Christine/Sleepwalkers/Apt Pupil 3 Movie Collector's Pack (1983/1992/1998)
By: Mr Intolerance on April 16, 2010  | 
DVD
Sony | Region 4, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English Dolby Digital 2.0 | 298 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: John Carpenter; Mick Garris; Bryan Singer
Starring: Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky, Harry Dead Stanton, Roberts Blossom; Brian Krause, Alice Krige, Maedchen Amick; Sir Ian McKellen, Brad Renfro, Bruce Davison, Elias Koteas, David Schwimmer
Screenplay: Bill Phillips; Stephen King; Brandon Boyce
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase
So then, here's a mismatched triple pack based on the work of Stephen King. You might as well call it "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", in that order.

Christine

Let's face it, everyone wants to own a cool car, but if anyone wanted to sell me a '58 Plymouth Fury, I'd be running a mile after watching Christine.

The Plymouth production line, 1957. A whole line of Furies are heading off to be sold to the gas-guzzling public, back in the day when the depletion of world reserves of fossil fuel didn't seem like that much of a problem. The first red one in the line is different somehow – firstly, it nearly saws off a workers hand when he's checking under the hood, secondly, a mechanic who accidentally ashes on the seat is almost immediately found dead inside it. Slight problem with the soundtrack: it's the fifties and we're getting George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers "Bad to the Bone" coming out of the speakers – I understand the point, but it's like watching that scene from that Italian TV show where a whole bunch of centurions hail Caesar, and they're wearing wristwatches.

Cut to the late 70s and grid iron star Dennis and his nerd-pal Arnie are having a hard time in their senior year in high school. The local bully, Buddy Repperton really has it in for Arnie. Dennis can't always be around to protect him, and Repperton and his gang don't fuck about; they're the kind who'd like a bit of vengeance. And the word "cunt" being bandied about so frequently – actually, there's a lot of language in this film.

Arnie's a bit of a sad case. He can't assert himself, he's perennially bullied by everyone except Dennis, his home-life sucks arse due to parents being terminal arseholes – a born victim who's about as good with people as The Nutty Professor before the miracle drink – looks like him too, with his horn-rimmed glasses held together in the middle with tape.

On the way home from school, Arnie spots Christine, a red 1958 Plymouth Fury, rusting away in the front yard of George, a grizzled old…eccentric fellow (played by the somewhat typecast Roberts Blossom, from Deranged). It's love at first sight. Arnie buys this 20 year old monstrosity – an utter rust-bucket, despite Dennis's protestations. It's the one thing Arnie wants, and so $250 later, he owns it. His parents are furious and won't let him keep it in the house, so it's down to Darnell's, the local garage, to keep it in storage while he works on it.

Three weeks go by, and Arnie has done some substantial work on Christine, earning the respect of the jerks who run the garage/wrecker's yard, the boss offering Arnie full run of the yard in return for a bit of menial labour. He's started to look different, too, and no longer seems to need glasses. Dennis, on the other hand, is a doofus who can't see the wood for the trees – there's a hot girl who's crazy about him, and he passes up on her for some imported booty from out of town. He tries – he fails. In the meantime, he doesn't see anything of Arnie anymore, who has become obsessed with Christine.

We're told that the last owner of the car died in it from carbon monoxide poisoning, which is kind of creepy, kind of like wearing dead men's shoes. Worse than that – it was suicide, and we're told by crazy old George that his brother, the previous owner, became utterly blind to everything and everyone around him but the car. Sound familiar? Dennis heads down to the wrecking yard to investigate the car for any potential weirdness. He finds some.

The big game and folks are surprised not only to see Arnie turn up with a girl, but with the uber-hottie that all the boys have been trying to date. Also, when he comes in Christine (that's the car, not the girl's name) to the game, Christine is looking pristine. So much so that Dennis is surprised so badly he fucks up a catch and is laid out and stretchered off the field with spinal damage. Arnie meanwhile is developing a 1950s hoodlum look, like something out of a JD movie.

Arnie takes his girl to the drive-in (from the looks of things there's a bit of blaxploitation on display), and in fine 50s tradition, they're making out and ignoring the film, but Lee freaks out – Arnie ain't making it to third base in Christine, Lee hates the car – she's jealous of it. Mind you, Christine's a pretty jealous girl, too… Pay attention to the soundtrack, by the way – every time something weird happens, Christine plays a different 1950s pop song – listen to the lyrics of the tune for a bit of black humour.

Repperton and his gang decide to fuck with Arnie's wheels, which as we all know from Pulp Fiction, is the most chickenshit thing a guy can do to another guy. Arnie's reaction to the damage that's done is a little…extreme, but ah, she's the apple of his eye. And he's certainly not taking any shit from anyone any more.

