Thursday, March 27, 2014



I apologize for having neglected all my devoted fans for such a prolonged time but tragedy has struck Chateau Maine over the past week. Last Wednesday, I returned home from my last day of shooting on Flying Down to Reno and received a call from David Hasselhoff, star of Waterworld II: The Gills Have Eyes, Norman's latest picture. Norman had not appeared for his call on the set in the penguin exhibit and was not to be found in his hotel room and the cast and crew were getting worried. I immediately raced to San Diego, knowing that Norman has a habit of getting himself in trouble. Nothing was missing from his suite at the Dude Motel and a check of the neighborhood bars and cocktail lounges was unrevealing. I was beginning to worry. 

The San Diego police became involved the next day. There was some speculation that he might have run off with Chandra Levy but I assured the nice detective that they were just 'good friends'. Around noon, I got word. Norman's martini shaker containing a quantity of T&T (Tanqueray and Ti-D-Bowl, a favored combination) had been found at the edge of the Sparklett's dancing waters pool. Norman had apparently had a bit more to drink than was good for him and then decided to go in for a swim. Divers were sent for, but all that they found was his thong. He was presumably swept into a drain pipe and flushed out into San Diego Bay. I'm just devastated. 

Needless to say, I feel like I'm sleep walking as I cope with the loss of my beloved Norman after so many years of domestic tranquility. I returned home with a heavy heart, poured a large single malt scotch and settled in to watch a movie.  Sleepwalkers was the only film in the collection whose title matched my sense of detachment so I decided to give it a whirl. Sleepwalkers is an unusual Stephen King film from 1992, as it was written directly for the screen, rather than adapted from a work of prose fiction. It owes something to Tourneur's Cat People, the 80s remake of the same by Paul Schrader, and both vampire and werewolf legends. 

The titular sleepwalkers are Charles (Brian Krause) and Mary (Alice Krige) Brady, a mother and son team of ancient beings who, though able to pass as human, are not. Their natural forms are a combination of Ron Perlman's Beast from the old TV series and Clarence, the cross-eyed lion. Cats are able to see through their human disguise and, no matter where they run, the house is soon surrounded with tabbies and persians which upsets the Bradys no end. Mama and her hunky late adolescent son have a relationship that the other Brady Bunch would have shied away from and they occasionally go at it like rabbits to Enya songs. Why this Oedipal relationship is necessary is one of numerous plot points that's brought up and then quickly abandoned. Mama also needs virgin blood in order to maintain her health and, when the young girls in a town start disappearing, the locals understandably get riled and chase the two of them off to new happy hunting grounds. The exact reason mama needs the girls are also never reliably explained but one surmises that she may have given Elizabeth Bathory an idea or two a few centuries back.

The Bradys have arrived in a new town where, despite being on the run for centuries, they're able to afford a cozy country retreat with tasteful appointments from Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma. Charles enrolls in the local high school where one of the teachers (Glenn Shadix) figures out his secret. He suggests a little after school nookie for silence and gets a bit more than he bargained for. Charles falls for one of his high school classmates, Tanya (Madchen Amick), Together, they do cute things like take rubbings of old grave stones (which makes Mama Mary awfully mad). But all is not as it seems, and soon the sleepwalkers are having to kill to protect their secrets and are once again fighting for their lives. 

The film is pedestrian in its visual look, although the transformation scenes for the sleepwalkers are fairly good morphings, especially considering the infancy of CGI in 1992. Its biggest fault is that it's very sloppily written. It's as if King had no idea how to tell his story. This is unusual given his reputation as an expert plot weaver. Here, however, ideas are broached, and quickly dropped. I put this down to its being written directly for the screen, rather than as a prose novel or short story first. I don't think King quite understood the requirements for clear screenwriting and what must be told between the lines. Director Mick Garris, a long time King collaborator who went on to make the TV versions of The Stand and The Shining, didn't have the flair to put the missing information in through directorial or performance choices. 

Brian Krause and Madchen Amick, as the young lovers and protagonists, are pretty and pretty vapid. Any Abercrombie and Fitch model could have done as good a job. They have one scene in a graveyard that has some spark and some interest, but otherwise, they might as well be mannequins with good hair and clear skin. Alice Krige, on the other hand, turns in a ferocious performance as the mother. Krige is one of those brilliant, but underrated, actresses who can spin straw into gold and the movie takes on new fire whenever she comes on screen. She's seductive, ruthless, terrifying and terrific all at once, and the only reason for sitting through the film. For lovers of trivia, King plays a cemetary caretaker and Clive Barker, Joe Dante, Tobe Hooper and John Landis all have cameos as technicians investigating an attack. 

Symbolic rose petals. Dead virgin in closet. Too many cats. Gravestone rubbing. Bare chest rubbing. Traumatic amputation. Gratuitous Stephen King cameo. Country picnic. Cataclysmic finale.

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