From the book by Stephen King, directed by Lawrence (The Big Chill) Kasdan, co-written by King and William (Misery) Goldman, with stars Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers), and Jason (Chasing Amy) Lee. Yes, Dreamcatcher is going to be a QUALITY King adaptation, in the tradition of Stand By Me, right? Wrong! It's more like Maximum Overdrive, the luridly violent killer car B-Movie mess King directed himself, to his eternal embarrassment. At least that was only his first attempt, now there's no excuse.
It's been said that Hollywood blockbusters are b-movies on big budgets, but Dreamcatcher is a more like a terrible Z grade straight-to-video disaster, brought to expensive, A-list life. The result is demented, and it's no surprise to learn that King wrote the source novel while convalescing after his road accident: it plays like an insane fever dream.
It starts out similar to It, King's novel about as a group of friends that regroup to revisit childhood experiences. This time they're a bunch of guys on a snowy woodlands hunting trip. So far, so quality, but then things take a sharp left into bizarro territory. A weird man appears, and soon the friends are facing an alien invasion. Many familiar King moments get stirred in: the flashbacks to an idyllic American Baby Boomer early Sixties childhood (although given the thirty something age of the characters, shouldn't we actually be looking at the Eighties?), the use of paranormal powers, the New England setting. But there's one final element too, something that's long been present in King's fiction, but not seen much of onscreen: his love of scatological humour.
So, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome: the 'shit weasel'. Like the chest-burster from Alien, but it flies out of characters' arses, and makes one hell of a mess of the toilet. That's just the first of many terrible ideas, most of them half-stolen from Alien, but the effects people have worked miracles, and Dreamcatcher's aliens look marvellously weird, if more than a bit sickly.
Bad as it is, far better this than a dreary, worthy alien invasion movie like Independence Day. In Dreamcatcher the military aren't admirable role models: they're evil, bonkers or both, not least Morgan Freeman, as the insane Colonel Curtis, who sports giant white eyebrows and slaughters aliens, civilians and his own men with similar lack of concern. A true oddity, Dreamcatcher is never boring, possibly true cult material, although despite its oddness, it's never really that much fun either. 7/10
Adrian Horrocks (January 2005)
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