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Dreamcatcher (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: 'DreamWriter' – an interview with Stephen King; 'DreamWeavers' – the visual effects of Dreamcatcher; Lifted scenes and original ending; Trailer.

STEPHEN King novels very rarely translate to the Big Screen well. For every Shawshank Redemption or Shining, there are countless misfires, such as Pet Cemetery, Sleepwalkers or Maximum Overdrive.

Dreamcatcher has the dubious distinction of falling into both categories, starting off extremely brightly, but then descending into a complete mess about halfway through.

Based upon the first novel that King completed after his near-fatal car accident in 1999, the film centres around four childhood friends who get together for a pilgrimage to their favourite deep-woods cabin, only to find themselves stuck, snow-deep, in the middle of an alien invasion.

The four friends in question share the power of telepathy, a ‘gift’ bestowed upon them by a strange boy, Duddits, they rescued from bullies, yet all are experiencing some form of mid-life crisis.

For the jovial Beav (Jason Lee), it is love problems; while intellectual shrink, Henry (Thomas Jane), feels suicidal. Pete (Timothy Olyphant), meanwhile, is battling the demon of drink, while Jonesy (Damian Lewis) is still trying to come to terms with his near-death experience, after being hit by a car.

But when they come to the aid of a stranger in the woods, their problems really begin, as the man in question is ridden with a contagion, which quickly gets out in the form of some razor-toothed aliens that inhabit their victims’ bodies.

And so begins a psychological battle of wits between the aliens and friends, with Jonesy, in particular, at the centre of it, as the aliens attempt to unlock the secrets of a mental warehouse he has created in his mind.

Thrown into the mix, also, are Tom Sizemore and Morgan Freeman, as the military special forces charged with eliminating the alien menace before it spreads beyond the containment area.

Needless to say, Dreamcatcher works on a vast scale. King’s novel was epic in length and Lawrence Kasdan’s movie has trouble trying to cram everything in.

So while, in book form, the story took time to explore the characters’ motivations, in film format, much appears to get overlooked, while several of the scenes don’t translate very well and appear stupid or confusing, all of which serves to render the finished product all the more disappointing.

Kasdan excels in the early stages, handling the human element of proceedings with the same aplomb he brought to the likes of The Big Chill and Grand Canyon, while also delivering some nice nods to other horror classics such as Alien and The Thing.

But from the moment the aliens emerge from the bottom of one unsuspecting carrier, while sitting on the toilet, things tend to go down the pan.

Characters are quickly wasted (Lee, in particular, is lost too early), while the director seems to dispense with any subtlety in favour of gung-ho extremism, gruesome special effects and toilet humour - all of which serve to create an uneven mix.

Worse still is the Freeman/Sizemore side of the story, which serves little purpose other than to provide two great actors with two appalling roles, while the split personality which develops between Lewis’ Jonesy and the aliens’ eccentric Mr Gray fails to convince on any level.

By the time audiences are confronted with the traditional race-against-time finale, they will probably have lost interest, especially as the film seems sags badly during its middle section.

Dreamcatcher is by no means the worst of King’s book-to-screen translations, but in terms of the talent it squanders, its failings are made all the more glaring.

 

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