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Dreamcatcher
Reviewed by: Marc Eastman
Genre: Horror/Sci-Fi
Video: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Language: English, French
Subtitle: English, Spanish, French
Length: 134 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: 9/30/2003
Studio: Warner Home Video
Commentary: None
Documentaries: "Dream Makers" Behind the Scenes production documentary
Featurettes: "Dream Weavers" Visual Effects featurette.
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: "Dream Writer" interview with Stephen King
Trailers/TV Spots: Movie trailer
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: Four alternate scenes as well as original ending.
Music Video: None
Other: None
Cast and Crew: Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Sizemore, Donnie Wahlberg
Written By: William Goldman, Stephen King (novel)
Produced By: Lawrence Kasdan
Directed By: Lawrence Kasdan
Music: James Newton Howard
The Review:

It's easy to dismiss 'Dreamcatcher' as being a wholly awful film, but it isn't quite fair. It is, somehow unfortunately, a remarkable film. That is, it is a remarkable filming of the story. The problem is only that the story is utterly stupid. As far as the film goes, almost every aspect of it is above par. It's an oddly sad, and curiously noteworthy film in this regard. ***

'Dreamcatcher' relates the story of four men who have been friends since childhood. Now thirty-somethings, the four of them met an odd friend during their youth named Duddits. Duddits, a mentally-challenged boy delivered unto them certain 'powers', which changed their lives. One of them can 'magically' find anything, one reads minds, and they can all speak to each other telepathically. The actual details are actually left somewhat hazy, but we understand that things are not at all normal. ***

Flash forward to an annual trip to a cabin in the woods, where our four men come to, curiously, sit around and act like 'guys'. Things soon become strange on an entirely different level as events give us to understand that this is an alien invasion movie. We stumble upon a man wandering through the forest, and lead him back to the cabin, and soon discover that he's been infected with an alien virus of some manner. We shift suddenly to the government's para-military unit whose job is to battle these aliens, and we learn that they have been doing so for at least a score of years. Things begin to get rather muddled. ***

Soon one of our four men has been 'taken over' by an alien who attempts to use him in order to complete his diabolical plans. For some reason, the alien isn't able to take him over completely, and thus a dialogue can commence between the alien and his 'host'. Another of our boys has been swept up in the government's quarantine, and is now faced with trying to escape so that he can help save the world from the aliens. ***

It's all fairly standard stuff really, except that none of it makes any attempt to make sense. We see flashbacks of the men meeting Duddits, and of a few other key events in the childhood/Duddits plotline, but none of them really tell us anything. Government soldiers talk about the aliens a lot, and in the end Duddits and company reveal certain things about them, but in the end we know nothing really. Looking at the story alone, the thing is like an account of an eyewitness to the events. That is, someone who saw what happened sure, but also doesn't know anything about what happened. By the end of the movie, we know nothing about the characters, nothing about the aliens, and really only one thing about Duddits. ***

On the positive side of things, the movie actually does as good a job as could possibly be hoped for. The acting, apart from the children in the flashback scenes, is all quite good. Damian Lewis ('Band of Brothers') as Jonesy, the man who ends up 'possessed' by the alien, does a great job. A touch of camp creeps into his performance, but that is all to the good here. Morgan Freeman is as good as he can be really, but the character he plays, that of the man in charge of the alien-fighting task force, is rather hopeless to begin with. Overall, very solid acting. ***

If you know the name Lawrence Kasdan, you're probably as surprised as I was to see it attached to this monstrosity. Apart from his early co-writer credit on 'The Empire Strikes Back', he hasn't done much that is remotely in the same genre. His directing credits do not cover a huge body of work, and some of his films are surely better than others, but none of them would suggest any sort of connection to 'Dreamcatcher'. Still, there's nothing wrong with his direction here. The thing is shot wonderfully, and the snow-covered world we dive into is beautiful and, frankly, cold. Our scare scenes deliver to some degree or other, and no matter how silly things get, nothing feels too stagey. Things are silly, yes, but it is never the fault of actors or director. It's never because things 'look' silly, or are presented as silly. It's only because of this damn silly thing they are forced to present. ***

