MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
The Sandman is written and directed by Peter Sullivan (Ominous, Summoned) and tells the story of an eight-year-old girl named Madison (played by Shae Smolik) who has unnatural telekinetic abilities and is followed, and sometimes protected, by a dark, malicious figure known to her simply as the Sandman. Leaving a trail of bodies wherever Madison goes, her Aunt Claire (Napoleon Dynamite’s Haylie Duff) attempts to help the child when Madison’s father is found dead, but Claire soon finds herself caught between the murderous supernatural being haunting her niece and a group of ominous government operatives (led by the Saw franchise’s Tobin Bell) looking to harness Madison’s powers, and the Sandman, for themselves.
The concept behind the The Sandman might seem, on paper, a bit schlocky or derivative, but the same could be said for many of the projects sharing Lee’s name, and the content of the story is certain to appeal to some of the same fans who enjoy his comic books and the films based on them. Sullivan’s film feels like some sort of makeshift meld of Carrie, The Sixth Sense, Species, and several other well-known genre flicks. At times, the comic book elements of the film almost convince the viewer that they’re witnessing some great, untold origin story of a powerful superhero or villain, but in the end, the execution doesn’t completely live up to the concept. Much of the plot and character motivations come off as muddled or predictable and, while some viewers will certainly find the Sandman’s design and performance suitably shiver-inducing, the more weathered horror connoisseur may find themselves wanting more.
When it comes to the cast, Tobin Bell brings a nice sense of dread and mystery to the menacing Valentine, and Haylie Duff proves a solid lead. Aliens’ fans will be happy to see Ricco Ross (Private Frost to you grunts) as Detective Price, and A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Amanda Wyss appears as a doctor hoping to exercise Madison’s “demons.”
FINAL VERDICT: When it comes to aficionados of B-movies and made-for-TV flicks, there’s a decent chance that The Sandman might actually be worth an hour and twenty-eight minutes of your life. In regards to comic book fans that might be attracted given Stan Lee’s name, the wealth of geeky superhero television (Arrow, The Flash, The Gifted, Supergirl, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, etc.) might prove too much competition and, ultimately, the downfall of an attempt to court that specific audience.
Also, just so we’re clear for you Marvel fans, there are two post credit scenes and, unfortunately, not a single Stan Lee cameo.
The Sandman will premiere on SyFy on Saturday, October 14th, at 9 p.m. You can watch the trailer for the film and learn more at this link.