Sleepwalkers [Collector’s Edition] – Blu-ray Review
Film Title: Sleepwalkers
Release Date: 1992
Runtime: 89 minutes
Region Coding: Region A
Studio: Scream Factory (Shout! Factory)
Audio Format: DTS-HD MA 5.1 & 2.0
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Formats Available: 2012 Blu-ray / 2018 Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: 2018 Blu-ray
Blu-ray Release Date: 11/06/18
Director: Mick Garris
Cast: Brian Krause, Mädchen Amick, Alice Krige, Dan Martin, Jim Haynie, Cindy Pickett, Lyman Ward, Glenn Shadix, Ron Perlman, Cynthia Garris, Monty Bane
Stephen King‘s “Sleepwalkers” was directed by Mick Garris, best known for writing & directing “Critters 2” from 1988, writing “Hocus Pocus” from 1993, directing “Psycho IV: The Beginning” from 1990, and for directing all four episodes of the made for TV mini-series adaptation of Stephen King‘s “The Stand“ from 1994.
Stephen King actually wrote this story specifically to be made into a film. In fact, this was (as I know) the third time King had wrote a story specifically intended to be made into a film. Most all of the other films made were based on his stories that had originally been published in print. It is worth noting that the first two other films that King wrote as intended for film were “Creepshow” (directed by George A. Romero) from 1982, and the only film he [King] ever directed “Maximum Overdrive” from 1986.
The story here is a bit out there in comparison to the author’s other works. It involves a type of creature referred to as a “Sleepwalker” that we are given a definition of as the film opens. That definition of a sleepwalker is as follows:
“sleep’walk’er n. Nomadic shape-shifting creatures with human and feline origins. Vulnerable to the deadly scratch of the cat, the sleepwalker feeds upon the life-force of virginal human females.
Probable source of the vampire legend.”
– CHILLICOATHE ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF ARCANE KNOWLEDGE
1ST EDITION, 1884
So, as the film opens up we are treated to first (appropriately enough) the almost haunting yet beautiful sound of the song “Sleep Walk“ by Santo & Johnny playing on a turntable. In that same bedroom we find a teenage boy looking almost mezmorized at a book. That boy is “Charles Brady” (Brian Krause) who is looking at a high school yearbook, where he has circled out a specific girl’s class photo. He then proceeds to take out a knife and show his dedication to this girl (that he does not even know) by carving out a symbol on his own arm.
It’s pretty obvious that something is off with our friend Charles, especially when we are introduced to a woman we see that he lives with, as the two start to dance a bit closely. Oddly enough, and I do mean oddly, we find out that this woman is his mother “Mary Brady” (Alice Krige). The son and mother are new to the town, reclusive, strange as all hell, and they are clearly not human or normal (by any standards). We see that their house is being surrounded by cats dozens of cats, that seemingly are almost drawn to son and mother.
As Charles and Mary discuss, he has his eye on a young female virgin from the high school that he has just started at. The reason they want this girl is to feed on her to essentially stay alive, much like a vampire. The next day comes and we are introduced to a teenage girl that works at a theater by the name of “Tanya Robertson” (Mädchen Amick), dancing around listening to music on her Walkman while cleaning. She happens to bump into our wouldbe protagonist Charles, and the two strike up a flirtatious conversation. It turns out this girl is the very same girl that Charles had circled in his yearbook, and the girl he has discussed with his mother: the virgin they need to feed on.
Charles actually has a class with Tanya at school where he recites a story about “sleepwalkers” – pretty creepy itself – that the teacher “Mr. Fallows” (Glenn Shadix) commends him upon. As Charles tells the story it’s obvious that Tanya was totally drawn in by his story. Needless to say, the two will eventually go out on a date of sorts and that is where the whole thing plays out. To avoid any huge “spoilers” I’ll just say that it turns out that there are these strange almost vampire catlike creatures that are feeding on virgins, just as the opening old definition states.
Along the ways you’ll get some great supporting performances here from Dan Martin (“Andy Simpson”), Jim Haynie (“Sheriff Ira”), Monty Bane (“Horace”), Ron Perlman (“Captain Soames”), as well as Tanya‘s parents: Cindy Pickett (“Mrs. Robertson”) and Lyman Ward (“Mr. Robertson”) – that also played the parents in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” two years earlier, in 1986. No joking, and what’s even funnier is that they are actually married in real life. There are also some very short, but memorable, bit parts played by Mark Hamill, John Landis, Joe Dante, Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper, and Stephen King himself.
