With almost every one of his subsequent novels optioned for adaptation as feature films or prestigious television mini-series following the huge success of his first three, Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot and The Shining, the early eighties home video boom expanded the demand for the works of Stephen King to the point where his prolific output of short stories almost became an industry unto themselves.
King having already dabbled in film directly with 1986’s Maximum Overdrive, having penned the screenplay inspired by his short story Trucks and served as director, that he would eventually write an original screenplay was inevitable, the only surprise being how long it took, Sleepwalkers not released until eighteen years after the publication of his first novel, almost to the day.
Having explored vampires in modern America in ‘Salem’s Lot and shapeshifters in Cycle of the Werewolf, itself filmed as Silver Bullet in 1985, Sleepwalkers would revisit these themes, positing the idea that the titular creatures were “the probable source of the vampire legend,” the last lonely survivors of a hidden race who survived by consuming the life energy of others.
Directed by Mick Garris, his first studio film after his debut Critters 2, in the accompanying special features of Eureka’s new Blu-ray presentation he comments that he was not the first choice of the studio but it is his interpretation of the script as “Norman Rockwell goes to Hell” which eventually won approval.
Garris’ description is apt, his conventional approach balancing the more outrageous ideas of King’s script, principally set in Travis, Indiana, and featuring many familiar elements from his earlier work, small-town America, the rites of high school kids, dating, the movies, fast cars and dark secrets, and of course a writer.
Transfer student Charles Brady (Charmed’s Brian Krause) drawing attention in English class with his short story of alienation and exclusion, a family driven from their home, but it is Tanya Robertson (Twin Peaks’ Mädchen Amick) to whom he offers a ride home and later introduces to his mother, the timeless beauty Mary (Gretel & Hansel’s Alice Krige), barely seen outside the Brady home yet dominating the film.
Charles’ story was less fictional and more autobiographical, he and his mother moving from town to town as their true nature and their only weakness catches up with them, the scratch of a cat, Garris recalling the Sleepwalkers shoot involving 126 of them though he singles out Sparks who played police cat Clovis as “the Robert de Niro of cat actors.”
With cameos from King, Joe Dante, John Landis, Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper and Mark Hamill, Krause and Amick are a great couple despite their differences, their close friendship apparent in the recent joint interview on the disc, while Krige is flawlessly elegant and menacing, recalling her continuing delight when offered genre roles where “you are given the opportunity to create characters that are enormous.”