March 3, 2018 The Sandman (Movie Review)
When we are children, we are told the story of a mythical character called the Sandman, who is said to sprinkle sand or dust into our eyes at night to bring on sleep and good dreams. Well, through the centuries, that Western and Northern European folklore has been twisted and warped into something much darker by adults. Such is the case with one the latest film from Writer/Director Peter Sullivan (Christmas Under Wraps 2014, Ominous 2015) fittingly titled The Sandman. In this modern tale, instead of wanting to go sleep, one is best staying awake as long as they can to escape the wrath of The Sandman.
Initially premiering on Syfy channel back in October of 2017, Lionsgate is set to release The Sandman on DVD Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Interestingly, the film has the good fortune of associating some well know genre names to help add to its appeal. For starts, it includes an executive production credit from Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee. It also features some respected actors/actresses including Tobin Bell (Mississippi Burning 1988, Saw series) as Government Agent Valentine and Haylie Duff (Napoleon Dynamite 2004, Material Girls 2006) as Claire, the good intentioned aunt of promising child Actress Shae Smolik (Trafficked 2017, The Hatred 2017) as the film’s focal star Madison. All nice names to put on a DVD cover to help sell the product, does The Sandman live up to expectations?
Well, for one, Sullivan’s story is not terrible, in fact, it is an interesting concept. The issues here more than likely lie in budget and time limitations. What does this mean? It means that the story feels incomplete, and that could leave some viewers wondering what exactly is the origin of this particular film. It is so hard to tell what a screenplay writer and director’s intentions are with a film because we cannot get in their head and they may have some ideas they really wanted to get across on screen, but again, are limited due to issues beyond control.
This said, the story of The Sandman opens with an 8 year old girl named Madison and her father, Colton (Jason-Shane Scott: Wolves of Wall Street 2002, The Pit and the Pendulum 2009), seemingly running away from something. Right off the bat, Madison’s father is snuffed out by The Sandman, leaving her without a place to go. Then there is her Aunt Claire, an independent woman with a good heart. Claire takes temporary custody of Madison, but a stern child protection agent named Abigail Farmer (Lyn Alicia Henderson: The Relic 1997, ER TV series) is judgemental of Claire’s lifestyle and much rather see Madison in the care of a foster family.
From here, strange things begin to happen as Claire tries to figure out what her late brother was up to prior to his demise. Authorities suspect he was killing people around the country, yet there is no concrete evident. Little does anyone know, there are powers beyond belief coming into play, such as Madison’s unexpected power to bring The Sandman to life out of her dreams. The bad thing is Madison’s Sandman is a murderous figure who literally dissolves anyone who crosses their path. Will Madison be freed of The Sandman, but moreover, will anyone survive?
This is the gist of The Sandman, and in theory it sounds like a very compelling plot for a film. Sadly, there are so many questions circling around it, at times being difficult to allow yourself to get sucked into the story. For one, why does Madison have such telepathic powers? Also, what is the origin of her connection to The Sandman? These type of things make the film a little hard to understand why the events on screen are transpiring.
It is not to say the film should spell everything out and leave no element of mysticism, but some backstory would be nice. In a way, The Sandman is reminiscent of the 1984 Stephen King adaptation film Firestarter. Although, instead of Madison having the ability to set things on fire with her mind like Drew Barrymore’s Charlie, she unwillingly summons The Sandman in the face of fear. The only problem is the emotion is a little lacking at times. It is not lacking from Shae Smolik, because she is an extremely talented young actress. Real to life, Smolik’s Madison is frightened and confused by her powers, but for goodness sakes, why did the director need her to be blubbering in tears for more than half her dialogue?
As far as the other cast, Bell’s Valentine has limited time on screen, but when he is featured, he delivers like the professional he is. Duff’s Claire is quite likeable and you cannot help but feel how people unfairly pass judgement on her ability to be a caring aunt. Then there is her ‘sometimes boyfriend’ Wyatt (Shaun Sipos: Final Destination 2 2002, Dark Matter series) who seems to care enough, but judging by the relationship situation it seems he oversteps his boundaries lashing out at Madison in certain scenes.
Overall, The Sandman is not the worst attempt at a Horror film in the world, but it really could have been better. Beyond the open questions, the special effects are often so blatantly CGI, in all honesty, it would have been better had they not shown the effect at all than insult some people’s intelligence. When an effect is so clearly computer generated, it sucks the life out of a gorey scene and unfortunately there are a handful of moments that fall victim to this in The Sandman. A fun concept, perhaps a prequel or even a sequel would help solidify The Sandman a bit more. Until that possibility, CrypticRock gives The Sandman 2.5 out of 5 stars.