on the tip of everybody’s tongue, stirring up a mild bit of water-cooler type dialogue, but also earning its place as one of the most memorable horror films of the 1990s.
Catching Sleepwalkers on cable when I was kid, it was always one of those breakthrough horror films for me. It didn’t break any new ground, but it was well-executed, which outside of Critters 2: The Main Course, is probably Mick Garris’ best-directed effort, at least theatrically. It certainly was one of the few times that he was able to explore material that was a little more daring than normal. The sight of incest between a mother and her son is still weird and creepy, while many of the film’s CGI morphing effects hold up remarkably well.
However, the biggest highlight of Sleepwalkers is Mädchen Amick, whom any red-blooded male would have dropped down on one knee for in an instant. In a film full of excellent performances from the likes of Alice Krige, Brian Krause, and the late Glenn Shaddix, she is the radiant beacon of tenderness that makes her performance as the survivor of a rape-like encounter entirely palpable, even more so when everything starts hitting the fan in the film's final minutes.
There’s also a who’s who of cameos throughout the film, including Mark Hamill, John Landis, Joe Dante, Tobe Hooper, Clive Barker, and even Stephen King himself. It also features a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him role inhabited by Ron Perlman who, unfortunately, isn’t able to escape the clutches of the sleepwalkers. Add to all of that a terrific, larger than life score by Nicolas Pike and a haunting closing number by Enya and you have yourself a full-fledged genre curiosity that, while only mildly successful, managed to develop a small following – despite the naysayers who insist that it’s a “bad” film. I certainly don’t believe that.
Sleepwalkers comes to high definition disc for a second time from Scream Factory. The transfer for this release is the exact same one found on the 2012 Blu-ray, which isn’t entirely a bad thing as that presentation was quite excellent. It appears clean and natural without any heavy clean-up. Colors are bold and nicely-varied, while black levels are deep with plenty of good detail on display. The only difference between this release and the older one is that this new one is slightly brighter with a higher, but more even, bitrate. If there’s any digital noise, I didn’t spot it. For the audio, two tracks are available: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD, with optional subtitles in English SDH. The 5.1 upgrade doesn’t offer a whole lot as it’s mostly a front-heavy presentation, but both tracks offer clean, clear audio that does justice to the film’s excellent sound design and music selection. I personally prefer the original stereo soundtrack as it represents the film the best, but dialogue is well-rendered on both tracks, with occasional LFE creeping in and good separation of the various elements.
The biggest draw of this release is, of course, the excellent new extras package, which comes courtesy of Red Shirt Pictures. First up is an audio commentary with Mick Garris, Brian Krause, and Mädchen Amick, which is highly energetic and enjoyable as the three sometimes jockey for aural dominance over each other, but in an obviously familial-like way; Feline Trouble, a 19-minute interview with Mick Garris, which goes over some of the same material as the commentary, but goes more into how he got involved with the film; When Charles Met Tanya, a 16-minute conversation with Brian Krause and Mädchen Amick, with Mick Garris off-camera as the two chit-chat about their careers and their performances in the film; Mother & More, a 16-minute interview with actress Alice Krige, which reveals her as a fan of the film because of how much freedom she had to do more tongue-in-cheek material than usual; Creatures & Cats: The FX of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers, a 16-minute interview with special make-up effects supervisor Tony Gardner and prosthetic design & sculptor Mike Smithson, who not only talk about their work on the film, but also the film’s original ending – some of which is shown during the behind-the-scenes footage; 7 minutes of additional behind-the-scenes footage; the original theatrical trailer in HD; 4 TV spots; and an animated still gallery containing 50 images of on-set photos, posters, lobby cards, and promotional stills. While getting Stephen King’s take on the film, or perhaps hearing from some of the other cast members would have been nice, this is an excellent set of bonus materials that the film was sorely in need of.
Sleepwalkers is one of those films that I don’t really understand why it’s so hated by a majority of its intended audience. It’s certainly one that’s worth revisiting, and I truly believe that doing so might warrant a different reaction. It’s a darkly comedic take on vampires that manages to hold up more so than I was expecting. Scream Factory’s re-release of it offers plenty of reasons to upgrade, but with the caveat that you’re getting almost the exact same A/V presentation, as nice as it is. Otherwise, it comes highly recommended.
– Tim Salmons