If you told me that there's a film with Stan Lee's involvement about a young girl with supernatural powers, I would have said, "Excelsior!" Well, there is a film that fits those guidelines, but it clearly falls short of the quality that we have come to expect from the longtime Marvel collaborator.
To be fair, Stan Lee only serves as an executive producer of The Sandman, but it's a role that Lionsgate clearly wants you to know as his name is larger than any of the cast and almost the title on the box art. And no, before you ask The Sandman does not concern the Marvel comics villain nor is it even loosely based on the Neil Gaiman comic book of the same name.
No, The Sandman is an original story that basically takes the old boogeyman storyline and recasts the lead as a man made of sand. Then the film borrows liberally from Firestarter and any number of X-Men stories to create a mishmash of a film that suffers greatly from a lack of focus and major tonal swings.
The story centers around a young girl Madison who is orphaned and discovers that she has the supernatural power to conjure The Sandman to do her bidding, namely the spiting of her enemies and tormenters with extreme prejudice. While the story sounds promising, the film was made for the SyFy channel so the violence and general malaise are predictably tame.
The film features two wonderful horror cameos that lend it some horror credibility in Tobin Bell and Amanda Wyss. Sadly though, their appearances are brief and in the case of Bell, his storyline was rather interesting and one that I would have appreciated seeing more fleshed out.
If you were curious as to what Haylie Duff has been up to lately, then you might find this film curious. Sadly though, I have never been a big fan of hers and while good acting chops have never been prerequisite for a horror film, her performance is rather distracting at times and it's unclear whether it suffered from bad material or her bad acting - I'm betting on the latter.
On the flip side, Shae Smolik as the young Madison gives a pretty convincing performance as the young girl being tormented by her power. Much like the aforementioned Firestarter, when your action is driven by a young actor, it is always a gamble how they will handle the pressure, but none of The Sandman's failures fall on her small shoulders.
I'm not usually one to give away too much in the way of spoilers in my review, but I feel confident that many of you will likely skip this one. The ending and the way they handle the resolution of the big baddie is beyond ludicrous and no I'm not talking about a surprise third-act appearance by the rapper-actor Ludacris. That might have actually made the film more enjoyable in retrospect. No, the film chooses a bizarre and safe made-for-tv way to handle the bad guy and it was very unsatisfying.
All in all, I find it hard to recommend this film even for diehard horror buffs. It's cheesy, but not in that way that makes horror films great. No, the film is trying to be earnest, but it's clear that it is a rudderless ship adrift in the vast sea searching for any port in the storm. Do yourself a favor, extinguish your lighthouse and let this one meet its end on the jagged rocks.
The Sandman is now available on DVD.