FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *psychological*
I’ve seen a few online reviews that compare THE SANDMAN to a contemporaneous horror-film, BEFORE I WAKE, which I have not seen. But for me, the go-to was the 1980 BOOGEYMAN, in which a teen girl calls up a murderous monster out of some otherworld, a monster which may or may not be the ghost of a dead man.
In any case, SANDMAN, executive produced by Stan Lee during his last five years, will probably seem derivative no matter how many films one has seen. The story concerns eight-year-old Madison, who reads a children’s horror story, “The Sandman,’ and starts imagining up a demonic presence who kills anyone who seems to threaten her. Her first victim is her own father, though in his case he just disappoints her in some minor way. Madison’s aunt Claire takes the kid in, and soon various victims in Claire’s neighborhood begin turning up. When Claire and her boyfriend find out that Madison has some freaky psychic gifts, the boyfriend—who’s an asshole for no real reason but because the plot needs another target—tries to kill the child, only to meet the same fate.
After the film spends about an hour in a domestic situation, the tale suddenly veers into FIRESTARTER territory, as a secret government project kidnaps Claire and Madison with the hope of using Madison as a secret weapon. One wonders why the project and its resident mad scientist (Tobin Bell) took so long to pounce on the little girl, and when they do get hold of her, they have no ability to withstand her murderous minion. Still, these combative scenes of monster vs. army are the flick’s most enjoyable moments.
The climax is similarly confused. It’s suggested that little Madison merely needs to cast her demon from her, but maybe someone thought that was too boring, so Madison and Claire lure the imaginary creature into an electric trap to kill it, as if it were a corporeal antagonist like the alien vegetable in Howard Hawks’ THE THING.
Watchable, but forgettable. Haylie Duff, playing Claire, gets points for managing to find a variety of ways to look worried and/or panicked.