Film 12: The Sandman (1992)

An impressively dark fairytale rendered in puppet animation.

The Sandman is a highly stylised puppet-animation – a beautifully crafted, but ultimately horrible, interpretation of an old European folktale that preys on our childhood fears and nightmares.

The film’s design draws on Expressionist classics like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) and Nosferatu (1922), while the use of music, sound and camera is clearly inspired by Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and Vertigo (1958). Reflecting such influences, the film’s look is dark and menacing: gothic architecture and minimal sets decorate a landscape of blacks, greys and browns. The music and eerie sound effects add to the sinister atmosphere. The Sandman himself is a mass of blues and yellows, with a twisted face and fierce, beaklike nose.

A bare synopsis does not begin to do justice to the sophistication – and brutality – of this film. The Sandman, traditionally the character that sprinkles dust into children’s eyes to send them to sleep is, here, a menacing creature that brings horror to children.

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