Stephen King 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 (BODY HEAT) 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
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
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