It starts out decently enough, first with a nifty titles sequence led by James Newton Howard’s atmospheric score then with quick but effective introductions of the main characters: mind-reading shrink Henry (Thomas Jane), mind-reading teacher Jonesy (Damien Lewis), mind-reading car salesman Pete (Timothy Olyphant) and mind-reading wisecracking sidekick Beaver (Jason Lee, who else?). They’ve been best of friends since twenty years ago when, as kids growing up in Derry, Maine (also home of the kids in “It”), they saved mentally challenged little Duddits from bullies and were rewarded with psychic powers.
Director Lawrence Kasdan (who adapted the Stephen King novel with screenwriter William Goldman) keeps things intriguing as we get to the snowy woods where “the shit will hit the planetary fan”. Like every year, the four mind-reading pals have gone to a shack there for a week-end of hunting and drinking, unaware that evil has crash-landed nearby and that even their “dreamcatcher” (an Indian charm that’s supposed to keep nightmares away) can’t stop it…
So far so good, I thought. Gripping plot, amusing performances, and a nice handle on the elusive quirky/creepy tone that’s Stephen King’s trademark. There’s an idiotic gimmick about a “memory warehouse” that’s hinted at, but it’s not so bad. Yet. It soon becomes impossible to take the film seriously when… Well, not to spoil everything that happens, but let’s just say that alien creatures that shoot out of people’s bums in a torrent of blood and flatulence are more laughably gross than scary!
No movie could recover from that and “Dreamcatcher” is no exception, but it remains enjoyable as a ridiculously over-the-top B-movie. All of the sudden our heroes start acting like typical dumb horror movie characters, standing there and staring at weird stuff instead of running away and so on. Making matters worse (or better if you take the film as a guilty pleasure) is the arrival of Army goons led by “Boss” (Morgan Freeman being waaaaay campy), who’s “been fighting these alien bastards for 25 years”. What follows is a succession of cheesy one-liners, inane twists and gory nonsense, with the priceless final touch of having a magical retard with leukemia and a fixation on Scooby Doo played by former New Kid on the block Donnie Wahlberg save the day! I wish I was making this up!
If you’re looking for a smart, effective thriller, stay far from “Dreamcatcher”, but if you want to laugh at a film that could have been called “Anal Worms from Space” you’re in for an unintentionally hilarious time.