Main cast: Haylie Duff (Claire), Tobin Bell (Valentine), Shaun Sipos (Wyatt), Shae Smolik (Madison), Amanda Wyss (Dr Amanda Elliott), Ricco Ross (Detective Price), Jason-Shane Scott (Colton), Lyn Alicia Henderson (Abigail Farmer), Paul Logan (Heller), Scott Peat (Stanley), Richard Gleason (Dr Cushing), and Mick Ignis (The Sandman)
Director: Peter Sullivan
I initially became intrigued by The Sandman when it appeared on my local cable channel, because it has Tobin Bell – John Kramer or Jigsaw if you follow those Saw movies – and a pretty good opening scene, which saw a man breaking into a store, followed by his daughter, and then the man gets killed by bad CGI.
The man is our heroine Claire’s brother. Claire is a photographer who gives little thought to settling down with her boyfriend Wyatt, but now that her niece is an orphan, she is determined to adopt her and give her a home. However, she doesn’t just have to get past a skeptical social security officer, she also has to get past doctors and more sinister figures because apparently Madison, the girl, is unique. She has a scream that can breaks glasses and worse, she is somehow linked to the Sandman, a bad CGI thing that looks like, er, Swamp Thing gone all black face. The Sandman will show up when Madison is agitated or just plain mad at someone, to begin its killing spree.
Right off the bat, I recognize two big problems here.
Haylie Duff isn’t the best actress around, as she tends to either overact or underact at all the wrong moments, but she is done no favors by a script that turns Claire into an inconsistent, erratic character. Claire’s motivations don’t always make sense – she is often abrasive and rude at the wrong moments, or bizarrely sanguine when faced with a terrifying situation. When the people that she supposedly care for die, she doesn’t seem to care much at all. Our heroine, therefore, is more like a plot device to generate conflict or messy situations than a character in her own right.
The second and bigger problem is Shae Smolik. I know, it is bad optics to put down child actors, but this young lady is simply awful. Maybe she isn’t given proper direction by Peter Sullivan, who knows, but Madison for way too much of the movie just remains in one spot, looking lost, until she is given the cue to scream. My god, that scream. Forget the glasses shattering in the movie, my eardrums feel like doing the same too. That scream and Madison often pouting or behaving like a brat make this young lady a singularly most unlikable character. This makes it so much easier to blame her for the deaths here, and root for her death rather than her survival.
Also, as the movie progresses, it forgets that it is supposed to be a horror movie and turns into an interminable, boring chase sequence featuring the Sandman who just won’t die no matter what. These scenes are boring and badly edited, so my reaction while sitting through them is to mostly yawn and wondering whether that thing will truly stay dead each time it is supposedly down because, damn it, the movie is a dud and I want to move on with my life.
All in all, The Sandman may have Tobin Bell in it, but it embodies the worst aspects of the Syfy movie it is through and through. The constant horrendous screaming and the wooden acting of the female leads don’t help matters.