Christine's repair takes less time than you'd think (I guess '58 Plymouth Furies were built to last), and then Arnie and Christine go for a little ride…

A police detective (Harry Dean Stanton) turns up doing a bit of general snooping; he's more than mildly suspicious about the mysterious sudden death of one of Repperton's gang, widely thought to be the perpetrators of the trashing of the car. He's not too credulous of Arnie's story of being able to fix the car after he's been told by Lee about the damage it received, but there's no law against fixing your car up, as they state.

Arnie takes Christine out for another little death-ride, but Arnie has a pretty good alibi, and it becomes pretty apparent to the audience who's doing the killings – things aren't as clear-cut as they might have at first seemed. Now even Arnie starts to get a bit freaked out, but he's too far gone by this point. Dennis and Lee are worried about their friend, and this forces them together. They decide to have a kind of intervention with Arnie, but Christine isn't too keen on this, as she certainly decides she'll prove.

This probably the last film from director John Carpenter's "classic" period – hey, he's had some hits as well as misses since – I can't stand the trendy Carpenter-bashing you read on internet forums from dumb-fuck bozos who probably live in their parents' basement and will never amount to anything themsleves whining about how they feel let down by his later work. Bunch of fucking cry-babies. His best film? Not by a long shot, but it's still a pretty damn entertaining film, and worthy of a watch. Good performances, a cool 50s vibe runs all the way through a film that's actually set in the 70s, and of all the Stephen King adaptations you'll see, this is actually one of the more faithful (although truth be told, I haven't read the novel in 20 years, so maybe my memory's giving me gyp – there are one or two inconsistencies, but film is a visual medium and you've gotta make some changes), although given the sheer length of his novels, it's difficult to be totally faithful to them inside the limits of a feature film – although oddly enough, most of the non-horror ones seem to work – mind you, most of them aren't anywhere as long as Christine (the novel) was. And you know, in the final scene, I was reminded very strongly of Carpenter's early classic Halloween. If you've seen this film and that film (and if you haven't there's your homework for the weekend), you might see what I'm getting at.

Oh, and fans of the film might want to check out the riff on it that the Futurama gang did called "The Honking" – part werewolf/part Christine kinda story – very funny.

Sleepwalkers

Director Mick Garris obviously really likes Stephen King's work. He re-made The Shining (which was actually a far more faithful version of the story), adapted The Stand for the screen as a TV mini-series, and here, oddly enough considering there's so much superior King material around, directed Sleepwalkers. The question is, why? This hadn't been released as a short story, a novel or novella when the film itself was released; the only brand name attached was King's own, and by 1992, people had become very wary of approaching film adaptations of King's work – even King himself wasn't fond of the majority of them – so what's the drawcard? A famous director? Nope. The story being adapted from a best seller?) Uh-uh? Some A-list actors with star power? Strike three. The whole thing is pretty baffling, to be honest with you.

When I saw Sleepwalkers upon its cinematic release, the film had reputedly suffered from cuts. It certainly only had an M rating here (for overseas readers, that's fifteen years old and below). This release surprised me by having a big old R18+ sticker on it, so maybe the film will deliver more for me than it did back in the day, because frankly, I wasn't impressed.

Sleepwalker, n. Nomadic shape-shifting creatures with human and feline organs. Vulnerable to the deadly scratch of the cat, the sleepwalker feeds upon the life- force of virginal human females. Probable source of the vampire legend.

-Chillicoathe Encyclopaedia of Arcane Knowledge, 1st Edition, 1884

Uh-huh. The deadly scratch of the cat? Right. So, if I was one, I would have been dead by the age of 10. Fearsome. Feeds upon the life-force of virginal human females? So what we're talking here is an ailurophobic teenage boy? Seems to fit the clues…

Bodega Bay, California looks like it could be a nice little coastal town. For about 5 seconds, until we see the dead and mutilated remains of maybe 50 or more cats decorating on of the local houses, a house recently and suddenly vacated by its previous tenants, a mother and her son. They seem to have left in an awful rush having slaughtered all of our feline chums, and then the police find the withered remains of a little girl, with a bright red rose behind her ear – things seem to have a bit overstated in this opening scene; I can do without boo scares when trying to establish an atmosphere. I don't think Mick Garris is the hack director a lot of people seem to think he is, but I do think he works better in the made-for-TV format. This opening scene exemplifies this.

