There’s something a bit old fashioned about The Sandman, the new feature from writer/director Peter Sullivan. There’s a cool creature, a young girl with a power she can’t quite control, and a government agency trying to take control of both. Add in a smattering of horror icons in pivotal roles, an iconic producer you never saw coming, and you have a movie that’s just the right amount of creepy fun to sit back and enjoy with a bag of popcorn.
The Sandman all starts with a man who is obviously on the run with his daughter in the back seat of the car. Who, or what, they’re running from becomes all too clear as the father is quickly dispatched by a creature made entirely of sand. The daughter, Madison (Shae Smolik), soon finds herself in the temporary custody of her aunt, Claire (Haylie Duff), but their trouble is far from over, especially when Claire learns that Madison isn’t running from the Sandman, but could actually be causing his attacks.
Sounds like a story from a classic comic book, doesn’t it? That may be why legendary Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee chose to add his name to the list of producers to this film. Madison would have fit well within the X-Men universe. I’m sure that Professor Xavier would have loved helped her get control of her uncanny gifts.
The sound of sifting sand has never been quite so menacing as the Sandman himself, and Mick Ignis, who brings the character to life, is on the path to finding himself categorized alongside genre greats like Javier Botet and Doug Jones with his stellar performance and that all too rare ability to make the fantastic seem possible.
Shae Smolik in the role of Madison is a real standout for someone so young. She walks the line between victim and villain quite well with emotional turns that one doesn’t expect from such a young actress.
Genre icons Amanda Wyss and Tobin Bell bring their own weigh to a couple of the standard horror archetypes in The Sandman.
Wyss plays a psychiatrist who has spent her life studying children born “under a caul”, the antiquated terminology for children who are born with the amniotic sac still attached to the body, especially the face. It has long been thought that those born under a caul are predisposed to psychic abilities such as clairvoyance, telekinesis, and mediumship. Wyss doesn’t get much screen time but she exudes compassion and understanding for Madison and Claire making her their perfect port in a storm.
Bell, meanwhile, plays the hardened government agent hot on the tracks of Madison and the Sandman’s path of destruction. He, of course, sees this as an opportunity for a weapon the enemy would never see coming.
The film isn’t without its faults, however. The sound mixing is problematic throughout especially during the attacks by the Sandman where the monster sounds overrode the dialogue in places.
Likewise, the shift between practical and digital effects is a bit disjointed. It’s painfully obvious in the transitions when the Sandman steps into our world. That whirlwind of sand jolted my suspension of disbelief nearly every time.
Also, Sullivan’s script stumbles from time to time and easily could have been helped by one or two more passes by himself or a talented script doctor.
Most of this can be forgiven, however, if you’re ready to just enjoy a cool creature feature, but I can’t help wondering if the movie could have been more than it is with just a tad more finessing.
The Sandman will be making its way to the SyFy channel on October 14, 2017 so you’ll be able to enjoy it just in time for Halloween! Check out the trailer below!