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Sleepwalkers (1992)

Sleepwalkers (1992) - video cover

As a teenage girl, I saw 1992’s Sleepwalkers at the drive-in theater in Aberdeen, Washington. It was a great drive-in film because it has some juicy bits of gore and horror, a splash of sex (“sensuality” according to the rating), and “pretty white kids” with on-point 90s style (some great hair in the film!) The story centers on mother-and-son (played perfectly by Alice Krige and Brian Krause) who’ve mysteriously shown up in a small town after being on the run from some mayhem and murder. They set up in a creepy farmhouse and keep mostly to themselves – except for scoping the local high school for a young virgin.

That was about it, for plot. The film wasn’t perfect, and reeked of the typical King-adaptation cheese, but it was still a lot of fun.

Or so I thought at the time!

On a re-watch tonight everything is mixed up, and the movie isn’t quite as I remember. First, the film isn’t even a little bit scary. There is more sexuality than I remember – between mom and son. I like my incest scenes rather sparse, but OK. Let’s make it all kinds of awkward.

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It’s also a lot more sexist than I’d remembered. The talented and gorgeous Mädchen Amick (21 at the time of filming) is largely wasted. She is the silly, shy teen virgin – and then, abruptly, a histrionic assault survivor. She also gets punched in the face many times in the film, gets yanked around by her hair, and shrieks ineffectively. (You think maybe Stephen King has issues with women? Hmmm…). Krige as the menacing mama is written as a vain, “aging” paranoid cat-woman obsessed with her son (boring!). Even so, Ms. Krige’s creepitude manages to be quite arresting, and she spends most her time looking devastating in a series of flimsy nighties and, presumably, lighting candles while waiting for her boy to get home.

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That said, there are attributes to the film. There are several over-the-top horror moments that are fun for a popcorn movie. The film is also stocked with wonderful horror and sci-fi cameos (all men, natch): Mark HamillStephen KingJohn LandisJoe DanteClive Barker, and Tobe Hooper – as well as a brief performance by the always-delightful Ron Perlman. While ultimately the film struggles with pacing and tone (it flips from a horror/drama to a campy horror in the second act, and then muddles along for the rest of the runtime), it is still a must-see for those who like horror shlock, or enjoy the actors within.

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