STARRING:Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, Tom Sizemore,
Timothy Olyphant, Donnie Wahlberg
2003, 134 Minutes, Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan
Description:Four long-time friends (Damian Lewis, Jason Lee, Thomas Jane, Timothy
Olyphant) whose past--and a shared gift of telepathy--connects them to a
present-day alien invasion in the snowy forests of Maine. Like an ambitious
episode of The X-Files, this slick production offers slimy "weasels" that
gestate in human bowels; ominous aliens who seize control of bodies and
minds; a secret military strike (led by Morgan Freeman) against the
There was a time when everyone stole from horror writer Stephen King.
Nowadays King seems intent on stealing from everybody else. I haven’t read
King’s novel on which Dreamcatcher is based, but judging from this
movie King has been watching a lot of X-Files lately. Also, he must have
also seen The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers,
Puppet Masters, Independence Day and a whole lot of other alien invasion movies lately.
(Actually the movie reminded me a lot of the Mel Gibson/M.
Night Shyamalan pic
Signs in that they a similar logic in their plot
twists. However, King couldn't have seen the movie, because the book was
published before Sign's release.)
Oh, and don’t forget the original Alien. At one point the homage (or is that
theft?) is acknowledged when one character refers to some of the alien
creatures in Dreamcatcher as “Ripleys.” The point is driven home when
he adds, “from the Alien movies.” We got that, right.
Yup, Dreamcatcher is a standard alien invasion tale. I don’t know how
it plays off in King’s book, but I have a suspicion that it all probably
went down a whole lot better. One gets the idea that the book probably would
have been quite the page turner – just as King usually writes them. However,
being visualized like this the whole effort seems derivative.
"The film's seriousness undermines it . . ."
It needn’t have been like this. The movie starts off as an intriguing tale
of boyhood friends sharing a rare telepathic gift to read the mind of others
and even communicate with each other. They just seem to “know” things ever
since rescuing a mentally retarded boy from some older bullies. (King must
also have seen Stand By Me lately – oh, wait, he wrote that.)
The movie then however abruptly shifts gear. In their mid-thirties now, the
old friends re-unite at an isolated cabin in the snowy mountains. Pretty
soon they are confronted by aliens that lay its eggs inside one (sound
familiar?) and a shadowy government agency dealing with the alien invaders
for the past twenty years or so (also sound familiar?). From there on,
events become quite predictable and the ending is an anti-climax.
Come to think of it, this is a standard Stephen King trademark. A lot of his
books are resolved poorly. He is great at building an eerie and creepy
atmosphere, but appears to simply not know how to end his stories.
Considering the talent involved (director Lawrence Kasdan helped write
Empire Strikes Back!) the film is a disappointment.
To be honest, the film’s seriousness undermines it: it needed a lighter
touch. Perhaps Sam Raimi (of Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness fame)
would have been a better choice for director. The effects and gory make-up
are well-done and the cast does okay under the circumstances. The problem
isn’t that Dreamcatcher is all that bad, but that it could have been
so much better. And far less predictable too . . .