Sleepwalkers (1992)

Violence and bloodshed permeate this horror tale about an incestuous mother and teenage son who are "sleepwalkers". Sleepwalkers possess the supernatural power to change shape and form or become invisible at will. Their lives and this power are eternal as long as their thirsts are quenched with human blood. Mary and her son Charles move to a small Midwest town where Charles enrolls in high school. He becomes involved with Tanya, a sweet girl who is flattered by Charles' attentions, unaware that he is more interested in sustenance than romance. A teacher becomes suspicious of Charles and checks his transcript record, which he discovers is phony. When he confronts Charles with his discovery a bloody encounter ensues and the teacher is killed. Refreshed from his thirst- quenching encounter, Charles speeds down a country road in his sports car which catches the attention of Andy, a sheriffs deputy, who give chase in his police car. Charles plays games with the police car until he spots a cat, the police mascot, Clovis, on the seat next to Andy. Charles is terrified of Clovis as cats are the only thing sleepwalkers fear, because cats can render them powerless. Charles disappears and returns home where mom is growing ravenously hungry and blasts Charles for returning without food. He promises that he will bring food tomorrow when he plans to take Tanya on a picnic in a graveyard. During the picnic Charles attacks Tanya but she escapes and alerts the police. This provokes a major battle in which the sleepwalkers seem invincible until Clovis marshals an army of cats who destroy the sleepwalkers.
Modified Certification

  Animal Action

Poster for Sleepwalkers
Release Date: April 10, 1992
Certification: Modified Certification

Sleepwalkers is not a film that cat lovers will enjoy. Although fake and mechanical cats were substituted for real cats in the violent scenes, the visual effect is very disturbing. The opening scene of the film is particularly ghoulish. It is the prior home of Mary and Charles from which they fled. It is covered with dead cats. Dead cats are everywhere. There are cats on the lawn, some of them are caught in traps, some are lying on the walk, some are hanging from the porch and some are in very grotesque situations. Dead cats are simply draped everywhere. Inside on the floor is a mauled dead cat. Both fake and taxidermied cats were used for this scene. The taxidermied cats came from a major taxidermist in the Los Angeles area and American Humane has copies of the receipts for these cats. The taxidermist’s source for dead cats was the municipal sanitation department that picks up dead animals. They were bloodied with stage blood and had spaghetti type prosthetics placed around them. As the police move through this ghoulish scene they open a door and a live cat runs out and surprises them. This was accomplished by the cat responding to a buzzer. Charles and Mary have placed leg-hold traps around their new home. A cat can be seen sniffing at one of the traps that snaps shut but doesn’t catch the cat. Baby food was placed on and around fake harmless traps. Shots of a trap snapping shut were filmed separately with no cats near the trap. The sounds of traps snapping were also dubbed into the film. At various times in the film cats are shown hovering about the outside of the sleepwalker’s house. Food was usually placed in key areas to attract the cats and sometimes the cats would move from A to B responding to buzzers or cat food. All the scenes were shot on a motion picture studio lot and the area where the cats worked was fenced off to protect them from wandering away. A special filming unit called the cat unit would work separately from the unit with the actors and this unit would concentrate on just cat activities and close-ups of cats such as cats hissing. The trainers would make hissing noises to get the cats to respond. To get the cats to stay in position around the outside of the house some cats were rigged with a tie-down, which is a collar that fits around their hind quarters and was hooked to a stake in the ground. AHA’s representatives saw to it that the cats were not in this harness long periods of time and that they were provided sufficient exercise. Cars were kept a safe distance from any cats. The cat unit would also take wild footage of the cats wandering at will which they could edit into the film. In one scene Mary calls animal control about the cats and an officer can be seen holding a bag supposedly containing a cat that he has collected. The bag that was used was a clothes bag that had air holes in it and a dog, a Jack Russell Terrier was inside. The dog had been prepped to stay in the bag as if it were playing a game and the movement inside of the bag was the dog playing. He was in the bag for only a short time and a total of two takes. The police car pursuit scene with Clovis in the car was filmed with both a real and a fake cat. Again the special cat unit filmed much of this separately. The real cat would be used for a short period of time for the close-up scenes such as playing with a dangling toy or, after the pursuit began, looking out the window and hissing at Charles. To get the cat to look out the window the trainer used a buzzer to get the cat’s attention. In order to get the cat to hiss, a fake cat was held in front of the real cat which the real cat reacted to by hissing. For high speed and distance shots the fake cat was substituted for the real one. As Tanya is pursued by Charles in the graveyard she runs into Andy and Clovis who are in their patrol car. Andy tries to protect Tanya but is killed by Charles. Clovis then attacks Charles and the two struggle. Clovis seriously wounds Charles before Charles throws Clovis to the ground and escapes. This scene was filmed with the real cat plus two mechanical cats. The mechanical cats were used where Clovis tears the flesh from Charles’ face. This, of course, was all special effects. The cat that is thrown to the ground was a fake cat. For the climactic scene where Clovis marshalls his army of cats to destroy the sleepwalkers, one hundred cats were used. Three master shots were filmed of the cats running from various areas such as a cat jumping off a lady’s lap and joining the march. Then the scenes were filmed in many cuts with cats running from point A to point B. Cats were in pens behind the camera and as trainers opened the doors the cats would respond to buzzers placed at the opposite end of the street. They would also run to dishes of cat food strategically placed. Where the cats surround the house, many cats were placed in the tie-down, which was described earlier. Other cats would walk from point A to point B responding to buzzers or food. Many fake cats were also used. The yard of the sleepwalkers’ house is filled with cats and the cats are also on the porch and on the roof. Mechanical cats were also used in this scene. Where any violence is done to a cat, a fake cat was used. Clovis breaks into the house by jumping onto the porch roof and then breaking through a window. This scene was shot in cuts. The window was made of candy glass. To actually break through the glass a fake cat was tossed through the candy glass window. Then the real cat was filmed with a trainer standing on both sides of the window out of camera range to help the cat through. The cat went through the window in response to a beeper. Once inside Clovis attacks Mary who is now a half-formed monster. The trainer tied pieces of meat around the monster’s neck and the cat was cued by a buzzer and hand commands. This scene was shot in cuts using both a real and a fake cat. At one point Clovis is on Mary’s back and smoke is emanating from her. The actress had smoke tubes beneath her costume and the cat was placed on her back by the trainer and the actress held the cat. The live cat was used in only two takes and the remainder of shots were done with the fake cat. At one point Clovis gets thrown to the floor. This was shot in cuts. For the shot of Clovis landing, the trainer held the cat just off camera and tossed him a short distance toward a corner so that he would slide slightly on the floor. Other cats begin attacking the two monster sleepwalkers. While Mary is being attacked with a cat on her back she is blasted with a shotgun and blown backwards. At that point a fake cat was attached to the actress and pulled off with a bungey cord. To get the cats to attack, food was hidden on the actors. The cats would jump from a platform onto the monster. For most of the required action food rewards were used. When the monsters catch fire the real cats were never close to the flames.