Dreamcatcher upstaged by previews

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

God help Lawrence Kasdan if he ever gets it in his head to direct another horror film.

It’s not that his film Dreamcatcher is completely without merit. Indeed, for the first 45 minutes or so, the film exudes a certain creepy charm.

In the first 45 minutes, Kasdan stages a shocking car accident, introduces four interesting characters and nicely sets up the standard “remote cabin in the woods” setting. He creates a wonderful scene when he shows all of the animals fleeing the forest, covered in weird red gunk. After the first act, though, the film starts to go to pieces.

The warning signs have been there all along. The aliens live inside of people and cause gastro-intestinal problems, which lead to mood-killing fart jokes. And when the aliens exit the body, they leave via the back door, which prompts a scene where a character simply can’t keep a toilet lid down.

To be fair, these problems have less to do with Kasdan and more to do with Stephen King, who wrote the novel the movie is based on. King is capable of great novels (The Shining is perhaps the best haunted house story written by an American), but he’s also capable of bad plot devices and the “shit weasels” are a decidedly crappy one.

After those first 45 minutes, Kasdan and his co-screenwriter (the legendary William Goldman) wander off on tangents, indiscriminately killing off characters and allowing Damian Lewis and Morgan Freeman to over-act with hilarious results.

Kasdan and Goldman do have one intriguing idea, which is the memory warehouse. It’s a giant mental space where the Damian Lewis character stores all of his memories. When the character becomes the host for an alien parasite, Kasdan stages a chase inside of the memory warehouse, which is disturbingly literal. If the Lewis character has a limp in real life, why must he also have one in his mind? Hmm?

By the time Donnie Wahlberg turns up as a mentally handicapped saint (an archetype that needs to go away RIGHT NOW), you’ll have realized that Kasdan’s film is too arty for the blockbuster crowd and too blockbuster for the art crowd.

A note: The Matrix animated short that precedes the movie is interesting, sexy and well-animated, but it’s ultimately sort of empty, as the story signifies nothing. The Matrix short: 3 starsThe first 45 minutes: 4 starsThe last hour-and-a-half: 1 star

Overall: 2 stars