Saturday, October 22, 2011
In short, everything I’ve ever heard about this damned thing was correct. Nearly nothing is done well in this film. From the opening scene I knew we were in shit-ville because once again someone (that would be director Mick Garris) didn’t understand that Stephen King is not a scriptwriter. Mr. King is a novelist and, like many novelists, he can’t seem to understand that film/TV is a visual medium. This means you don’t need to have the characters onscreen laboriously tell us what we are seeing. We actually watch a corpse fall into frame (cheap scare), observe clearly that there is a rose tucked behind its left ear and then have the two characters in the scene tell us that there is a rose behind the dead woman’s ear. We freakin’ know! We can see the damned thing. This kind of detailed writing is necessary in a written story but in film it is annoying as hell. Novelists often seem not to be able to grasp that if we see something, having someone tell us what we‘re seeing accomplishes the opposite of what is intended. We are distanced from the story because be are being spoon fed information and the spell is destroyed. In King’s case I suspect that during this period of his stormy relationship with the film industry he tended to not trust that his ‘vision’ would reach the screen properly if he didn’t overwrite. I think he must have felt that if he piled on the detail surely the director would know how to make the movie in his head appear in theaters. The trouble is that, unless you go the voiceover route, the only way to communicate some ideas is through dialog. But trying to get across ALL such ideas verbally is a huge mistake. This is a stumbling block even a great novelist can hit as he struggles to convey concepts to move a screen story along and this film is a perfect example of failing hard. So, much like the similarly disastrous MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, when you couple this spoken excess with a director willing to simply transcribe his pedantic script to screen you have an accidental Stephen King comedy masterwork. You can have a lot of fun with everything in SLEEPWALKERS that is ham-fisted, badly staged, poorly thought out and just dumb or listen to that little voice in your head that says ‘There are better things to do with my time’. Even the moments that are clearly supposed to be comedic are so braindead and idiotic that you can’t imagine how an adult could think it was going to work. I mean, come on- death by corn on the cob? That’s not even trying.
Amusingly, there are a number of horror celebrity cameos in the film and when I saw John Landis and Joe Dante pop up in one scene I just kept thinking how much better the film would have been with either of them at the helm. They both know how to craft a script for a horror movie spiced with comedy. Neither Garris or King can manage this task.