There’s a general consensus that Dreamcatcher is an abomination of a Stephen King adaptation. Since it’s release in 2003, it has been widely forgotten and the Matrix short that played before hand during its theatrical is its greatest contribution. I can’t recall what was going on with me during that year but I somehow totally missed it. Yes, I spent most of my teen years not knowing this movie existed even though at that same time I was enthralled with King’s novels. My initial encounter with Dreamcatcher was in 2010 upon my first trip to Cinefamily in Los Angeles where they presented their own house cut trailer which they were promoting for a late night screening. Their trailer promised a campy thriller with a man cheerfully rambling in a British accent on a snowmobile and I was appalled that I had yet to encounter such a gem. This unusual introduction has given me a more lenient perspective on this film than most because I’ve viewed it with this camp lens ever since.
The major flaw in a film about infectious aliens that implant slithering parasites into human hosts which they must violently poop out is that it takes itself painfully seriously. This should be aSlither scenario where you play up this freak occurrence and how poorly people handle it. Here their are alien induced burps and farts and their holding out for an emotional response. They’re not letting the audience laugh along with it just awkwardly laugh at it. At the core this movie thinks its a drama about friendship that gets wrapped up in science fiction elements. It’s focused on four childhood friends all at an impasse in their lives who meet up at a cabin to reminisce away their problems till all hell breaks loose. So much of this movie feels derivative of other King works like Itwhich brings similar childhood friends together over trauma, the flashbacks have the aesthetic of Stand By Me and the quarantine plus creature elements of The Mist. Add that with a life cycle of a xenomorph, you begin to see deja vu. The extra storyline added to this compiling of through lines is that of essentially the Men In Black as Morgan Freeman is running his own extra terrestrial sect of the military who is not too surprised by the slimy E.T. appearances. Though you may be more surprised by his bizarrely bushy eyebrows that dominate every scene.
Why I feel compelled to give this movie the benefit of the doubt is that I’ve encountered so many bad movies that are plain boring and Dreamcatcher is far from it. You’ve got some fantastic talent in the cast, I’d point out specifically Timothy Olyphant as Pete and Jason Lee as Beaver but I’m also immediately dismayed that the film kills them off far too early. The film finds some unique ways to communicate inner monologues and visualizations that lend themselves more to the novel. Characters do speak aloud often but it leads to the amazing scene I alluded to earlier where Jonsey (Damian Lewis) is quarreling with the alien Dr. Gray who has inhabited his body and has undertaken a proper British accent. There’s also the construction of Jonesy memory bank displayed as a personification of all the recesses of his mind which I find is a unique depiction. The downfall of this friend group is the movie relies too heavily on their in jokes and references from when they were eleven which you’d think by their thirties they’d have moved on from. We’re stuck watching them write “SSDD” on every surface as if their cute catchphrase is profound or means anything at all.
As Cinefamily was trying to push, there is a realm whereDreamcatcher could become a coveted cult movie. You’ve got Morgan Freeman yelling “shit demon” and a scene where Jason Lee tries to contain one of the eels in a toilet bowl. It’s tone deaf approach makes it all the more laughable as characters like Henry (Thomas Jane) respond to Jonesy’s call for help by talking into a gun like a phone. I can never truly consider this bad with such strange moments like that. To me it’s a quintessential good/bad movie because it’s never dull and is viewed completely opposite than it was intended. You can’t help but chuckle as Jason Lee poorly reacts to the cgi creature or as Olyphant writhes in the snow as a parasite bites down on his exposed genitals. I guarantee you there are way worse King films that are overly cheesy or boring. Dreamcatcher has some life to it, that life just happens to be incredibly misguided.