This makes the movie all the worse, of course, because through at least the first thirty minutes you're being snowed (ahem) into thinking you're watching something that might turn out good. The thing has all the earmarks of a decent movie, and up to that point the whole thing is really about Duddits and the special abilities the four men have, and that aspect of the plot is at least somewhat intriguing. Worse yet, even up to the very last minute you can't help but hold out some hope that something might come of it all, but it never does. Unfortunately, the only thing that is clear about 'Dreamcatcher' is that it never would have been made if it weren't a book by Stephen King, and it never should have been made in any case. On the other hand, it is probably the perfect movie to see how a crew can make the best out of a bad situation.

Image and Sound:

'Dreamcatcher' looks great, and it's clear that a lot of attention was given to the transfer. There are virtually no defects, and given the fact that virtually the entire movie takes place in masses of white, much during snowfall, that's impressive. A few of the indoor scenes, particularly the later scenes inside the cabin, suffer a lessening of crisp definition, but nothing is very noticeable. Colors are clear, though we aren't exactly working with a massive palette, and there are no edge-enhancement or compression problems. ***

'Dreamcatcher' does not lend itself to a great deal of surround capabilities, but the sound on the disc is crystal clear. Like most horror movies, this one is filled with highs and lows, from whispering to screaming, from footsteps on the snow to gunshots and explosions, and it all comes through nicely here. There are the occasional meaningful uses of surround, and they are delivered nicely, but not that much attention is really paid to that area of sound design.

The Extras:

'Dreamcatchers' is somewhat sparse in special features, but what it has makes up for the lack in quantity. There are four deleted scenes, though one is just an extended version of a scene (the shorter version being a wise move), and one is more of something for the gag reel as opposed to be a deleted scene. The DVD also includes the 'original ending', which is something hard to draw a bead on really. One is tempted to say that it is a very stupid ending which makes everything nonsensical, but that's just where we are with the ending that made it to theaters, so how does one make any comparison? ***

"Dream Writer" is an 8-minute interview with Stephen King which doesn't really have much to do with the movie per se. It's really much more about his thoughts on the book, how he came to write it, and how it relates to his own accident when he was hit by a truck while walking along a road. He gives us a bit of insight into things, and how the whole thing exists just so that the bathroom scene can take place, and how the story itself relates to 'Stand by Me'. It's actually fairly interesting to get a bit of insight like this, but at eight minutes, and with little commentary on the film, it doesn't get us very far. ***

"Dream Maker" is an approximately twenty-minute 'Behind the Scenes' production tour type documentary. Kasdan gives us some insight on the creative process that went into the production, and his thoughts on the project overall. This, with a backdrop of production footage. Much of this is actually pretty interesting, especially as we might be wondering how he came to the project. With an effects driven movie such as this, it's no surprise that much our time here slides over into a lot of talk about generating the effects, regardless of the fact that there is an effects featurette as well. ***

"Dream Weavers" is a ten minute feature that lets Jeff Olson discuss the effects he and his crew created for the film. This is easily the most interesting thing you'll find on the DVD, movie included. Though this is a fairly brief look at things, it is a well-planned featurette, and covers a wide variety of effect design aspects in the time it has. We get a look at how different departments interact, and how things go from sketches to CGI to final product, and how different people and departments bring about different scenes.

Commentary: None
Final Words:

'Dreamcatcher' is the worst sort of bad movie. One which has excellent (or at least above-average) elements coming together to tell a horrible story. It is almost worth watching just to get a glimpse at what might have been, but not quite. The DVD is a very solid transfer, but the special features are tricky. There aren't many of them, but they may be of interest. King fans certainly will love the interview. Fans of the movie will get more than usual out of the production feature. And, anyone remotely interested in filmcraft will appreciate the effects feature.

Marc Eastman

www.movieroundtable.com

 

 
 
 
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