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Dreamcatcher (2003)
Director: Lawrence Kasdan

review by Tony Lee

After rescuing a retarded boy from bullies, four young friends are duly rewarded with the blessing and curse of telepathic rapport and psychic powers. Years later, the four men (Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damien Lewis, and Timothy Olyphant) gather at a hunting cabin in the woodlands of Maine, just in time to confront the strange horrors of an alien invasion, a threat to the world that only they can stop...
   I have not read the book by Stephen King that this film is based on, but I hope it's better than this dismally unoriginal SF/horror comedy, a big disappointment from the usually reliable Lawrence Kasdan. Although I don't read King's novels, anymore, I have certainly read enough about him, and seen more than is healthy of all the movies derived from his various fictions to recognise that all the familiar King tropes are here, once more:
  • Male childhood bonding
  • Lifelong friends with a secret to share at their reunion
  • The intrusion of a bizarre new fantastic element into their situation
  • Rapid escalation of the stakes as more people are threatened by danger
  • The villains (of every species) getting their comeuppance
  • A hopelessly conventional happy ending


  • It's easy to see why Kasdan, director of ensemble picture The Big Chill (1983) and the traditionally styled western adventure Silverado (1985), would be drawn to this genre story - but, unhappily, it retains too many of King's standard idiocies (okay, if you're a fan, and find that term offensive - let's call them idiosyncrasies):
  • Fart jokes
  • The return of 'something' from the past
  • Clumsy attempts to blur the lines between the forces of Good and Evil
  • Sudden death of sympathetic characters without adequate time for survivors' grief
  • Failing to do anything interesting with all those sci-fi, fantasy and horror clichés
  • An obvious and wholly unsurprising payoff


  • Even accepting that King isn't the only novelist using all of the above plot elements, he's certainly the only one still getting paid a fortune to rework such blatant clichés into 'bestseller' material, and I'm sure many would agree that 'fantastic literature' deserves better than overly familiar rubbish like this. If it weren't for the association of King's name to the project, films like this would probably never get so much Hollywood money thrown at them, and the producers wouldn't be able to afford A-list talent.
       As the crazy military chief, Morgan Freeman seems rather wasted here (but how long has it been since his last worthwhile role?), and Tom Sizemore (a formidable presence in Strange Days and Black Hawk Down) just isn't given much to do except try and seem heroic. None of the central characters are particularly likeable or even portrayed well here; with the possible exception of Duddits, played by TV star Donnie Wahlberg (Boomtown). There are a couple of decent visual effects scenes, such the first appearance of one of the big aliens... But, so what? Any major film with a decent budget can afford competent effects' creators today. What Dreamcatcher lacks is an intriguing what-if premise that connects with our imaginations, or a real human story to engage our emotions. It is undoubtedly a commercially slick genre entry, but it's also a cynical production that belatedly cashes in on X-Files paranoia.
       As a mishmash of bits from early George A. Romero, John Carpenter and Joe Dante flicks, it really doesn't add up to much more than yet another risibly expensive B-movie. There are, I think, better examples of this sort of thing adapted from Dean Koontz books - and for a lot less money, too. If you want good-humoured monster movies with really sympathetic characters, I'd suggest you watch The Hidden (1987), Tremors (1990), or even British cult flick Xtro (1983) than sit through this sadly tiresome creature feature.
    Dreamcatcher

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