Stephen King‘s “Sleepwalkers” is a very unique story, and definitely has comedic nature to it, with some very funny lines of dialogue. It’s not to be fully taken seriously, and to be more of a “popcorn” horror flick. I think maybe some folks didn’t understand that was what King was going for here, as well as with some other of his work being misunderstood. Sure, the premise here is a tad bit absurd: that these two unknown creatures are posing as humans (mother and son), while fending off hoards of cats (mysteriously attracted to them). This mother and son (creatures or not) have some serious will to survive, although live going from town to town apparently repeating this ritual to stay alive? I can’t say that sounds like much fun really. That and their whole relationship when in human form is a tad bit weird, to say the very least.
Despite the weird nature of its story, this movie proves to be a good bit of fun. Plus, it does have its share of gore, makeup, and special effects that are sure to offer up a fright, absolute confusion or hell let’s be honest: perhaps a straight out laugh. The film has its moments where the blend with comedic nature really make this more enjoyable, while the real horror element does manage to freak you the hell out.
Movie Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
According to the technical specifications listed on IMDb this was shot on 35MM film using the Arriflex 535 cameras. It’s worth noting that there was a 2012 Blu-ray release of this film, and this seems to be using that very same video transfer – as far as I can tell.
There’s a great amount of film grain present here, with a solid black level. The color palette can feel a tad bit subdued at first, but does offer some bolder colors later on in the film. Fleshtones appear to be accurate here, much thanks to the color. This has a good amount of detail to be found in this high definition presentation, especially in closeups. There are some occasional imperfections very slightly present in the transfer, but for the most part this comes across as very solid in terms of video presentation.
It’s worth noting that there’s some really cutting edge (for the time) special effects to be found here like the CGI “morphing” technology that had been previously used on the short film / music video “Michael Jackson: Thriller” from 1983. The make-up and special effects work here is also great for its time, and that looks as great as it should here. It’s safe to say the film looks just as good as it did the first time around on Blu-ray, which is very solid and at times pretty impressive to be a 1992 film – especially for one that was shot on just a 15 million dollar budget. I don’t think there really was a need to do a new transfer here, as it looked just fine already. That said, just know that it is (or at least very similar to) the previous transfer.
Video Quality Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented in both DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio Stereo. According to IMDb technical specifications during its theatrical run this film received a Dolby mix, so it’s understandable we get a 5.1 surround lossless mix. One thing that the original 2012 Blu-ray release claimed to have on its packaging but sadly lacked was a 5.1 lossless mix and this time around we actually got one. As you would expect, I opted for watching this with the 5.1 and will be focusing on that mix.
Dialogue from the very start is delivered distinctly, via the center channel speaker (on the 5.1 mix). The music early on with the instrumental song “Sleep Walk“ (performed by Santo & Johnny) sounds really nice, setting the mood of the film very early on, with mostly presence in the front left and right channel speakers. You’ll also notice that the music does make use of the rear channels here, and does throughout for songs as well as the original Score.
12 minutes into the film you’ll notice the music from the song “Do You Love Me“ (performed by The Contours) makes some good use of the rear channels and has a decent amount of bass via the subwoofer. There’s a tiny amount of hiss here, but it’s not all too bothersome as the only times you notice it are in very quiet scenes. 20 minutes in and we start to get to hear some nice bass via the subwoofer at times, which certainly helps to build suspense. Sound effects get some nice rear channel use here in this 5.1 mix.
The film’s original Score by Nicholas Pike starts to intensify a bit around 27 minutes in, with nice rear channel use, bass via the subwoofer, and prominently delivered throughout the front left and right channels. It’s enough to give a first time viewer of the film a jump, so-to-speak, even this early on. It gets a lot more intense as things in the film progress, with the sound of cat meows being something you’re sure to not forget anytime soon.
This film does really have its moments where it really benefits from being in surround sound, that much is for certain. In terms of audio, the presentation on this new release of the film on Blu-ray is a solid effort and does the film justice. It also serves its purpose by helping to deliver for the horror. That’s always important in the horror genre, to be able to have a mix that can help provide as much scares or such as the action happening on screen.
Audio Quality Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release all are presented in 1080p HD video with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo sound – unless otherwise noted below. They include the following:
- NEW Audio Commentary with Director Mick Garris and Stars Mädchen Amick and Brian Krause
- NEW “Feline Trouble – An Interview with Director Mick Garris” (18:34 – HD) proves to be very informative and entertaining. I love how Garris describes his films usually as “Norman Rockwell Goes to Hell” – which is so true, and so cool at the very same time. This is one excellent interview. You end up learning a lot of facts, and get to hear about the experience that he had making this film, working with Stephen King, the talented make-up special effects crew members, and with the memorable cast.
