Saturn Will Not Sleep - Discovery (Official Video)

The Sandman   C+

Tempe Entertainment

Year Released: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: J.R. Bookwalter
Writers: Matthew Jason Walsh, J.R. Bookwalter
Cast: A.J. Richards, Rita Gutowski, Terry J. Lipko, James Viront, Barbara Katz-Norrod, Stan Fitzgerald, Matthew Jason Walsh, James L. Edwards.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Set in a trailer park filled with lots of kooky characters, The Sandman follows insomniac romance novelist Gary (A.J. Richards) as he suffers through tough times with his girlfriend, endures the misfortune of his annoying cousin unexpectedly crashing at his pad, and tries to convince people that there's something out there stalking the residents of their small town while they sleep. Poor Gary. He's not doing so well. In fact, there is something out there murdering people in their sleep, giving them good dreams in exchange for their souls.

I'm not so sure that's a good deal, but some might disagree.

Directed by J.R. Bookwalter (before he became the big shot who's finally helping to steer things in the right director at Full Moon Pictures), The Sandman is a micro-budget chiller that has a lot going for it on the surface (like good cinematography, an effective score, and some clever dialogue), but it falters in two very crucial areas. For one, it's not scary or all that suspenseful. And secondly, it never coerced me into giving a damn about the characters. For all I cared, that Sandman dude coulda wasted all of 'em and it wouldn't have mattered. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, since I did grow to like Gary just a bit, if I only because I can relate to him, being a struggling writer and having people think I'm crazy when I warn them about monsters on the loose and all.

Of course, if you don't take The Sandman too seriously and view it as a simple throwback to the creature features of way back when, there's some enjoyment to be found here. It's actually got some pretty funny moments, too. While Gary's cousin Ozzy (played by co-writer Matthew Jason Walsh) and his friends are watching a shot-on-video gorefest called Cannibal Demons from Kansas City, one of them remarks, "I could have made a better movie than this in my backyard with my mom's videocamera." Now what Kansas City filmmaker was that taking a stab at? Most of the humor in The Sandman is enjoyably goofy, and it keeps things entertaining between the bits that are supposed to be spooky.

To be fair, the Sandman looks pretty damn impressive. A big, looming figure with a black cloak, skeletal hands gripping a scythe, and glowing red eyes, it's really cool to watch it in action as it looms over people as they sleep, ready to steal their souls. There's even some pretty cool dream sequences, and the final confrontation with the big guy is fun and even manages a little bit of excitement and tension.

Man, it's tough to pick on this movie because it's well-made (certainly well above the standards set by most micro-budget shot-on-video features) and has an enthusiasm for filmmaking that's evident all the way through. It's also pretty atmospheric, with a couple of sequences in which the camera roams through the trailer park streets that are beautifully done. Even those in the cast who terribly overact are tough to dismiss because it's evident that they're having a great time with the material. It may lack the kinetic energy of J.R. Bookwalter's Ozone or Polymorph, but it's honestly not trying for it. It's more slow-paced and deliberate, with no gore or hardcore violence... which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I kinda wanted to see the Sandman do something nasty with that scythe.

Maybe in the sequel: Sandman 2: In Space.

Review published 08.08.2001.

Read our Interview with J.R. Bookwalter.

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