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The Sandman (1995)

DVD Cover (Tempe Entertainment)
Genres:
Creature Film, Horror, Supernatural Horror
Director:
J.R. Bookwalter J.R. Bookwalter
Starring:
A.J. Richards A.J. Richards
Rita Gutowski Rita Gutowski
Terry J. Lipko Terry J. Lipko
James Viront James Viront
Barbara Katz-Norrod Barbara Katz-Norrod

3.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: October 27, 2009
There are some films that, on paper, should have just worked. The Sandman, my dear readers, is one of those movies. For starters, this bad boy was directed by J.R. Bookwalter, who you may know as the guy who directed the classic zombie film The Dead Next Door. That alone should be enough to raise the eyebrow of any horror junkie, but just to further add to the potential, this particular flick features a damned interesting storyline, and it also features a plot device that has rarely been used throughout the history of horror. Honestly, how many films have featured the iconic Mr. Sandman, and how many films have featured him as an ancient being who kills people in their sleep? So, filmmaker cred, check. Great premise, check. Hell, you can even put a check next to "great DVD cover" and "awesome costume for the villain." Yes, this film should have just worked, but it didn't: in fact, nothing about it worked.

As mentioned, the film centers around an ancient being known as the Sandman, a creature who looks remarkably similar to the traditional portrayal of Death. It also takes a look into the world of Gary (A.J. Richards) and his girlfriend Maris (Rita Gutowski), a lovable couple living in a modest trailer park. Gary, as it turns out, is a bit of an insomniac thanks to his trouble with putting the finishing touches on his latest romance novel, and this little fact doesn't go unnoticed by his better half who is on the brink of breaking the relationship off. Naturally, Gary is a bit stressed out at this point in his life, and who can sleep under that sort of pressure? So, our hero is up at all hours of the night, and this is when he first spots a mysterious black figure with glowing red eyes peering back at him through his window. He chases it off into the night, and what does he find for his troubles? A dead dog.

The next day, he tells his best friend Bud (Terry J. Lipko) about the event, but ol' Bud chalks it up to the poor guy not getting enough sleep and hallucinating; hell, even the trailer park crazy (James Viront), a Vietnam vet with more than a couple of screws loose, believes our hero to be insane. Gary swears that he saw what he saw though, and he begins to believe that it could have something to do with all of the sleep-related deaths that have been plaguing the country lately... hell, it might even have a thing or two to do with the deaths that have been occurring in his mobile home community. Given the title and how ungodly boring the film would be otherwise, I think it goes without saying that he'll eventually discover the true nature of this beast.

If you read that plot and thought that it sounded interesting, let me assure you that I thought the same thing prior to settling in for a night of movie-watching fun. After somehow managing to sit through the fifty-eight hours that the film ran for (excuse me, ninety minutes, but it felt so much longer), I can only say one thing: The Sandman lives up to its promises in only one way. An unbelievably awesome storyline, a cast of veteran actors plying their trades, amazing gore effects, hell, even a nice set of boobs? No, this film does not live up to its promise in any of those ways: this film promises a visit from Mr. Sandman, and if you can sit through even a quarter of the running time without "receiving a dream", then I will tip my hat to you.

The most glaring issue with the film is that it's just too damned slow to get started. For the first seventy-eight hours of the running time, we learn that our loving couple are having some problems in their relationship, we discover that one of the old ladies living in the trailer park likes to play with toys, we see a bad spoof of the Geraldo show that mentions the rash of sleep-related deaths, and we get to watch Gary interact with a character who has zero relevance to the film as a whole. Seriously, this character just shows up, grabs a few scenes, and then disappears. He's not there to up the body count and he adds absolutely nothing to the story: it's almost as though the filmmakers promised him a role in their movie, and by God, he was going to get a role even if they didn't need any more characters.

Ninety-three hours into the running time, we finally get a peek at the Sandman itself, and it actually looks pretty neat. Sure, the CGI eyes are a little silly and will pull a few unintended giggles, but the costume looks great and that counts for something, right? Unfortunately, he doesn't actually do anything except creep from one side of the room to the other, and as neat as the character may have looked, that didn't provide a lot of entertainment. We then get to see a few more hours of the monotonous surrounding storyline before we receive another quick glimpse of the titular bad guy, and really, that's the extent of the film. Sure, the Sandman racks up a few kills, but they had to be the most mundane kills I have ever seen in a horror flick: a character will be sleeping, Sandy arrives and touches their head, we watch the character dream, and then they die. They just... die. There's no blood or gore or even a struggle of any kind. I'm not so much of a gorehound that I need gallons of the red stuff to make a movie enjoyable, but something - anything - would have helped ease the pain.

It seems like the filmmakers came up with the (admittedly brilliant) idea of making a horror movie that focused on the Sandman, but failed to come up with much else to deliver a solid evening in front of the tube. That's really the worst type of mistake that a filmmaker can make, and bottom line, I'm going to give this film a 2/10: one point for how neat the Sandman looked, and one point for the couple of laughs that I got from the late Terry J. Lipko.
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HAVOK2000 #1: HAVOK2000 - added 12/22/2010, 06:06 PM
May I suggest "Sleepstalker" another Sandman Horror film.
Bill Wolford #2: Bill Wolford - added 06/02/2012, 03:42 AM
I think J.R. Bookwalter may have been a "one hit wonder" with his The Dead Next Door Film. He's had a smaller budget each time out, and the stinkers keep coming.
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