a critiQal film review Dreamcatcher (2003)

Plot: Four friends are on their annual deer hunting getaway. Everything is going well until they suddenly encounter a few mysterious strangers who aren’t feeling well. As the condition of the strangers worsens, the friends are suddenly thrust into a bizarre alien encounter. These four friends are unique though, possessing special “gifts” given to them by a childhood friend, Duddits (Wahlberg). To save themselves, and quite possibly the entire planet, they must once again rely on Duddits...or all hope is lost.

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  • ...while not one of the best Stephen King novel adaptations out there, the cast of familiar faces help ensure this one isn't counted among the worst SK adaptations either.

Ah…yet another Stephen King novel hits the big screen! When I first read Dreamcatcher, I thought they probably weren’t going to make this one into a movie, since it seemed to me that it would be too difficult to portray well on the screen. Once I saw the previews, I knew I’d been mistaken. But, would it be any good?

While some of Stephen King’s novels have turned into classic films (The Shining (1980), Carrie (1976), Pet Sematary (1989), etc.), some haven’t turned out too well (Salem’s Lot and Christine (1983), among others). Since so many have turned out well, my first guess is the director is what causes the movie to succeed or fail. It all comes down to if the director can visualize clearly what he sees in the novel, or if he’s just out to make a quick buck.

So, would Lawrence Kasdan realize it for Dreamcatcher, or was he just looking for a little extra money in the bank?

It seems Stephen King movies are a draw for star power these days. Morgan Freeman, who usually gives a good performance, doesn’t disappoint us here, thankfully. He seems to have been a shoo-in for his role as the commander of the military operation the friends find themselves in the middle of. After all, it’s basically his character from Outbreak (1995), with a bit more of a maniacal twist later on in the film.

Tom Sizemore (who I’ll always remember as the skewed cop in Natural Born Killers (1994), but who’s also done well in films like Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Strange Days (1995)) does seem a bit lost at first, and doesn’t show off his wild-and-crazy side as much as the viewers are used to. He plays his character quite seriously this time around, and does a decent job of it.

Jason Lee, who most will remember from the Jay and Silent Bob films (Mallrats, etc.), gets to play a much more horror-oriented role in this film as one of the four friends, and comes off looking pretty good as well.

The plot is superb, as it usually is for a film based on a Stephen King novel, who has an incredible knack for taking the incredible and making it believable. The director, Lawrence Kasdan, seems to have picked up on the feel for Dreamcatcher quite nicely, and tries to stay true to the essence of the book. Unfortunately, it slightly eludes him, and King fans might feel a little disappointed.

The way Dreamcatcher is set up is a bit confusing at first, with flashbacks explaining the main characters’ relationships with Duddits (played rather creepily by a wasted away version of ex-NKOTB’er Donnie Wahlberg) at different points in the movie. It might have been better if they had started out with them in their younger days, and then moved on. After all, it seemed a bit silly to see “Six Months Later” followed closely by “Twenty Years Ago”, but maybe that’s just a personal preference.

The film did keep the suspense and horror building throughout, and tried to stay away from going total gore, as horror films are apt to lapse into. The goriest part of the film occurs less than halfway through, and the rest kind of eases back a bit.

So, is Dreamcatcher worth the rental? If you’re a big fan of Stephen King, and you were worried they’d totally corrupted the book, don’t worry…they tried to stay true to the book. What about you non-King fans though? If you’re looking for another Friday the 13th (1980), this isn’t it.

But, if you’re looking for something a bit scary, a bit gory (in one part), that’s got a good plot and you also want to see a familiar face or two along the way, you could do worse than Dreamcatcher.

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