WRITER: Stephen King
DIRECTOR: Mick Garris
STARRING: Brian Krause as Charles Brady
Madchen Amick as Tanya Robertson
Alice Krige as Mary Brady
Jim Haynie as Sheriff Ira
Dan Martin as Deputy Andy Simpson
Glenn Shadix as Mr. Fallows
QUICK CUT: A young girl falls in love with the new guy in town, who also happens to be a half-cat supernatural creature that feeds on virginal life force. Sucks to be her.
Melissa - A young girl working at the local theatre who falls in with the wrong guy at the worst possible time. She's into photography and her schoolwork, and so not ready for a relationship.
Charles - Especially with this guy. Since he's a demon cat creature who likes to suck the energy out of virgins, he's not the best boyfriend. Part of him wants to have a normal life, and settle down, but Charles is a little too much of a mama's boy.
Mary - Charles' mother, who is controlling, overbearing, and definitely doesn't like the idea of her son falling in love with another woman.
Deputy Andy - The local cop who first discovers the sleepwalkers, and likes to take his cat on patrols with him. Which is weird, but comes in surprisingly handy!
THE GUTS: At long last, I have a Stephen King movie to rant about! And well, this is an interesting way to start. The movie opens up with the definition of a sleepwalker, from Chillicoathe Encyclopedia of Arcane Knowledge. And it's not what you think! How much you wanna bet that Chillicoathe is an ancient Indian word for 'bullshit'? Because I'm pretty sure that encyclopedia doesn't exist, nor does this definition of sleepwalkers being nomadic shapeshifters that fear cats and feed off of virgin female blood. Source of the vampire legends my ass.
I gotta tell you, Chloe King and the Mai would not be pleased with how their feline brethren are behaving.
And right there you have your plot setup.
But at least things pick up pretty damn quick. That definition gets slashed by claws, things burn, and the movie begins for reals, on a shot of Bodega Bay, CA. Oh, if this movie has killer puppets, this will be awesome! But no, no killer puppets. But we do have an amazingly haunting song by Enya. This movie, right here, was my introduction to Enya, and I've been a fan since. I'm not sure if this is how she expected to get fans. So yeah, we get some burning, awesome music, and sheriff Mark Hamill!
The sheriff and friends are there to investigate reports of a missing pair of people who haven't been seen in days. This is what happens when you realise you're in a bad Stephen King movie, and try and avoid your call time.
They enter the house and find more dead cats, a lot of blood, and not much else, until they hear something in the closet. This, ladies and gentlemen, may be the most justified cat-based jump scare in the history of film.
And they totally blow it, by having the cat jumping out of the closet being barely visible. Ah well. At least that one makes sense.
But just when you think it's blown, a dead body follows the cat out of the closet, the real jump scare. And, yeah. That's pretty damned effective. We all expect the cat, especially with all the others, and then they misdirect us so our guard is let down. Damnit, I'm applauding the movie this early in.
What they've found is the dessicated, dehydrated body of a little girl, with a rose in her hair. I guess when she said she needed a glass of water before bed, she meant it.
Once the credits finish rolling, we know this is a Stephen King movie almost immediately, because hey look! A tiny town that's a typical slice of Americana! With a classic song playing on a record! The tropes begin! Surprisingly enough, we're not in Maine, but rather in Travis, Indiana, which is at least a change. In fairness, this is just about as deep as the King tropes go.
As the music plays, we see a shirtless guy staring at his yearbook, take out a knife, and begin to carve a girl's name into his arm. In extreme closeup. Yeek. If she turns him down, he is NOT going to take it well, is he?
Charles comes downstairs and finds his mother watching as a cat pokes around a bear trap they laid out. So, these must be the sleepwalkers. I'm thinking that opening definition is to the detriment of this movie. There would be far more mystery and questions if we didn't know everything beforehand. You would be sitting and wondering why these people are baiting cat traps, and such.
