In 1991, director Paul Berry animated this dark and unnerving stop-motion short film which would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Film, Animated. In my humble opinion, the Sandman should have won the award, as it is genuinely an amazing piece of work. The atmosphere, music and technical sophistication are astonishing and itâ€™s an excellent video to watch around Halloween-time.
Its nine oâ€™clock and time for children to go to bed. A small boy is sent up to his room all alone with only a dim oil lamp to guide his way. He trembles beneath his covers, as creaking floorboards and howling winds fill him with a sense of dread. In the downstairs hallway, a strange creature spills out from the shadows. At first, it cautiously searches the rooms of the house with stealth and graceâ€¦until it hears the sounds of the boy. Sensing the childâ€™s fear, the creature begins loudly approaching his room, relishing the terror it invokes. Upon reaching the sleeping childâ€™s quarters, â€œthe Sandmanâ€ has a terrible fate in store for the unsuspecting boy.
The Sandman combines many of my favorite things, which of course is why I like it so much. Stop-motion is one of my favorite forms of animation and the Sandman executes it beautifully. The horror is gothic and surreal, telling the tale of the mysterious Sandman only through music and visuals. You donâ€™t know much about the monster, just that heâ€™s terrifying. And honestly, thatâ€™s enough.
Lastly, it hits home with me in a nostalgic sort of way. When I was a kid, a little kid, I was scared to death of the Boogeyman. I thought for sure that there was a monster living in my closet that would creep out in the dead of night and try to eat me. The Sandman is a perfect realization of that childhood nightmare; monsters lurking underneath your bed or in the shadowy corners of your room. You canâ€™t see them, but you know theyâ€™re there.
The animator and director, Paul Berry, died tragically in 2001 of a tumor. His style of stop-motion animation was dark and frightening, had he lived long Iâ€™m sure he would have produced more solid gems like the Sandman. You might also recognize him for his work on stop-motion animated films like the Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and Monkeybone.
The Sandman clocks in at just under ten minutes, but the memory of the film will last a lifetime. I first saw it many years ago, either on Mtvâ€™s Cartoon Sushi or IFCâ€™s Independent Animation series. I canâ€™t remember which. Either way, both programs showcased independent animated short films, often of the dark and frightening variety. Unfortunately, both shows have been cancelled for quite a while and there isnâ€™t much of a television venue these days for independent animation (thatâ€™s what the internet is for!).
I highly recommend all fans of animation check this short out. It can be located on You Tube and in rather good quality.