Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
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. Kings
novel was epic in length and Lawrence Kasdans 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 dont 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 Kings book-to-screen
translations, but in terms of the talent it squanders, its failings
are made all the more glaring.