They talk about his plans for the evening, going to the movies to meet up with Tanya. They dance to the music behind them, and discuss things, and the movie takes a creepy turn when sexual tension that should not be builds in the room. Culminating in a kiss. Which then gets worse when he scoops his mother up in his arms and carries her off to the bedroom.
Never before have I been more welcome for a scene change. Which is to the movie theatre where Tanya works, and where Charles is coming to stalk her. She's busy cleaning up the place, and listening to even more classic rock.
And since she's so engrossed in her music, she doesn't hear Catman sneak up on her, so she bumps into the popcorn machine spilling a whole box on top of her.
Charles orders his concessions, they flirt, and she lets him in for free. Wow, that's a random act of kindness which will surely be paid back in full!
After work, Tanya's dad picks her up, as the clock strikes Enya. Er, 12. But they play more Enya music. Which is always welcome.
Charles arrives home where an officer is taking away a cat that got too close to the house, and there's more coming. Hooray, protector cats, trying to stop the monsters! They can smell fear. And catnip.
Once they're safely inside, Charles' mother asks about the new girl, and they keep saying she's 'nice'. Which is so clearly a euphemism for virgin. And again, would have worked better, wondering what they meant, without that infodump from the encyclopedia. You still pick up on the true meaning towards the end of the discussion, but if it had been kept mysterious...oh well.
The next day, Charles is in English class, and is telling a story about sleepwalkers, from their perspective, and how their calm, peaceful existence is shattered by the coming of humans to hunt them down. And how one day, the Uniter will come, and she will be known by her nine lives...wait, wrong program.
After school, Tanya's telling her friends about the new guy, and they're teasing her. I'm honestly surprised we haven't run into a high school bully yet, what with this being Stephen King territory. Anyways, speak the cat-demon's name and he shall appear, so Charles asks if he can gives the girls a ride home. Tanya's friends say no so the couple can have some alone time, and one of her friend pantomimes a blowjob. I like the reversal, that's usually something reserved for disgusting male characters to do.
The movie shifts into a lighter gear for a bit as Tanya takes Charles home and shows him around her room. We learn her mother does gravestone rubbings, but the humour kicks in while Tanya is trying to clean up her messy room from her underwear dangling everywhere, without Charles noticing too much. It's a cute scene, that feels honest, but almost starts to feel out of place.
On his way home, Charles gets pulled over by Mr. Fallows (Which, I swear, everyone pronounces as Phallis) to harass his new student and reveals that he knows Charles' transfer records are fake.
Charles thinks the teacher is trying to blackmail him, but Fallows starts poking the kid, and has other ideas. We never quite learn what that is though, as Charles just rips his hand right off. Which is a shame we don't get to see. Sure, we see the blood splash, and the gory stump, but what a bummer! I do love that Charles actually gives back the severed hand.
And then this happens.
Once Charles goes all catface, naturally Fallows runs. He runs right past his car and into the woods. Eventually, the Raimi cam runs right into a tree, knocking the cameraman out. Charles catches up, and chows down on Fallows. I hope that doesn't ruin his dinner with mommy.
After the catman has his noms, he races home a little too fast. He gets the attention of Deputy Andy, who just so happens to have his pet cat on patrol with him.
Charles plays a little bit of cat and mouse with the cop, leading him on a merry chase through the backroads of Travis. He nearly runs over a kid getting off a school bus, which has Castle County written on the side. Wait, isn't that in King's fictional version of Maine?
He finally slows down so the cop can ride alongside and tell him to pull over. Charles asks him how to get his car out of second gear, and flips him off with a great grin. But his mirth is destroyed when Clovis the cat pops up and hisses, making Charles freak out.
Now that Charles has revealed his true face, or whatever the hell that was, he stops playing around, hits the gas and makes good his escape - by stopping, concentrating, and making the car become invisible. At least, to humans. Clovis can still see him when the cop catches up to them.
