Though produced on a tiny budget, THE SANDMAN demonstrates a commendable amount of imagination--and restraint--for a movie of its nature.
Gary (A.J. Richards), a young man living in a trailer park, aspires to be a novelist and has a tempestuous relationship with his girlfriend Maris (Rita Gutowski). Soon he has something else to concern him: people in the area have been mysteriously dying in their sleep, and Gary thinks he sees a
strange, shadowy figure lurking in the neighborhood. Neither Maris nor Gary's friend Bud (Terry J. Lipko) believe his stories, but one night, Gary sees the creature, a hooded phantom known as the Sandman (Stan Fitzgerald), looming over Maris as she sleeps and barely manages to save her.
Gary soon learns from his Vietnam-veteran neighbor Zachariah (James Viront) that the Sandman steals people's souls while they sleep. Bud becomes the next victim, and when Maris can no longer stay awake, Gary goes to guard her. With Zachariah's help, Gary takes on the Sandman when it arrives,
ultimately sending it into the netherworld where the souls of its victims reside, and they destroy the creature. Gary wakes up in an ambulance with Maris--but as they're driven away, they see the Sandman's glowing eyes in every nearby window.
After being responsible for a few low-budget films, notable largely for their gore content, and a string of no-budget video productions, director-cowriter J.R. Bookwalter takes a step up with THE SANDMAN. While the look is still cheap (video run through a rather murky film-looking process),
Bookwalter has a much better story to work with here, one that emphasizes mood and suspense rather than exploitation elements. He also demonstrates a facility with camerawork and editing that gives the movie an air of professionalism lacking in many projects of its ilk.
While most of the supporting characters are caricatures who detract from the seriousness of the basic story, leads Richards and Gutowski are believable enough, and the tall, cloaked Fitzgerald cuts an imposing figure as the Sandman. The phantom's attacks are more moody than scary, but that seems
to have been Bookwalter's aim, and he keeps a minor but palpable tension going for most of the running time. Evidently aiming to create an unpretentious, old-fashioned creature feature, Bookwalter has by and large succeeded; his immediate follow-up, POLYMORPH (1996), was even better. (Violence,sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1996
- Rating: NR
- Review: Though produced on a tiny budget, THE SANDMAN demonstrates a commendable amount of imagination--and restraint--for a movie of its nature. Gary (A.J. Richards), a young man living in a trailer park, aspires to be a novelist and has a tempestuous relationsh… (more)