Dreamcatcher Movie Review
Dreamcatchers are supposed to catch evil. Apparently, this particular Dreamcatcher catches everything that is bad about movies.
Steven King's latest adaptation is about an alien invasion in the woods north of Boston, but it could also easily be said to be the perfect example of how not to make a movie. The director is Lawrence Kasdan. Remember that name well, for I shall nominate him for Worst Director of 2003.
The book "Dreamcatcher" was not King's greatest; I only read half of it before deciding to close the covers for good. The plot was compelling, but I wasn't impressed with the writing, and in fact, I am growing quite tired of the clichés that King has made apparent in his novels. Half of his books seem to feature a group of men that experienced some major incident when they were younger and must now face a greater challenge. I do like Steven King, but has anyone noticed how repetitive and stupid this theme is? That is what really pissed me off about "Dreamcatcher."
Regardless of the quality of the book, it really takes work to make the movie Dreamcatcher as bad as it is. I mean, director Kasdan must have sat down and discarded everything that he thought would improve his film. When the scenes are supposed to be scary, they are funny. When the scenes are supposed to be serious, they are cheesy. When the scenes are supposed to show horrendous aliens, they contain creatures that look about as ominous as a crippled grandmother in her coffin. Oh, woe is me. Dreamcatcher is easily the worst film of the year so far.
So what makes Dreamcatcher so bad? Where the hell do I begin?
First off, the script and acting work hand in hand to get exponentially worse as the movie drags on. While Jason Lee gets a few funny lines, the vast majority of dialogue in the film is about as smooth as a porcupine. There is way too much comedy for a serious film such as this, but, of course, only half of the comedy was intended. The acting just grates horribly; not a single actor is very convincing. Damian Lewis, who plays Jonesy (the red-haired guy who, as obviously seen in the previews, gets possessed by one of the aliens), works between a frightened school counselor and an evil alien that has a British accent. Yes, a British accent. Let's just say he isn't very scary. Furthermore, Thomas Jane, who arguably has the lead role, doesn't say a single realistic line during the entire film. And finally, and I hate to say it, even Morgan Freeman is bad. No, he is terrible. I have never disliked a Morgan Freeman performance before, but this time, he amazed me. He is awful, just like the movie.
Second, how can Dreamcatcher be a good alien movie without good aliens? Granted the movie portrays the aliens pretty close to how they are described in the book, Kasdan could have considered a few other designs. Most of the movie involves people getting eaten by these foot-long worms with huge teeth. They are sort of cool-looking at times, but not exactly menacing as a movie's main creature. There are also bigger aliens - the more intelligent of the groups - but they look like cheesy monsters pulled from 1950's films. The heads and bodies are bloated to the point where they don't even look remotely realistic. And let's not mention the alien battle at the end of the movie; it was just sad to watch (except that I knew the movie was going to be over soon).
Third, the plot is incredibly scattered. This is more Steven King's fault than anyone else's, but movies do not necessarily have to be as faithful to the book as Dreamcatcher is. There are three stories going on at once - one about the four men battling the aliens head on, another about the military attacking the crashed alien ship, and a third about the men's past as they save a retarded boy named Duddits who turns out to have special powers. All of these stories overlap in such a way that makes the movie look piss poor; furthermore, the transitions are just terrible.
So the acting isn't great. The script isn't great. The creatures aren't great. The plot isn't great. I blame most of these flaws on the director. Yes, some things a director cannot avoid, but the major elements of the movie, such as the flow of the movie, the appearance of the movie, and the interactions of stories, rely on the director. Kasdan failed miserably. No matter what book it is, some elements cannot be transferred to the big screen. Some things that sound cool on a page may not work visually. Things that didn't work in the book can be changed to work better in front of the camera. The director has to make choices of what to include, what to cut, and what to modify, and it appears as though Kasdan tried very little to make Dreamcatcher anything more than an F-grade movie.
What bothered me the most is Kasdan's approach to the mind battle between Jonesy and Mr. Gray (the alien). Mr. Gray takes over Jonesy's body, but Jonesy's mind is still trapped inside. Kasdan proceeds to show Jonesy locked in his "memory" room as he attempts to figure out a way to escape. Obviously, this is an approach taken directly from the book, but it does not work on screen. It looks so incredibly cheesy that at times the audience was laughing out loud, and that was not intended. There were many scenes like this that just don't make much sense on screen, or at least look very cheesy. These scenes needed to be eliminated or modified, and Kasdan didn't even raise a finger. What the hell was he thinking?
Dreamcatcher is easily the worst movie of 2003 so far. The year is young but I can assure you that this film will end up on my Top Ten Worst Movies List of 2003. Though the book wasn't great, I expected at least something from a Steven King adaptation. Instead, I had to sit through this travesty for two agonizing hours, watching a horror movie that was only horrific due to the acts of the director.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.