With the cop gone, Charles undoes his shadow spell, and his blue car is now a red convertible. Ok, I can buy invisibility cloaks, but how does THAT work? Maybe with a Sleepwalker's warp vision but I dunno...
Anyways, I liked this chase. It's not typical of a horror movie to have an actual car chase in it, so it's a nice change to the genre, it's playful, and it shows Charles likes having fun, working in some character subtext for him. And the occasional cutaways to the cat's reactions are nice and light. So, mixing things up a bit, tossing in some undertones, and having fun, yeah. It mostly works, and it keeps things a little light, without abandoning the horror.
But, back to the movie! Deputy Andy tells his fellow cops what happened, and probably gives them too much detail. They either mock him, or tell him he needs to take vacation time, or try to make up excuses for him. But Deputy Andy shall not be stopped! Cry vengeance, and let slip the cats of war!
Charles heads home to mommy Mary, and she's not happy he couldn't bring his girlfriend home for dinner, literally. Don't worry, momma cat, in a few years he'll marry a Charmed One, and she'll provide you with plenty of life force! But that's not fast enough for Mary, so she starts smacking her son around, and morphs into her cat form along the way, just to remind us.
She notices a large gash on his arm, and realises he was seen, so Charles tells her about his busy day of murder and car chases. He is visibly bummed that the killings have already started, and you can tell that he's not 100% into this life of theirs.
And if you didn't get the earlier subtext of the Sleepwalkers before, they make it very clear and give us a sex scene between Charles and his mother. Gnngh.
The next day, Tanya heads over to Charles' house for their date, and his mother is more than happy to meet the new girlfriend. And dinner. There's a nice, quick scene where the camera pans to a mirror and we see the mother's monstrous form for just a split second, and then the scene cuts to another angle. If it had lasted any longer, it would have looked silly, because the costume does. But the quick view gives just that right impression of 'oh crap' and 'what the hell was that??" with a sense of dread as you know Tanya isn't seeing what we are.
Charles' mother gives off just the right mix of menace for the audience, but remains polite enough to the new girl. When she grabs a pair of scissors, you think for a moment this might just be it for Tanya, but she instead clips off a rose to give to the girl. Just like the one Mark Hamill found on the dead girl at the start.
Those crazy kids head off to the cemetery for their date, and while there, the convertible turns back into a Trans-Am, just in time for Deputy Andy to drive on by.
Charles and Tanya continue to play in the graveyard, taking photos and rubbings, when their flirtations get them falling over and entangled in each other's limbs. They start making out, and Charles seems hesitant at first, but then there's a way sudden turn as he starts sucking her life force out. He probably can't help that part, but then he gets really creepy and scaring her, trying to force himself on her.
He reveals his true face, or one of them, to her, and she takes it about as well as you'd expect. The sudden turn sits uneasily with me, but I guess it's part of his nature, and he wants his mother to live. Still, maybe they shouldn't have tried so hard to make him care about Tanya *right* before he eats her face.
I do approve of using cameras as weapons to knock off the evil demon cat person, that's for sure.
But the Nikon doesn't stop Charles, and only makes him angrier. He pounces on Tanya and holds her down, until she gets her hand on the corkscrew she brought for their picnic, and uses his eyeball like a wine bottle.
Charles has a great reaction, as the blood comes gushing out. For a mystical creature such as he, this is likely only a minor inconvenience, so once he stops the intial screaming, he just says his mother is going to kill him for getting his shirt ruined. I've always liked a villain with a sense of humour.
Deputy Andy finally shows up as Tanya's running away, and gets her in the cop car for safety. But since he's outside the car, he's very unsafe, and Andy gets a pencil to the ear, in an early version of the Joker's magic trick.
That manages to somehow NOT be the death of Andy, and he actually manages to shoot Charles in the back. Considering he's missing an eyeball and not being slowed down, that doesn't really do much to him.
