What do you get when you combine the most famous horror writer in the world with a B-movie director aching to prove himself? In the case of Sleepwalkers, the 1992 movie about soul-sucking shapeshifters, you get one of the most over-the-top, amazingly wild movies that you’ll ever see.
Stephen King and director Mick Garris have worked together on a lot of projects, most notably The Stand and the remake of The Shining on ABC, but this was their first outing together. You might expect a writer and director working together for the first time to go through a feeling-out period - however, if that happened, it’s not in this movie. Sleepwalkers is absolutely bananas from the opening moments of the film, and it only gets wilder as it plugs along.
It's About Inbreeding Shapeshifters Who Slurp The Souls Of Virgins
The title - Sleepwalkers - doesn’t give much away in the form of plot, but thankfully there’s an opening paragraph that explains the concept. According to the Chillicoathe Encyclopaedia of Arcane Knowledge (1st Edition, 1884), Sleepwalkers are “nomadic shapeshifting creatures with human and feline origins.” They feed on virgin souls and can only be stopped by “the deadly scratch of the cat.”
If you haven't already guessed it, the Chillicoathe Encyclopaedia of Arcane Knowledge was made up for the movie, and the creatures in the film are solely a creation of King. This allows for the writer to throw in as many horror tropes as he likes and make something fairly unique. The creatures are vampirish but not bound to hunting at night. They have pseudo-psychic powers and an indeterminate lifespan.
To survive, the shapeshifters have to suck the soul out of a virgin and, judging from the characters we meet in the film, more often than not they live an inbred lifestyle.
Cats Are The Sleepwalkers' Mortal Enemies
Even though humans easily fall prey to the charms of Sleepwalkers, the shapeshifters aren’t able to put up a fight against your average house cat. The opening card of the film explains that a cat scratch can slay a Sleepwalker. Not only is the shapeshifter's skin paper-thin, but cats can see through their humanlike facade.
We actually see what happens when a cat gets ahold of a Sleepwalker toward the end of the film when a deputy’s cat springs onto the face of a character named Charles Brady and refuses to let go. After being shot and having his eye gouged out, the Sleepwalker is fine, but a few scratches from a cat and he’s donezo.
Cats, it appears, are on the hunt for Sleepwalkers throughout their waking life, going out of their way to keep the shapeshifters cornered in their home.
The Cat People Effects Are Ludicrously Goofy
The first time you see a cat person effect you think, "No, that’s not what the movie’s going to do. Surely there’s going to be scary-looking cat makeup in the movie." Nope. There’s a scene that must be seen to be believed. While Charlie is in the middle of a car chase with a local sheriff, he pulls alongside the deputy to give him the finger.
When Charlie sees a cat riding in the passenger seat, his head turns into a Mac and Me-looking alien thing. It's honestly so silly, and it's weird that director Garris decided on something that looks so goofy in a movie that's so violent.
The car scene and Charles's facial transformations aren't the most psychotic cat person effects in this movie. When Charles and his mother are making love, the camera pans over to the wall-to-wall mirror in their bedroom and shows their true form - hairless, goopy, Egyptian cat-looking things. The effect isn’t exactly scary, but it is jarring and, as the shapeshifters fall apart over the course of the final act, it’s really hard to look at.
The Local Make-Out Spot Is A Graveyard
Joey Ramone may not want to get buried in a pet cemetery, but if he were living in this small Indiana town, he would definitely want to smooch his sweetie in their local graveyard. According to Mädchen Amick's character, Tanya Robertson, the burial ground is where all the kids go to make out away from the prying eyes of their parents.
That being said, there’s no one else in the cemetery, and there are no goths to speak of. This town is full of parents who spend their afternoons performing headstone rubbings and movie theaters that show horror double features, but anyone looking for a group of clove-smoking kids dressed in all black will have to look elsewhere - there’s not even a Smiths shirt in sight.