Travis, Indiana; our two suspects seem to share a bit of an umm, shall we say Oedipally-oriented relationship, although the son Charles, has also just carved the first initial of his sweetheart Tanya into his arm with a knife, which is frankly not normal. The mother (Alice Krige, who's building up slowly in this film to psycho-frenzy mode, which she does so well) seems more concerned by the approach at cats to the house, having set traps for them in the yard. Our boy tries to allay her fears, first by having a dance and generally being the good son, and then by taking her upstairs for a bit of supernatural nookie of some kind. What?! Now I'm seeing where that R rating might have come from, and the consumer advice "Adult Themes" is making a whole lot more sense.

Tanya (the always stunningly beautiful Maedchen Amick) is the candy counter chick and cleaner at the local cinema – again, that 50s vibe we saw in Christine seems to be raising its head, reinforced by the first two tracks we just copped on the soundtrack – a maudlin instrumental of "Blue Moon", and then Tanya gets busted dancing in the lobby of the cinema by Charles to the tune of "Do You Love Me". How embarrassing. Turns out that she isn't his sweetheart, but he's certainly keen on her, and obviously has designs on her.

At school, Charles has been provoking the interest of Mr Fallows, his creative writing teacher, as well as half the female population of the school, Tanya, included, albeit for different reasons. Well, then again, maybe not. *shudders* Tanya's sweetness and innocence never descends into sugary sweet barf-bag material, and that's down to Amick's performance of her; the genuine, naive girlish appeal never disappears. She positively lights up the screen whenever she's on it.

Mark heads off in his blue Trans-Am, further getting the interest of his local law enforcement agency. The soundtrack at this point turns into drivel – sub par heavy metal guitar histrionics that would make Yngwie Malmsteen or Steve Vai ashamed of themselves (I just read the credits – one of the songs is by Extreme – say no more). That 50s vibe I was talking about? Gone, with one squeal of a dive-bomb tremolo arm. It's also around this point we see the first real special effects, and they're not great – the gore is pretty effective, but the creature are not good. And we get some idea of the creatures' power. Charles drives off in what is now a red Pontiac convertible coupe.

Mum is of course waiting at home, anxious about her boy. Her fear of cats has become so pronounced that she has practically become as reclusive as a DVD reviewer. Scary! When Charles comes home without the life-force she needs she is furious, but turns on a dime when she sees Charles has been injured – Krige's performances are always good, she can be threatening, ethereal, enraged, anxious and sympathetic in the same scene and you buy it completely – a sadly underused actor. But then she blows audience sympathy out the window with a scene I will guarantee was cut from the original cut – a more explicit scene of her having sex with her son which makes you feel all kinds of icky; in terms of explicitness, it's not like we're talking about sex scenes from Anatomy of Hell, or even In the Realm of the Senses, context is everything – she's fucking her son, and that just makes it horrible. If you saw it out of context it would have no impact at all, but here…yeeesh.

So it's time for Tanya and Charles' date to the local cemetery; Charles is going to get some photography lessons off Tanya, but she rather stupidly goes to Charles' home, rather than wait to be picked up – foolish virgin goes to the house of a by now voracious Sleepwalker? Not a bright idea, but how is she to know? Mom wants her to come inside, and Tanya's naturally trusting nature allows her to see no reason why not to, despite Charles' insistence they head off to the cemetery immediately. He becomes even more keen to leave when he sees that Sleepwalkers show up in mirrors as their bad selves, not their human facades. This, of course could make photography a bit problematic. We also see the neighbouring feline population is increasing around their homestead. Mom sends the kids off, with a great line loaded with double meaning, putting a red rose behind Tanya's ear, she says with a smile, "It finishes you somehow." Think back to the opening scene.

Y'know, one thing that puzzles me about this film, is: why would a race who were part-human/part-cat be scared of cats? That just doesn't add up to me. And why are cats lethal to them? After all, wolves and were-wolves get along famously. This, to me, is a point in the film's internal logic that makes absolutely no sense.

Anyway, we're off to the cemetery and I'm sure that Tanya's point of view, it's all going swimmingly – she's on a date with the most desirable boy in school, he seems like a nice fella, but as this is meant to be a horror film, we all know this is going to be the turning point of the film. The tension has been pretty lazily mounted – this should be taut as hell, right here; matter of fact the only point where I've seen any kind of tension here is when Alice Krige is on screen. But personally, I don't think Tanya will be going on a date again anytime soon – but again, some of the special effects look a little hokey. If I were her, tremendous physical coward that I am, I'd be heading for the hills right about now, but she's a nice girl, and despite the fact that she's probably just ruined Charles' good looks for the immediate future – and would not be best pleased by this, she's all scared and confused, which tends to cloud her judgement somewhat. I don't know why, but this scene contains "humorous" dialogue that just pissed me off completely – if I want humour, I will watch a comedy. This scene could have been so much more effective is played straight, because the actors don't seem to have the ability to pull of the change between horror and humour.