It does get Charles' attention though, and he takes the officer's gun and finishes the job the pencil started. Let me just say, having just watched a scene where a half-cat person with one bloody eye socket fights a cop with a pencil sticking out of his ear...it doesn't get more bizarre than this and still remain coherent.
Clovis finally can't take much more of this, and gets revenge for the death of his owner, jumping out of the car and clawing up Charles' face. The puppetry is borderline laughable, and comes very close to ruining the scene. But it sends the Sleepwalker off back to the Mindscape...er, his mother, and Tanya is left behind in the cop car screaming for help.
The boy makes it home to Mary, she tries patching him up, and he tries using their magic to fix himself, but nothing seems to work. Charles is too drained, and the cats are closing in. I like that the movie gives these creatures some emotion, some character. You can argue they're just trying to survive, even if it comes at our expense. Are we any worse with cows? Sure, the Sleepwalkers are still evil, but they just want to live. I'm not saying I empathise with them, but it's an interesting take to use on your killers.
Meanwhile, the cops and medics clean up the mess at the cemetery, and listen to Tanya's story. Yeah, that goes well. But she remembers her camera, and they look forward to developing the film to see who it was. Even if it just comes out normal, and doesn't make her story less crazy, they'll at least know who the assailant is.
As Tanya is shuffled off home, she asks if she can have the cat. Since that's the only thing that's been effective against these things, I'd be grabbing him too. Heck, sign me up for full time old crazy cat lady status.
Mary hears sirens coming to get her son, and she makes them and the car disappear before they can arrive. They bust in and naturally don't find a thing, because that's how invisibility works.
While Tanya takes a bath and lies down, the movie starts to ramp back up again back at the Brady's. Some cops are still there, watching the place from their cars, and they see the front door open and close on its own. Mother sneaks up behind the pair and bashes their heads together until they pass out.
The doorbell rings at Tanya's place, and the deputy stationed there peeks outside and sees a state police cruiser. Nice use of the Sleepwalker powers. It follows the movie's rules, such as they are, and works as a believable trick of the people who don't know about the Sleepwalkers and what they can do.
But yeah, it's not the cops, its the Mrs. Brady. Mary's at the door and smashes a vase of flowers into Mister Robertson's head. Let the bloodbath begin!
The two mothers get into it over their kids trying to kill each other, and well, like children like parents, I guess. Mrs. Robertson tries to attack Mary, but she breaks the human's arm and ceiling cat watches her defenestrate.
Tanya hears the ruckus downstairs and comes down to see what's what. The deputy pulls his gun and is a truly lousy shot. He hits a lamp, a vase, and the window around Mary, while she just stands there and stares at him, with a great look of disbelief at how bad he is.
The deputy calls the station for help, and to let them know the crazy cat lady is there, but she, I am not kidding you, stabs him to death with a corn cob. I can't decide if that's insane, awesome, or somewhere in between.
While the killing spree is going on, cats from all over town run through the streets. They just might arrive on scene before the cops. No wait, the cops do get their first, just in time to see Mary dragging Tanya out like she's a caveman with his bride.
Hellboy tries to get the Borg Queen to stop, but she bites off his fingers, and almost rips his other arm off. Have I mentioned that this movie is full of crack cameos? The sheriff finally gets his shit together and runs off to the fight, telling another deputy to call in help from Castle Rock. Well, that's going to be a long drive from Maine.
Back at the Robertson home, Mary tosses Tanya over her arm, and starts shooting the police cars with Officer Hellboy's pistol. And she makes several cars explode in single shots. This would only work if it WAS Hellboy's gun.
They arrive back at the Brady house, and when Mary sees all the cats that have accumulated, she decides to ram the police car into the side of the house rather than risk trying to use the door.
But Charles isn't looking too good, and Tanya is pretty sure he's dead. Mary's in denial, and says he just wants to dance, using her magic cat powers to turn on the record player, because we haven't used that classic rock music drop enough times in this movie.