- NEW “When Charles Met Tanya – A Conversation with Stars Mädchen Amick and Brian Krause” (15:25 – HD) gives you an interview the two actors that played “Charles Brady” and “Tanya Robertson” in the film. The creature himself and the cute girl get back together to have a bit of a retrospective look back on the film, and share stories. This absolutely proves to be a must-watch, much like the interview with the film’s director. If this isn’t enough for you, it’s worth noting these two team back up with the film’s director on the new audio commentary track featured on this release as well.
- NEW “Mother & More – An Interview with Actress Alice Krige” (15:49 – HD) proves to be a tad bit more serious, and ranges from Krige discussing working on other projects like “Star Trek: First Contact” (1996), as well as working with the make-up prosthetics, and gives her whole take on the story. You have to understand that this actress has done a lot of serious works over the years (and still does), check her IMDb listing and you’ll see. That said, you can understand why she looks back on this role with more seriousness perhaps than the younger cast members. She ends up admitting to knowing that some parts were intended to be a bit comical, even to her. It’s nice to know one of her favorite scenes and lines in the film is also one of my own. Alice has a good sense of humor, and understanding of the story.
- NEW “Creatures & Cats: The FX of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers” (15:38 – HD) includes interviews with Tony Gardner (Special Make-up Effects Supervisor) and Mike Smithson (Prosthetics Designer). As the interview starts with Tony Gardner he’s explaining how they had just worked with Sam Raimi on “Darkman” in 1990, were about to work on “Army of Darkness” in 1992 (yet again with Raimi), and had also worked with this film’s director (Mick Garris) on “Psycho IV: The Beginning” back in 1990. If you look at Gardner’s IMDb credits you’ll notice he’s been involved in a lot of a memorable films over the years, including Michael Jackson’s music video for “Thriller” directed by John Landis. In fact, that music video was the first project to feature a “morphing” CGI visual effects technique that this film uses. Mike Smithson also has a rather impressive set of credits if you look at his IMDb page, including a lot of early horror and more modern films. These two special effects guys combined have some amazing works, and this film was just one of their early works. It’s very fun to hear the two guys reminisce about working on this project and their other works as well.
- Behind-The-Scenes Footage (6:53 – HD) comes from a VHS source of standard definition video that has been upconverted here to HD. This is some very raw on set footage, that probably is best left for the true fans of the film. There’s no real narration here, as it almost plays a bit like a home movie. This focuses mainly on the make-up special effects scenes and such. It’s pretty funny watching the creatures (in costume) trying to work with the cats, while the people on set even laugh at times.
- Theatrical Trailer (1:53 – HD)
- TV Spots (1:52 – HD) look and sound god awful. Wow! Still, they bring back memories and are nice to see included.
- Still Gallery (3:52 – HD) features hi-resolution stills that play as a slideshow of the promotional artwork and on set photography. This features some excellent glimpses behind-the-scenes, and even includes some shots with Stephen King.
Overall the bonus materials you get here are really good. You get a new audio commentary track featuring the director and the two stars of the film, as well as four new interviews that total up to over an hour in length. There are also the original extras ported over. It’s worth mentioning that the new artwork is very cool, as it features reversible artwork with the original poster. Scream Factory and Red Shirt Pictures have put together a nice set of extras, as has become expected with their collaborations, and for Scream Factory Blu-ray releases.
Bonus Materials Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
“Sleepwalkers” is a bit of a unique horror film, and one of the least popular Stephen King stories made as film or TV mini-series. I actually find it to be pretty good, as it offers some nice performances and quotable lines. The horror element is also a bit to leave you not only afraid but somewhat confused, which is natural. It’s whole premise is a bit outlandish as all hell, and it doesn’t take itself seriously, delivering at times a comedic nature. That’s what sometimes makes a good “popcorn” flick with that style of almost campy horror, even sometimes getting a laugh – usually from the dialogue. It’s fun to watch this film now and get the comedic parts that were intended, as this was supposed to be funny – although not so much the case with some of the special effects.
In terms of presentation, this new Blu-ray features video quality and audio quality that I found to be pretty impressive. The video transfer seems to be the same as the previous Blu-ray, but you now finally get a nice 5.1 lossless mix that does the film justice. The bonus materials we get here are nice, with a new audio commentary, and four new featurettes, as well as some of the original extras ported over. This makes for a nice “Collector’s Edition” release of “Sleepwalkers” and is definitely something that fans will want to pick up. If you have never seen this film, and you’re a fan of Stephen King‘s work, there’s never been a better time to give this film a chance. Just be warned that this film can be a tad bit much at times, in comparison to King’s other works, with a nice blend of horror and comedy.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4.25 (out of 5) for video quality
4.25 (out of 5) for audio quality
3.5 (out of 5) for bonus materials