|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 01 June 2004|
“Dreamcatcher” follows four friends (Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis and Timothy Olyphant) who travel into the snowy woods of Maine for their annual get-together. A few brief scenes of each man in the working world establish that all of them have some sort of psychic ability. When they get to the cabin they goof around and talk about their friend Duddits (Donnie Wahlberg), whom none have seen in a long time. Through flashbacks to their youth (a King favorite) we see the four boys meet the mentally challenged but somehow special Duddits, rescuing him from some bullies (another King favorite).
The next day while Jonesy (Lewis) and Beaver (Lee) are out hunting, they discover a lost hunter who they take into their cabin. The hunter proceeds to have rampantly explosive and apparently quite odorous flatulence, so they put him into bed. Moments later, Jonesy and Beaver watch what appears to be a mass animal exodus from the forest. After they go back inside, they find that the hunter has bled everywhere and entered the bathroom. After some general weirdness, the stranger eventually has a snake-like organism with huge teeth come out of his rectum while he’s on the toilet. What follows is a disgusting but fun scene where Beaver is unable to hold the creature in the toilet and an alien appears and takes over Jonesy’s body. We find that this alien calls himself Mr. Gray and is attempting to get out of the woods, using Jonesy’s body as a disguise. Jonesy himself remains trapped inside his mind with the alien.
Meanwhile, Henry (Jane) and Pete (Olyphant) nearly get killed when their car narrowly misses a woman sitting in the middle of the snowy road. It turns out this woman also has a creature inside of her and Pete stands guard while Henry goes for help. Soon we meet two high-ranking soldiers (Morgan Freeman and Tom Sizemore), who are part of a secret unit that combats alien infiltration. It turns out that an alien vessel has crashed in the woods of Maine and the spread of an infection must be contained in order to prevent a worldwide takeover. Freeman’s general is going off the deep end, and Henry must work with Sizemore’s character to try to stop the now-possessed but still-living Jonesy from getting out of the quarantine.
If all of this sounds rather strange and hard to follow, it’s only because it is. The film feels like it went through about 20 rewrites and 10 re-edits before everyone involved finally gave up. The initially interesting premise is ruined by the sheer ridiculousness of the whole alien invasion. The tone shifts between a small, creepy, creature/psychic story and a huge, convoluted, half-assed action flick become distracting and, more than anything, disappointing. I enjoyed the first 52 minutes, but then what has been carefully crafted and established is blown out of proportion. Mainly to blame for this is the entire scale of the invasion. There is a sequence where attack helicopters gun down the stranded aliens and then blow up their ship. The sequence is not very exciting and really only serves to take away from the human aspect of the story, no pun intended.
There are some interesting performances here, most notably by Lewis (“Band of Brothers”), who must portray a man fighting a game of mind possession with an alien being. All of the other actors are well known and established, and while Kasdan is known for being an actor’s director, the performances are compromised by the tone shifts. It’s difficult for an actor to remain consistent when the entire film is not.
There are three featurettes on the DVD. The first one is an interview with Stephen King that was done moments after he watched the rough cut of “Dreamcatcher.” While brief, this interview gives some insight into the writing of the book and some of the reasons behind the choices that King made. He wrote it shortly after his well publicized accident when he was hit by a van near his home in Maine, and he discusses some of the things from his post-accident life that influenced the writing of the book. This sort of interview with an author of a book upon which a film is based is somewhat rare, so it’s interesting, especially since so many of King’s books have been turned into movies.
The second featurette is a behind-the-scenes look at the film, marked mainly by interviews with some members of the cast and co-writer/director Kasdan. It’s pretty standard fare, though it does have some good interview clips. The third featurette gives somewhat short and simplistic bit of insight into the effects work behind the film.
The trailer that is included should be viewed before anything else, as it is truly a very good one. It sets up the loneliness and isolation of a creepy movie, and shows little of what ultimately turns it into a poor exercise in cinema. Then, when the film is viewed, everyone can try to understand how such a poor movie can come out of such a great trailer. The transfer of the film is sharp, but the film was released earlier this year, so the visual clarity shouldn’t be a surprise. Deleted scenes are always interesting and there are a few here that are actually quite funny. The original ending is included, and having seen it, I wonder why they changed it.
Overall, “Dreamcatcher” is a disappointment for both King fans and Kasdan fans, though, because it does come from two great artistic minds, it does have its good attributes.