|Category||Horror/Erotic Thriller||Crew Biographies|
|Running Time||85:35 Minutes|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English (Dolby Digital 2.0 ,
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The plot of Sleepwalkers, unlike much anything else that Stephen King has written during his monumental career, is rather simple. Essentially, a sleepwalker is a vampire-like creature that feeds upon the "life-force" of virginal human females, and the introduction even offers this as being grounded in Gothic history as a possible source for the vampire myth. The film begins with a quick introduction at a house where one such human female has been drained in this manner by sleepwalkers that remain unknown until moments later, when we are introduced to Mary Brady (Alice Krige) and her son, Charles (Brian Krause). Mary is not in the best of health, what with virginal females being something of a rare commodity in this relatively enlightened age, and it falls upon Charles to find such women for Mary to feed upon. After some exposition that consists of Charles disposing of a rather shady teacher known only as Fallows (Glenn Shadix) in a messy manner that made me get up and applaud, Charles eventually gets around to the task of putting the moves on Tanya Robertson (Mädchen Amick). Whether or not he is genuinely in love with her, as we could be forgiven for thinking during some moments of the film, is anyone's guess. This creates a serious conflict of interest in the story that really should have been explored further, but is left hanging as a loose thread in a manner that is far more consistent with Kevin Williamson than the great Stephen King. When Tanya takes Charles with her to see a graveyard, however, we see Charles attempting to suck away her lifeforce, an assault which Tanya responds to by plunging a corkscrew into Charles' back.
Herein lies the essential problem with Sleepwalkers and its script: the above-mentioned moment is all that the film really consists of, just Tanya fighting off Charles as he tries to get something from her that she is not willing to give. I don't mean that in any vaguely erotic sense of the description, as the film's few eroticised moments only succeed in vaguely offending me with their gay innuendo and incestuous erotica. Having gotten to know several victims of incest in the last few months, I suspect that the latter succeeded in offending me more than it did when I originally saw this film, but having a gay character such as Fallows presented as a teacher with an abusive bent towards unsuspecting students also offends me a lot. It's a good thing that this film recovered itself by showing the man getting exactly what he deserved when he picks the wrong student to make advances towards. Another problem with this film is that when one is told that the film is written by Stephen King, you expect to see a multi-textured story in which all of the characters, not just the leads, are firmly developed as people with feelings and histories. Aside from the aforementioned minor role by Glenn Shadix (whose other notable role was the much-disliked Otho from Beetlejuice), it is hard to care exactly what happens to anyone other than Mary Brady, Charles Brady, or Tanya Robertson. The erotic subtexts of the film also fail to receive anything resembling serious or even vague development, instead merely being used to advance the film in a clumsy manner. If these had been dropped in favour of further development of the characters killed by Charles and their back stories, we could have had a tight, hundred-minute horror film that could have stood on its own merits. Instead, what we are left with is a horror film that tries to be as mild an erotic thriller as possible, and falls flat in comparison with Basic Instinct, which arrived at theatres during the same year.
Having said that much, Mädchen Amick looks truly beautiful in this film, and makes the film worth buying if you want to see something really nice to look at on your home theatre. Glenn Shadix puts in a marvellous performance as a character I really grew to hate in a second flat (which was the whole idea), and Alice Krige bravely fights against the constriction of the script. The violence of the film is very graphic and well-simulated, even if the concepts of the murders depicted are patently ridiculous, although I won't spoil them if you haven't seen the film. If you want to be entertained in a bloody, and decidedly B-grade fashion, then this is the film for you, unless you plan on watching it with someone who has strong views about child-protection issues (even though all the characters are at least seventeen years old). Perhaps in the near future when the 1986 production of The Fly and its sequel are transferred to DVD (that's a hint for whoever owns the rights), this would make a good marathon episode. Just don't watch this film with anyone who is likely to take it seriously.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced, which makes a very nice difference from the Pan & Scan mess that was thrust upon the VHS version. One might think that you wouldn't lose much from Panning & Scanning a 1.85:1 picture, but the simple truth is that the wider aspect ratio was well-used, giving the peaceful suburban American environment a life of its own.
The transfer is razor-sharp throughout except for a couple of shots towards the end of the film where a lot of motion is taking place, but this is a fault caused by the photography. The shadow detail is good, although some dark shots could have been a little more detailed if you want to be really picky. There was no low-level noise in the picture at all, which is a nice change from the VHS rental version, where more than half of the film was little more than noise.
The colour saturation is an accurate reflection of the location where the film was shot, which looks a lot like the American equivalent of Richmond, NSW. Deep shades of grey and green leap off the screen and say hello, while the occasional splash of red is somewhat dull in saturation, creating a more realistic use of fake blood than in most films of this kind. Colours are used extremely well in this film, and the transfer gives them all plenty of room in which to look their best.
MPEG artefacts were not noticeable during the feature, and it is pretty fair to say that the compression is totally transparent on this disc, with not a single artefact to be noticed at normal playing speed. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor telecine wobble during the opening credits, but this settled down to the point of being unnoticeable once the film got underway. Film artefacts were mild, and hardly present at all, although they did pick up in frequency during the middle of the film.
The dialogue is clear and easy to understand most of the time, although some lines were mumbled or screamed, making them a little more difficult to discern at times. Given that these lapses occur very early or very late in the film, when the dialogue is doing little to advance the story, this is more than acceptable. Audio sync was not a problem except for one line at the end of the film, but this appeared to be more of an ADR issue than any specific transfer problem. I suspect that most of the people who view this disc solely for entertainment won't notice any real problem at all.
The score music is credited to Nicholas Pike, and an especially haunting effort it is, too, making the film work in moments where it almost fell flat. Much of the score consists of simple progressions on a synthesizer, accompanied by some disjointed choir humming, and it is quite effective in spite of the stark simplicity. The theme used during the closing credits was more than enough to keep me glued to the screen whilst they rolled, which is saying quite a lot.
The surround channels were used to support some sound effects and music, but they weren't really used in an especially creative or inspired way. Given that the surround information on all of the soundtracks present is monaural, a sad limitation of the Pro-Logic encoding system, this can be overlooked. During the car chase sequences, some sound effects are moved from the front to the rear in order to further the illusion on the screen, which was a nice touch. The music's use of the surround channels helped add to its haunting presence, so this is overall a very good Pro-Logic remix of a film that was originally presented in Stereo.
The subwoofer was used sparingly but effectively to support the sounds of engines and assorted violence, all without making itself conspicuous. All in all, this is one of the most satisfying surround-encoded soundtracks I have had the pleasure of listening to for some time.
The video quality is excellent apart from a few too many film artefacts.
The audio transfer is one of the best Pro-Logic mixes I have listened to in a while.
The extras are exceptionally limited.
© Dean McIntosh
(my bio sucks... read it anyway)
October 20, 2000.
|DVD||Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output|
|Display||Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built In (Amplifier)|
|Amplification||Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer|