Them pesky aliens are at it again. Stephen King is at it again, too, as he
takes on the heritage of "Alien". There's no Ripley in outer space, but as
though to provide some originality to the alien concept of that original hit
Stephen King adapter William Goldman ("Misery", "Heart In Atlanta") comes up
with enough plotlines from the 600-page novel to strangle an
extraterrestrial. Lawrence Kasdan directs with capable dramatic strengths
and for the male youth market, Dreamcatcher is likely to perform by gripping
the target audience with its mystery, danger and bloody relentlessness.
The variation on the familiar theme of an alien creature capable of form
shifting and always intent on destroying our planet as we know it is the gang
of four boyhood chums who rescue a fifth under attack by a team of bullies.
It turns out that the boy being beaten up is Duddits, an apparent weakling
who couldn't stand up to one abuser, let alone three football heroes who
inexplicably have a need to feel superior. But, all is not as it appears to
be. Duddits, for all his weaknesses and infirmities, including a speech
impediment, has special powers, which he confers upon his rescuers. These
powers, which include mind reading and sensory location, serve to bond the
team closely, into adulthood.
The title prop, the dreamcatcher, appears to be a sort of net designed by
Duddits to protect his new chums. For the comprehensibility of this I refer
you to the book; it's one of the barely unexplained mysteries of the
When the four men, Henry (Thomas Jane), Beaver (Jason Lee), Jonesy (Damian
Lewis) and Pete (Timothy Olyphant) meet at their remote hunting cabin in
Maine for a weekend of storytelling and booze, strange things begin to occur
that have a foreboding of doom. A lost hunter suffering from a contagion the
destructive potential of which he's not aware, is rescued by Jonesy and
brought to the cabin, introducing consequences that slowly and mysteriously
emerge throughout the area, wreaking havoc.
Yet there are some who not only have been expecting an invasive force, but
have been preparing for it. This plotline merges with the four guys in the
cabin when military strike force helicopters hover over them, following an
exodus of forest animals marked by red rashes and running for their lives.
The elite military force is led by Col. Abraham Curtis (Morgan Freeman), a
commander with a sense of mission bordering on paranoid obsession. Owen
Underhill (Tom Sizemore), his trusted lieutenant, is ready to follow his
every order... at first. They are prepared to combat a very strange and
dangerous menace where victory is nothing less than total annihilation.
Col. Curtis is not the only one prepared for combat, however. Somehow, the
powers conferred upon the team of four by Duddits was really preparation for a
future event which is now being played out. So, what we might have thought
was two movies in one we now see as related. When the now cancer-ridden
Duddits is called upon for a final confrontation with the powerful and
ubiquitous enemy, the end, we suspect, is near. It's squishy and full of
gore with sides in the drama mixed up by false identities and broken
comradeship. All in all, a scary encounter with the world of mean
It lives up to the scary specs of the prime inventor of broadly threatening
monstrosities, Stephen King, who may have taken a previously established
creation, but added his own patented wrinkles to the mythology, much as he
did with his earlier and more successful "Salem's Lot." Director Kasdan controls the mystery
with a design to bring the maximum chills up the spine of every chair in the
theatre and to do so with a budget that ensures high production value. So
long as you don't require plausibility in such fare, such as if you're
willing to pay no heed to conveniently contrived "powers", you stand a chance
of being infected as intended.
Unfortunately, with all the story lines, character trails and inexhaustible
supply of red gook, plausibility, for an adult audience, is continuously and
critically tested. Despite solid performances in the acting department, so is
patience with the protracted mysteries, incoherence and unjustifiable length
at 134 minutes.
~~ Jules Brenner