** (out of 5)
March 21, 2003
Morgan Freeman as COLONEL ABRAHAM CURTIS
Thomas Jane as HENRY DEVLIN
Jason Lee as JOE “BEAVER” CLARENDON
Damian Lewis as GARY “JONESY” JONES
Tom Sizemore CAPTAIN OWEN UNDERHILL
Timothy Olyphant as PETE MOORE
Donnie Wahlberg as DOUGLAS “DUDDITS” CAVELL
Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan
BY KEVIN CARR
I want to start off by saying that I have been a huge Stephen King fan since I picked up a copy of “Firestarter” in middle school and read it in a matter of days. Additionally, I’ve found his film adaptations to blow hot and cold over the years. However, usually when he is adapted by William Goldman (who adapted “Misery”), it tends to be a good thing. So, obviously, I was very excited about seeing “Dreamcatcher.”
I cannot express the disappointment I felt as it grew and grew throughout the movie.
It began quite well, actually, but what Stephen King film doesn’t (except King’s directorial debut “Maximum Overdrive,” which stunk like a dead sewer rat from frame one)? However, eventually the plot deteriorated, unapologetically stealing from many of King’s own stories, such as “It,” “The Tommyknockers” and “The Body” (adapted to “Stand By Me”).
So much of “Dreamcatcher” just doesn’t make sense. The problems begin on the story level, and as the plot thickens so do its problems. The film’s story completely crumbles by the end. It keeps you guessing in a bad way – not about what will happen next, but about what they could do to make the movie more crude, convoluted or just plain stupid. Without giving away too many spoilers or confusing anyone with its utterly muddy story line, here’s a summary.
Henry (Jane), Beaver (Lee), Jonesy (Lewis) and Pete (Olyphant) are boyhood friends who each developed a form of psychic power after helping a mentally retarded child named Duddits (Wahlberg) in their home town of Derry, Maine. As adults, they gather once a year at a cabin in the wilderness to hunt, drink beer and do the whole male bonding thing.
This year is a little different, however. Jonesy is recuperating from a near-fatal car accident. More importantly, the U.S. military has set up a mysterious quarantine zone in the woods around the cabin. WE soon learn that all the animals in the area (including most humans) are infected with a nasty red rash called Red Ripley.
While deer hunting, Jonesy and Beaver run into another hunter who has been lost in the woods for several days. Things take a nasty turn as Jonesy and Beaver discover that the hunter literally has an explosive condition – not only is he infected with Red Ripley, but he also has an unprecedented amount of belches and flatulence. Jonesy and Beaver soon discover that the hunter’s condition is more than just a bad case of indigestion when a monstrous creature erupts “Alien”-style out of the hunter’s rear end.
Yeah, you heard me right: Exploding butt aliens.
While the film can’t be faulted for unoriginality in many cases (after all, this is the first time I’ve ever seen the outlet for invasion literally be the toilet), it can be faulted for bad taste. Now don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of bad taste, and Stephen King has always danced on its edge with his often crude plot point, but the toothy rectal slug that becomes the focus of terror in this film is a bit too much to handle.
Other non-scataological devices from the original novel fall flat in this film, mainly Jonesy’s “memory warehouse.” This is a symbolic representation of Jonesy’s encyclopedic memory that is important in the second act, but really is forced into the film.
Initial trailers for “Dreamcatcher” hinted at a blatant rip-off of John Carpenter’s sci-fi/horror masterpiece “The Thing,” and I wish it would have been that. Even the classic “X-Files” episode “Ice” stole directly from Carpenter’s film (and more accurately from John W. Campbell’s original story “Who Goes There?”), but it tried in its own way to pay homage.
Much of this misconception happens because one of the characters is shown in the trailer being possessed by the alien force. In the film, this is more of a goofy rip-off of “It Came From Outer Space” in which Jonesy is inhabited by an alien named Mister Gray that speaks through him with a cheesy British accent.
With the roster attached to this film, you would expect a masterpiece. After all, this isn’t like one of King’s lower rent adaptations like “Needful Things” that was directed by Charlton Heston’s son. This is Lawrence Kasdan, and the movie is populated with excellent actors like Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee and Timothy Olyphant. Add the fact that William Goldman adapted the screenplay, and you’re on the right track. However, “Dreamcatcher” reminds us that Morgan Freeman acted in the odious “Chain Reaction” and Goldman wrote plenty of stinkers, including “The Ghost in the Darkness.”
Sadly, the only reason to drag yourself to the theatre and plop down eight bucks is to watch the new short film “Final Flight of the Osiris,” which is produced by the “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” animation team and sets up the plot for this summer’s “The Matrix Reloaded.”