Mary uses those magic cat powers to reanimate her son as well, and makes the young couple dance. This is some fun acting by whomever is in the makeup for Charles. I'm presuming its still the actor. He does just the right amount of stiff jerkiness to sell the mental puppetry he's supposed to be moved by.
The sheriff arrives, and Clovis is already there, leading the charge into the house. Go, Clovis!
Inside, Charles might not be all dead, just mostly dead, as he reverts to his fully monstrous form, and begins draining Tanya again. He can has Tanyaburger!
Tanya learned well from her first experience, and jabs a finger into Charles' one good eye, making him stop. Mary tries to get Tanya off her son, but...CLOVIS TO THE RESCUE! With heroic music and everything. While the sheriff is still trying to bust into the house.
He remembers he has a shotgun door opener just in time to see a cat attacking a catwoman, while a girl screams and claws at a monstrous catlike thing on the floor. I bet he wishes he stayed outside.
The rest of the cats don't though, and now that the front door is wide open, they all come pouring into the house. Why they didn't follow Clovis through the window he broke, or through the gaping car shaped hole, I don't know. But better late than never. Stupid, lazy cats.
Cat after cat jumps on Mary, which she quickly throws off, but one dangles behind. It is hilariously removed when the sheriff shoots the Sleepwalker with his shotgun and the force of the blast knocks the cat flying back with a yelp. Not the best time for humour. But it IS funny.
The humans run away, and Mary follows in her full-on Sleepwalker form, venturing out of the safety of her house, and into the army of waiting felines. The sheriff uses one of the many traps to get Momma's attention, and she fights with the thing clamped to her head for a bit. She raises the sheriff over her head and impales him on a white picket fence.
At last, the felines in the yard decide to get involved, seeing that the humans can't do anything right, and jump all over Mary the monster, like they should have done five minutes ago. And she is such a big pussy about it, too.
And then she bursts into flames.
That's pretty much the end of it, as Clovis jumps into the police car, and Tanya hugs the VERY GOOD KITTY! And we get a little bit more Enya to play us out into the credits.
Video: This is a very good looking movie for the early 1990s. That's what a budget does for you. They had good film stock, and it was kept in good shape, so it looks like they had a good master to work from. The biggest problem is the look of the effects, but they're ok for 1992.
Audio: It's only a stereo mix, but it sounds good, and everything sounds clear. A full surround mix would've been nice, but what we get is solid.
Sound Byte: "People really should learn to keep their hands to themselves. Here's yours." Charles to Mr. Fallows after biting the hand that feeds him.
First Blood: Aside from the pre-dead body at the start, it's 30 minutes until we see someone bite it when Charles noms down on Fallows.
Best Corpse: How can I *not* go with the guy who gets cobbed to death. COBBED TO DEATH. I don't get to say that every day. Or ever.
Sex Appeal: Charles is shirtless here and there, and there's a sex scene between him and his mother. If that's your thing.
Movie Rating: Well, keeping in mind that this is a horror movie, it's pretty decent. It's Stephen King, it's got studio money behind it, and you can tell. The production values are high, and it's well made, and well acted. But it gets a bit TOO goofy at times, and a bit too plot ropey here and there, but with King and Mick Garris at the helm, it holds together well enough. Again, if the movie hadn't had the opening defitinion, it would have been a better mystery, and more intriguing, but the final product is solid enough. Four out of five fuzzy mice.
Entertainment Value: And it manages to be just as entertaining. The effects get downright silly at times, although the catmonsters still have some skin-crawling terror behind them. There's a good mix of Americana and horror, which is what Stephen King is good at. For the cameos alone this movie is almost worth watching. And yet it's made just bad enough to give you enough to laugh at when it's not being a legitimately decent movie. On top of all that, it's a pretty unique story, and a different take that lets you into the minds of the monsters from time to time. Four out of five roses in your hair.