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The Sandman (2017)

Lionsgate
DVD Released: 3/6/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/15/2018

We would all like to think that everyone is good at something. But, it can often be a challenge to find your niche and truly stick with it. Conversely, there are those who are truly diverse and dabble in several things. Take Peter Sullivan for example. You know how Lifetime and Hallmark Channel seem to be playing Christmas movies all year? Working mostly as a producer, Sullivan is one of the people responsible for this, as he's been involved in no less than 32 Christmas movies over the past decade. However, he has also found the time to produce something called Jersey Shore Shark Attack and write something called Chupacabra Vs. The Alamo. In addition, he Co-Produced Snow White: A Deadly Summer, one of the worst excuses for a movie ever. So, this guy is definitely diverse. It looks like he's taken a holiday break to write, produce, and direct The Sandman.

Upon learning that her brother broke into and died in a supermarket, boudoir photographer Claire (Haylie Duff) takes in her young niece, Madison (Shae Smolik). Of course, the girl is very upset about losing her father and her change in residency, but there is something else going on here. It seems that when Madison goes to sleep, a monster -- the Sandman -- appears and hurts those who have wronged her. Claire is understandably distressed by this and things only get worse when Valentine (Tobin Bell), who somehow knows about Madison and her abilities, sends his men to collect the little girl. Claire must now call upon her innate maternal instincts in order to protect Madison.

Did I mention the word "diverse" earlier? That would certainly describe the array of influences going on in The Sandman, as the story, which is, again, by Sullivan, attempts to be many things at once. The movie has a lot in common with the recently released Before I Wake, as both films deal with a family adopting a child who manifests a monster when they sleep. The creature in The Sandman acts as a sort of reverse Freddy Krueger, as it attacks people when they are awake, but its host, is asleep. From there, the movie almost takes on a The Bad Seed vibe, as Madison uses the creature to lash out at those who may mean her harm. Although, the movie does a terrible job of explaining why the monster killed her dad. Added into this mix is the group of sinister scientists who, again, have somehow learned about Madison and want to capture her. The Sandman then wanders into fanboy territory by bringing in A Nightmare on Elm Street's Amanda Wyss for a cameo.

The whole thing sounds like it could be a complete mess and The Sandman certainly teeters on the brink of being out of control. But, somehow, Sullivan is able to keep the movie on the tracks. This may sound like a good thing, but The Sandman would have been better off being an insane mess. At least then it would have been distinctive. As it is, the movie is so benign and derivative that it's not very entertaining. Even if you aren't watching the film and identifying every other movie it resembles, you most likely won't be caught up in the story, as the characters are underdeveloped and there's never any real sense of urgency or suspense.

If nothing else, there's a lot of marketing at work with The Sandman, but don't be fooled by the DVD cover. I have no idea how Stan Lee is involved in the film other than his credit as Executive Producer. I can tell you that he does not have a cameo here. Tobin Bell's name is also prominently featured on the box, but those expecting to see a lot of Jigsaw will be disappointed, as his role is little more than a cameo. Thus, Haylie Duff and young Shae Smolik are asked to carry the movie. They are fine, and Smolik does a good job of not being annoying, but they aren't given a lot to work with here. Neither great nor awful, The Sandman is doomed to wander a middle-ground where you're better off catching it on cable or a streaming service.

The Sandman never gives us any true details about Claire's job either on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is adequate, although the picture is far softer than what we've become accustomed to with Blu-ray, but it avoids looking flat. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The Sandman sequences provide pretty good surround sound action and some obvious subwoofer effects. The front channels are often active, highlighting sounds coming from off-screen.

The extra features on The Sandman DVD are limited to a TRAILER for the film and a STILLS GALLERY.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long