Horror movies are all about tone. Unless your aim is pulpy schlock, without the right ambiance your entire film falls flat. Unfortunately, many modern horror movies eschew creating an atmosphere in favor of more. More stuff heaped onto paper-thin plots, more intertextual things that only remind you of other, better movies. More action, more laughs, etc. 2017’s The Sandman just about lulls you to sleep with its predictability, but there are a few moments that the jaded horror movie viewer may appreciate.
In a plot lifted directly from 2013’s Mama, The Sandman is about a young girl, Madison (Shae Smolik), who goes to live with her aunt Claire (Haylie Duff) after her father’s mysterious death. Madison and her father had been on the run from the authorities regarding a series of grizzly murders, one in each town they had stayed in, and after he dies, Claire is granted custody. Claire is a pinup photographer who works alongside her on-again-off-again boyfriend (shades of Jessica Chastain’s pixie-haired rocker chick), and they’re dogged by a particularly tenacious child protective service agent.
Claire quickly learns that Madison is able to manifest a horrifying monster called The Sandman that kills anyone in its path. Ostensibly to blame for the series of murders Madison’s father was suspected of. On their trail is the nefarious Dr. Valentine (Saw’s Tobin Bell, here for the paycheck), inexplicably aware of The Sandman’s presence and hoping to harness Madison’s power for shady government purposes.
The acting is clunky, the death scenes uninspired (except a bizarre one when a SWAT guy’s spinal cord is seemingly ripped out from his crotch). We’re offered a reason for Madison’s powers but never an explanation. However, there are some genuinely good moments in the film, albeit all in the first third. Some of the set pieces work very well together. For the most part, they are suitably lit and well shot enough to be effectively creepy.
The practical creature effects for the monster are also nicely done. Although they are somewhat undercut by some bad CG, such as when multiple people meet their demise by simply disappearing into clouds of sand that look as if they were copy-pasted from a Brendan Fraser Mummy movie. The film score serves the film pretty admirably, heightening the tension in a few scenes, and the audio quality is pretty good, though some bad ADR work for Haylie Duff’s character detracts from her performance.
- Film trailer
- Also from Lionsgate featurette
- Chapter Selection
- Stills Gallery
- 16×9 Widescreen 1.78:1 Presentation
- English 5.1 Dolby Digital
Runtime 86 minutes
The Sandman Overall (2/5)
Executive produced by Marvel’s Stan Lee (presumably entirely monetarily as opposed to creatively), The Sandman, which premiered on the SyFy channel in 2017, looks every bit like a made for TV SyFy movie, but for those looking for a mindless monster movie, there are definitely worse to be found. The Sandman is available on DVD March 6. You can order now from Amazon or other DVD retailers.