DREAMCATCHER - 2003
Castle Rock / Warner Bros.
Ratings: USA: Rated R
is CURSED! Mwah ha ha ha!
And by that I mean he's been cursed - at least so far - to have his excellent
scary novels made into bad movies about half of the time. I say that as
a fan. I enjoy his work and two of his novels are in my top ten favorite
books of all time (Curious? They are 'SALEM'S LOT and PET SEMETARY). I haven't read DREAMCATCHER,
however, so I saw the movie with no preconceptions. Was it scary and cool
or is it more evidence of my curse theory?
The movie was directed by Lawrence Kasdan and written for the screen by Mr. Kasdan and William Goldman (MARATHON
MAN, THE STEPFORD WIVES, MISERY, THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS), based,
of course on the novel by Stephen King.
The story opens as therapist Henry Devlin (Thomas Jane: DEEP
BLUE SEA) listens to a very fat patient describe an eating binge. Henry tells the patient that
he's eating himself to death because he feels guilty about causing
his mother's death, an event Henry proceeds to describe in impossible
detail. The patient is freaked out by the telepathic therapy session and
runs for the door.
This event makes Henry take a revolver from his desk and place the gun to his head.
Only a well-timed phone call stops Henry from ending his life.
The call is from Henry's friend Jonesy (Damian Lewis),
something Henry knew before he picked up the phone (WITHOUT caller ID! Spooky!). They discuss an upcoming weekend get together.
Jonesy is a school counselor and exhibits similar psychic abilities in his next
counseling session with a student. Who are these guys?
We meet a third friend named Pete (Timothy Olyphant: SCREAM
2), a car salesman who helps a woman find her lost keys by
psychic means. He asks her out afterwards but his bizarre talent has left
her more frightened than grateful.
Finally, we meet Beaver (Jason Lee: DOGMA) the fourth of this group of guys who've been friends since grade school in Derry, Maine (a town prominent in several Stephen King stories). Beaver calls Jonesy and warns him to be careful, but he doesn't know of what. Shortly afterward Jonesy is in a near fatal car wreck.
All of this is intriguing and well done. You really want to know more about these
guys and their odd abilities. The story jumps to a cabin in the woods
six months later. Jonesy is almost healed from his injuries and the four
buddies have gathered for a weekend of hunting and hiking. They do come
across as four old friends, with all their inside jokes and "you
remember the time
" stories. It would have been a fun, relaxing
weekend if it wasn't for the crashed UFO.
Yeah, you read that right. Now at first it's kinda cool. A lost hunter stumbles
up to their cabin. He has an odd infection and a serious gas problem but
the source of this problem is something so much like the movie Alien that
the characters here actually acknowledge the reference and call the infection
"Ripley", after Sigourney
Weaver's best known character (although instead of chest explosions these parasites exit through an existing orifice.
No, the other one).
At this point another storyline starts involving crazed Colonel Abraham Kurtz
(Morgan Freeman: SE7EN, THE SUM OF ALL
FEARS) and his right hand man Captain Owen Underhill (Tom
Sizemore: THE RELIC).
Colonel Kurtz (that name sounds familiar
leads a special unit of E.T. hunters, protecting the human race from these
diseased invaders. Wow, it sure is incredibly lucky that these interstellar
travelers chose to attack us at the moment in history when we just barely
had enough technology to hold them off. I mean the odds must be so incredibly,
astronomically against such perfect timing that one would be tempted to
say it's rather poorly thought out.
Similar questions abound in the later half of this film. Plot points are continually
based on flimsy explanations that don't bear close scrutiny. We learn
a variety of things about evil aliens and about how the four friends got
their powers when they were young boys and saved a retarded boy named
Duddits from a group of bullies. Duddits was gifted in other ways and
as an adult is played (in what amounts to a cameo)
by Donnie Wahlberg (THE SIXTH SENSE).
I did like how the Greys from modern UFO mythology are portrayed as evil. I don't
believe in aliens or UFO's but movies that use these ideas and then
show the aliens as good and benevolent annoy me. If they were real then
they are evil by definition because they experiment on people against
their will. Just ask the Nazi's.
But enough about history. Let's talk about a
If you had advanced space travel and the kind of quick spreading fungus
/ bio-weapon shown here, it would be a simple matter to seed the upper
atmosphere with it and rain it down all over the Earth (a-la INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS - Feo). The conquest these
aliens seem bent on would happen quickly and without firing a shot. Proof,
perhaps, that just because someone comes from a culture with more advanced
technology doesnt mean theyre automatically very smart.
And while we're at it, how about a
THE UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT:
To avoid potential spoilers here, go to THE UNFAIR
RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT/Dreamcatcher page there, for more info. Beware! The Unfair Racial Cliche Alert has spoilers!
I'd also like to take one further moment to speak directly to Stephen King.
It's presumptuous of me to offer him unasked for advice and his career will be fine whether he listens to me or not, but I'm going to say this anyway: Stephen, you suck at science fiction. I know you like to dabble in it now and then but you simply don't have the background or the know-how to write about aliens in any decent suspension-of-disbelief
kind of way. You're great at horror and thriller and creating memorable
characters and most writers will never be as good as you no matter how
hard they try, but that doesn't mean you are able to write about anything. To write decent science fiction you have to at least have a clue about the science.
And speaking of science, it's time for me to do some math. Adding up the points
for the good first half and then taking away points for the hokey mess
in the second half, I come up with a total of two shriek girls for DREAMCATCHER.
BONUS REVIEW: THE ANIMATRIX
By the way, during the previews shown before DREAMCATCHER
youll see an excellent animated short (in
some major theaters) called THE
ANIMATRIX: Flight of the Osiris (as in "The
Animated Matrix"). This CGI animation takes place in the same
universe as THE MATRIX and is sexy, cool
and very much worth the price of admission just to see it on the big screen.
In fact, heres my recommendation: Buy a ticket for DREAMCATCHER,
see THE ANIMATRIX, then leave the theater and go rent a good movie.
This review copyright 2003 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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