Tuesday, April 17, 2018

SyFy vs. The Mynd: The Sandman (2017)

I miss SyFy Originals that aren’t about sharks. While I do appreciate the channel’s – sometimes even successful - attempts at making make proper SF shows now, there should always be room for cheesy little monster movies made in the right spirit. Unfortunately, the tiny number of non-shark movies they still produce have gone back down in entertainment as well as in production value, mostly lacking in spirit and quality.

Case in point is this thing directed and written by one Peter Sullivan, whose body of work seems particularly focussed on TV movies with the word “Christmas” in their titles. But let’s start with something positive here: the film’s fake search engine of choice is called “Querioo”, with the Q stylized as a search symbol/magnifying glass. You’d hope this sort of thing suggested a film made with a degree of care and love, but it surely doesn’t.

As a matter of fact, The Sandman, particularly its script, is a sad excuse for a movie. The plot – I’ll spare everyone a synopsis here – is badly stitched together out of elements of a handful of better movies – as well as  Firestarter – and moves all the speed of that particular snail who loses all the snail races. Adding insult to injury, the narrative only moves at all because all characters in here except for heroine Claire (Haylie Duff, having one up on the other grown-up actors by at least being awake) are cartoonish assholes and incompetents. Most of them are apparently working for the evil government conspiracy exclusively staffed by the guys and gals none of the proper government conspiracies wanted to hire. Then there’s Tobin Bell looking as if he’s about to fall asleep on his feet doing very little of interest.

I do appreciate the film’s attempt at escalating the concept of the idiot plot by turning it into that of the idiot arsehole plot on a theoretical level, but in practice, this doesn’t make the narrative any more interesting. Here’s the rub: I’m perfectly willing to watch unlikeable characters doing stupid shit but I do need said stupid shit – and perhaps the characters too – to be entertaining. The Sandman only ever reaches the stage of “badly ripped off”.

I could go on about the general crappiness of the acting, with psychic kid Shae Smolik being a mild exception, the extreme genericness of Sullivan’s direction, the fact that this is a film that doesn’t even attempt to motivate crap like Claire’s boyfriend’s attempted murder of a child properly, or the bad mood watching this got me into, but life is short, the film felt long, and nobody really needs to hear more about The Sandman than the word “avoid”.

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