Now Mom is not best pleased that her best boy has been mutilated (and there are a few scenes that again lead me believe why this has been bumped up a notch on the OFLC rating scale – the gore is definitely much stronger than it was before), and you know she'll want bloody revenge on Tanya and her family, and neither her nor Charles can escape while he's in this state, despite the fact that the police will be hotly pursuing them. And the cats are getting closer and becoming more numerous… It's only in the last act of the film that the tension really engages the audience – once Alice Krige's character goes into action – seriously, she turns into the fucking Terminator.

On re-watching this film, it was a lot better than I remembered. It tries a little too much on the scare factor – but boo-scares are a little passé, when you're using them so frequently, the humour ends up being similarly redundant. Sleepwalkers ultimately relies on the strength of its surprisingly gory set pieces (I've never seen an ear of corn used so effectively as a weapon before), and the strength of the acting, which unfortunately is a little variable, although Alice Krige shines above the rest of the cast. A nice try, noble in fact, but no cigar.

Oh, and for the train-spotters out there, watch for brief cameos by Stephen King, Joe Dante, John Landis, Clive Barker and Tobe Hooper – jeez, talk about jobs for the boys! Can anyone spell "nepotism?"

Apt Pupil

This is a film directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, the X-Men movies and Superman Returns) of my favourite Stephen King novella (before you say anything, he's written lots of them). No, it's not traditional horror, but as psychological horror, with the emphasis on the psycho, it's pretty dark, pretty ugly, and pretty damn fucking good.

It's rewarding when a student becomes interested in a subject you teach, but when that subject is the Holocaust, you have to wonder whether the student is interested in the terrible plight of the people who died during those awful years in Europe's (and by extension, the world's) history, or are they simply the kind of person who has an interest in the atrocities themselves with no pity for the victims themselves.

Tod Bowden (Renfro) is such a student. Having got A grades in essays on the Holocaust, he develops a keen interest in the subject and believes that in his own little town, he's found a hiding Nazi war criminal, Dussender (McKellen, in a truly stellar turn, proving why he is one of the greatest actors alive today – that voice is enough prove, but the gravitas he brings to the role is tremendous), an SS officer who was active in exterminating the Jews in camps such as Belsen-Bergen, Auschwitz and Patin for the last 4 years of the war. Bowden has methodically worked out (via taking fingerprints from his letter box) that this sad, rather broken down old man was one of the SS's most feared and reviled officers, and one still keenly sought out by the Israeli government.

Bowden blackmails Dussender into telling him the stories of what happened in the camps, in all their noxious detail – tell him, or be given over to the police, and he has enough evidence to do so convincingly. And so the stories begin. Dussender tells them in a flat, reportage style, with little emotion, but a wave of impact. And the impact on young Bowden is unpleasant to say the least.

Of course Bowden's parents want to meet this old man who Tod says he's reading stories to, community service style, and so Dussender, under the façade of Arthur Denker, which is his rather necessary pseudonym in the US, comes over for a dinner party, and is witty, suave, charming and urbane, gracious and polite, yet still with a hint of earthy humour – the opposite of what we would associate with this reputation. And totally at odds with the atrocities Dussender tells Bowden on an almost daily basis.

Basketball practise for Bowden ensues, and the coach tells the boys to "hit the showers" – the phrase has a new meaning for Bowden, and while showering has a nightmare vision of being one of the victims of the camps, one of the objects of pity we see in Holocaust documentaries, the emaciated, degraded, mistreated number of the abused. The effect of these storytelling sessions is pronounced on Bowden, but is starting to have an effect on Dussender as well, slowly, but surely, and he starts to develop an interest in his pursuits of many years before – the lesson being, I guess, that evil never dies. And Bowden just accelerates the process by giving Dussender a gift he really oughtn't – an SS officer's uniform. He makes Dussender wear it and march, which brings back the old man's training – it should be one of the film's most chilling scenes, but ends up being overplayed and weak. Well, it was Singer's second mainstream film – still learning his craft.

Bowden goes to a kegger, and is trying to make out with a chick who likes him, but it's not really happening. The impact of the information he's been learning is having rather a pronounced effect on him, and making it impossible to deal with his fellow classmates, some of whom are beginning to think he's gay. Dussender at the same time has found a cat in his back yard, and tries to immolate it in his gas oven. From cats he moves on to bigger mammals, and ones more inline with his previous victims.

