Tempe Video // 1996 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 29th, 2006
He gives us dreams...and steals our souls.
Tempe excavates this decade-old microbudgeted suspense thriller and gives us all a break from that Teen Ape crap.
Gary (A.J. Richards) is a romance novelist who apparently really sucks at his job. He lives in a creepy, dilapidated trailer park, surrounded by eccentric neighbors and a pervasive sense of doom and gloom. He's also besieged by a nasty case of insomnia, which allows him to catch a glimpse of an otherworldly presence that has just sprung up in the park. It's got two gleaming red eyes and black cloak and skeletal hands and it likes to kill people while they sleep. You guessed it...it's the Sandman!
Now it's up to Gary to warn everyone of their impending death, including his estranged lady friend, while staying awake himself, so as to avoid the diabolical fate that would claim him if he was visited by -- you guessed it -- the Sandman!
The Sandman is a simple movie with a derivative plot, inspired by a slew of other, more impressive horror movies, that moves slowly, looks terrible, yet won't make you want to drive deck screws into your clavicle. The reason this Tempe release isn't mind-killing, versus some of the other homegrown crap that I've endured from this studio, is the sense of humor present in the film. It's still a horror movie (more or less), but there's definitely a self-aware tone to it all, as if director J.R. Bookwalter is trying to make a half-decent movie and knows it's kind of crappy.
While that goes a long way, and there are some authentically amusing parts to the film (the recurring talk show gag, while cheaply produced, is funny), The Sandman is ultimately unable to escape the reality that it is indeed half-decent. Like, halfway to decent.
My biggest gripe is that not much interesting happens. It's a short movie, clocking in at just south of 90 minutes, but the thing drags. A lot of that has to do with the been-there-done-that gimmick. A malevolent being starts killing people, while they sleep no less. Gotcha. Bookwalter follows the textbook -- have a damsel in distress to motivate your reluctant hero. Check. Get yourself a squirrelly sidekick for comic relief. Check. Cop out with an utterly predictable ending. Check. -- but he adds nothing to it. In fact, the tired material is made even more tired with a lagging pace and a dearth of entertaining mayhem. The kills are low-key and attempted to be stylized (we see the victims running around a black-and-white dream state prior to their whacking) and virtually blood-free. The only upside: the computer effects, while economic, work okay.
So, basically, The Sandman is better than a lot of Tempe movies I've seen, but that shouldn't be the compliment that drives you to adopt it as a part of your collection. In spite of some funny moments and a handful of amusing characters, the plot lurches forward and the action doesn't make the trek worth it.
The film was shot on video and, frankly, looks horrible. The night scenes are the worst, menaced by overwhelming grain and lack of detail. Extras include a self-deprecating commentary from Bookwalter and line producer James L. Edwards. The two show up again in the 10-minute "Making The Sandman" featurette. Finally, there's a still gallery, some deleted scenes and probably the worst music video I've ever seen.
The Sandman did what he does best: he put me to sleep.
Guilty. Go pop a No-Doz.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Tempe Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Filmmakers Commentary
* "Making The Sandman"
* Deleted Scenes
* "Plymouth" Music Video
* Still Gallery