Retro Review: Dreamcatcher

Horror-meister Stephen King takes another stab at science-fiction with a tale about aliens among us. With an unpredictable director like Lawrence Kasdan at the helm of the film it could be anywhere from the brilliance of the first two “Alien” films to the idiocy of Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space”.

“Dreamcatcher” refers to the Native American charm that wards away nightmares while its owner sleeps.

Four childhood friends, Henry (Thomas Jane), Jonesy (Damian Lewis), Pete (Timothy Olyphant) and Beaver (Jason Lee), reunite for their annual weekend in a hunting cabin.

The foursome reflects back upon their lives and their unbelievable encounter with a “special” friend named Duddits (Donnie Wahlberg).

When a half-frozen hunter stumbles into their camp, Jonesy and Beaver try to nurse the hunter back to health. Unbeknownst to the guys, an evolving evil is swelling within the hunter that is surely to seal their fate.

Meanwhile Henry and Pete encounter a woman with the same symptoms as the hunter and the whole situation could be connected to a contagion sweeping the surrounding area.

Military officials Col. Abraham Kurtz (Morgan Freeman) and Capt. Owen Underhill (Tom Sizemore) have been summoned to contain the contagion before it spreads.

What do the woman and the hunter have to do with the contagion?

And furthermore what does all this have to do with an alien presence?

“Dreamcatcher”, the film jumps all over the map as it seems to suffer primarily from a massive identity crisis with way to many characters.

Where the previous Stephen King theatrical adaptation, “Hearts in Atlantis”, had to little characters this one has double and in some circumstances triple the amount of characters it needs for this film’s running time.

You can plainly see that this should have been one of those giant multi-night King mini-series adaptations not this two-hour version.

The film is non-linear in its execution which makes it hard to follow. For most of the film you have to scratch your head to follow what is exactly going on.

Why is this connected to this? How does this element meld with this part? Where or what exactly do all the people come from that the army rounds up? Does Kurtz know more than his dialogue allows? The largest question you will probably ask yourself is, “did I miss something or is it just me?”

There are some scary and brilliant horror elements in the film like the infamous “bathroom” sequence. The sequences that did make sense and when the film allowed itself to be purely horror or sci-fi were quite enjoyable. There just wasn’t enough of those to really warrant devoting yourself to care about anyone.

Kasdan tries desperately to be clever with his characters but he should have decided which he wanted to come off as 2-dimensional and what others were the main ones of his film. I felt that it really wasn’t solely the director’s fault because you can plainly see huge chunks missing in making it an understandable story.

This film is a pure example of a novel-adaptation that has been diluted into an insane running time.

2.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer

Written: March 28, 2003

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