Bowden's grades are falling, and he's becoming increasingly surly with anyone who tries to tell him anything, except Dussender. His guidance counsellor at school wants a meeting with Bowden's parents to discuss this problem, but Tod sees a way out. Faking it. Dussender sees another way out – he can pretend to be a relative, after all, as he explains to the boy, now he's complicit in Dussender's hiding in the US, and thus, if Bowden doesn't want to be dragged down in to that particular quagmire, it's time to work. Blackmail can swing both ways, as Tod learns, basically as he is swinging into being a member of the Hitler Jugend, albeit nearly 60 years too late.

Bowden gets the grades he needs, but is resentful towards Dussender, who conversely is ecstatic at Tod's grades. He's also made sure that he has blackmailed Tod in an iron-clad way, and as far as that is concerned, that relationship is over. Bowden goes back to being a normal teenager – well, sort of – and their lives are separate. But things are never that easy.

Dussender has fully turned the tables – really screwed Bowden completely, and both of them are aware of it. Dussender more fully than Bowden. And he's relishing it. Dussender also takes this time fully live out his long-suppressed to desire to take up those old ways of his, if on more of a domestic scale. Bowden's rejected him, but awakened these instincts in him – it's not good. Let's face it, the life of a gay homeless male prostitute in the house of a Nazi is going to be pretty limited, to say the least. Then we get the major plot point – Dussender has a minor heart attack – this could be very bad – and he calls Bowden to help him out of a difficult situation. He's in extreme pain, and needs Bowden's help – to ensure he gets it locks him in the cellar with a victim, who's not quite dead yet. Can we spell "complicity"? Now who's the murderer?

Now, a new complexity occurs when Dussender goes to hospital – one that is likely to be utterly inimical to him, but it's not likely to be kind to Bowden either, for that matter. The story continues to mount, in terms of tension. By this stage, it's almost knife edge. You see, Dussender's room mate is a concentration camp victim, and he's recognised the Nazi bastard. And he wants justice done. Dussender's days are numbered – after all, Wiesenthal's White Rose are still out there, bringing Nazi war criminals to trial.

But we haven't reached the end of the story yet – and while we never reach the pitch black grimness of King's novella (the last line is the coldest thing I've ever read) – this never packs the same punches.

This film is all about the power of evil and horror, and the fact that humans will simply do bad shit to each other as long as we're alive. Human nature is intrinsically bad, and that's that. You're indoctrinated to do so, so you do so. Not the happiest message to be sending to the world, but that's what this film seemed to be saying.
Video
Carpenter shoots in 2.35:1, and knows how to use it – Christine looks great. A pretty good job has been done on the transfer. Sleepwalkers s tarted off a bit on the poor side with some pretty noticeable speckle and grain, but generally okay for the rest of the film. Apt Pupil is excellent – a crystalline cinemascope picture anamorphically enhanced. Mind you, for a movie this recent, you'd expect that much.
Audio
On Christine, the sound is as good as the image – the explosions sound fantastic – and we get a Carpenter score, which is always a good thing. Sleepwalkers is pretty unremarkable, but does the job reasonably well. Sounded a bit flat to me though. Apt Pupil sounded rather quiet, I found. Clear, but I had to crank the volume up. While I appreciate the 5.1 mix, it wasn't really necessary – it's not that kind of film. Having said that, John Ottman's score is pretty good, and sounds very rich and full in this presentation – dark and menacing.
Extra Features
On Christine there's a commentary track with director Carpenter and star Keith Gordon, some deleted scenes, three featurettes ("Fast and Furious", "Finish Line" and "Ignition"), the original theatrical trailer, and some trailers for Secret Window, The Bone Collector, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Between the commentary and the featurettes, this is a pretty respectable package. Recommended for fans who don't have it already.

Sleepwalkers comes with talent Profiles, which don't rate too highly for me as an extra – I can always just head off to imdb.com if I wanted that kind of information – and to add insult to injury, the only credits are for Stephen King and Mick Garris! How about the rest of the cast? And that's it, folks!

Apt Pupil features the inevitable US theatrical trailer, and a behind-the-scenes featurette, some filmographies of Bryan Singer, Sir Ian McKellen, Brad Renfro and David Schwimmer, and that's yer lot. A bit disappointing for such a good film.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
As a 3 pack film, this is pretty good, and definitely worth checking out. Okay, so you're not getting Stephen King's best stories, and with the exception of Christine, you're probably not betting the best version of the films that you could get, but if you're a fan of his work, I'd really recommend having a look at this - definitely three films that are worth a watch, and they're as cheap as chips - snap 'em up kids!

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