DREAMCATCHER, based on the book by noted horror author Stephen King, is more science fiction horror and gore rather than King’s usual endorsement of the supernatural. The story introduces viewers to four friends, each gifted with psychic abilities by a mysterious boy named Duddits. Flashbacks show a few of their shared experiences, but the present day finds the men gathering together in a hunting lodge as part of their friendship’s annual ritual.
Years earlier, Duddits made a dreamcatcher (a Native-American web-like object believed to “trap” evil) and presented it to them. It now hangs with honor in their mountain cabin. Oddly enough, the audience learns later that Duddits is still alive but chooses not to share in this annual bonding experience. The “dreamcatcher” in the story becomes a metaphor for the four young men and the powerful alien gifts that Duddits endowed to them. With amazing foreknowledge, he arranged everything so that these men could be in place to save the human race.
The movie’s pace really accelerates when the violent alien invasion begins. This is not E.T.’s version of First Contact. This is an incursion by vicious worm-like creatures with hundreds of razor-sharp teeth. Some, using mind manipulation, trick humans into believing they are friendly doe-eyed creatures while others are capable of “borrowing” humans as hosts in order to further the purposes of their invasion. Of course, the four friends will fight using their time-tested powers, and the survivors will learn the truth about their friend Duddits.
DREAMCATCHER is padded by a subplot that portrays U.S. military forces trying to contain a red plague, nicknamed “Ripley” after Sigourney Weaver’s character in ALIENS. Apparently, the military has secretly fought against alien invasion for decades. Meanwhile, the operations commander, Colonel Curtis (Morgan Freeman in his first over-acting role to date), goes a little crazy on account of all the years of cover-up and destruction. This portion of the story feels contrived, possibly added to artificially ramp up the tension. Moviegoers, suspiciously sensing another version of mind manipulation, may even hear a director shouting somewhere in the background, “Keep the plot moving so that viewers won’t have time to think! Faster! Faster!”
DREAMCATCHER is a genuinely frightening alien movie that many will find entertaining. Director Lawrence Kasdan, successful co-writer of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and two of the first three STAR WARS movies, does the best he can given the story’s major logic gaps. DREAMCATCHER is suspense-filled, exciting and a little reminiscent of blockbuster movies from years back. In fact, the movie borrows heavily from Ridley Scott’s ALIEN series, John Carpenter’s THE THING and even STAND BY ME (another King story-turned-movie).
That said, DREAMCATCHER still doesn’t measure up to those earlier popcorn entertainments. The plot is riddled with holes and makes nearly no sense in retrospect. For example, an advanced species of aliens invade the Earth with a large force and superior technology, yet they have difficulty slipping past a modest-sized army. Also, their goal is to reach a water reservoir from which they will infect the whole earth, yet they crash-land their ship hundreds of miles from their target. The movie also never explains why some aliens have powerful abilities and others seemingly have limitations. DREAMCATCHER is not meant to make sense, however, it is intended to frighten and thrill moviegoers.
Regrettably, the movie also plays the one-upmanship game that pushes horror films these days. How far can you go? How gross can you get? How much blood is enough? Surely, some will enjoy these aspects, but it would have been a far better movie without Director Kasdan resorting to them. The overtly crude scenes and graphic gore, though not as excessive as other horror films have been, still nauseates more than thrills.
In DREAMCATCHER, the humans that are used as hosts must endure extended side-effects of flatulence and long belches. Worst of all, the large alien worms violently exit the hosts through their victims’ rectums. One protracted scene involving a toilet may resonate with moviegoers the way Hitchcock’s PSYCHO discouraged people from taking showers.
Duddits, the handicapped young man who is central to this story, is clearly Stephen King’s idea of a type of savior. King’s writings usually dabble in religious symbolism, and the character is either a nod toward or a mockery of Jesus of Nazareth. One of the four friends describes Duddits as “the only perfect person I’ve ever known,” and then adds, “we should be singing his praises.” The effect of all this gives DREAMCATCHER a mixed pagan worldview with humanist, occult, redemptive, and moral elements.
DREAMCATCHER may be tense and thrilling, but it is also bloody and offensive. Evil may not slip through the story’s web, but viewers may feel like they have to scrape it from their clothing after watching the movie.
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(PaPa, HH, Ev, OO, C, B, LLL, VVV, N, A, M) Mixed pagan worldview of an alien invasion of Earth and four friends trying to stop it, with humanist, evolution, occult, redemptive, and moral elements such as human beings fight an invasion from "advanced" alien species, mystical spiritism references to the power of a Native American dreamcatcher, psychic abilities among friends, and boys who use alien powers to find and rescue missing girl, plus some redemptive metaphors where friends of alien protector of Earth with special powers refer to him as a "perfect person" worthy of praises, friends work together to try to save the world from invasion, references to good versus evil, and one quick prayer uttered; about 77 obscenities (25 f-words), five blasphemies, four profanities, nine other uses of God's name in exclamations or tense scenes (as in "Oh my God" and "Thank God!"), one crude hand gesture, and very crude and extended scatological scenes of belching and flatulence as a side-effect of alien hosting in human; graphic violence includes man hit by car, man impaled by alien, numerous shootings, craft exploding, soldier shot in hand, alien bites off man's fingers, man beheaded, attempted suicide, murderous screams, man burned on face, many fight scenes, and teenagers trying to force a boy to eat dog feces, plus gore includes frightening alien worm-like creatures (large and small) with razor sharp teeth attacking humans, explosions of blood or red particles, aliens growing in human hosts, then exiting violently through rectum, blood and alien red plague on everything including human skin, man attacked while urinating onto snow, alien creatures fighting to the death, aliens being gunned down by military helicopters, and alien worms hatching from eggs to terrorize man; no sex scenes but some crude talk about sexual conquests; boy shown bruised and bloodied wearing only underwear and brief rear male nudity after alien leaves man's body; drinking; and, taunting rebuked by other boys ("It's just wrong!") who rescue young victim and dog injured and later killed by alien.
GENRE: Science Fiction/Horror