I make no secret of my love for all things Stephen King. Whether it’s his horror stories or his fantasy novels, the TV adaptations or film ones, I genuinely believe that he’s one of the most consistent and talented writers out there.
Naturally, that does make me a little biased when it comes to reviewing films based on his work, but I try my hardest to remain objective.
Dreamcatcher is an odd film. It features a cast of genuine stars: Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Jason Lee, Morgan Freeman, Donnie Wahlberg and Tom Sizemore all feature in major roles. Admittedly, the film is a major sausage fest, although its story is strong enough that it feels natural – four childhood friends are on a hunting trip when an alien invasion puts the area into quarantine. They must fight against both the aliens and the military operation lethally enforcing the quarantine in order to save the Earth, all with a little help from their (other) childhood friend “Duddits”.
The big name actors involved all deliver great performances, but the two that stand out are Morgan Freeman (playing against type as a dangerously unhinged military officer) and Damian Lewis, who plays both a pretty straight-laced American and the jovially sadistic alien known as Mr. Gray (no relation, honest) who speaks in a comically over-the-top British accent and attempts to hijack his body.
Lewis’ ability to flit between his native English accent (albeit an exaggerated approximation) and a solid American one is impressive, as is his onscreen ability to have a conversation with himself and make the audience genuinely believe he’s two people. Freeman is also uncharacteristically unsettling as Col. Abraham Curtis, who’s hellbent on killing everyone and everything that’s had any potential contact with the aliens.
The story progresses in a relatively predictable way, but it’s made entertaining by its actors and their ability to bring their characters to life. However, there are a number of issues.
Possibly the largest is how dated the film has become. Its handling of issues regarding the disabled is clearly well-intended, but use of the R-word and the insensitive portrayal of Duddits by Donnie Wahlberg is more than a little misguided.
There’s also the matter of the film’s visual effects. In places, they’re decent, and in others, they’re genuinely awful. Funnily enough, the worst and most dated use of CGI comes in the film’s final scene, a battle between aliens so poorly realised that it’s actually quite funny, despite being the serious culmination of the film’s events.
Still, all that considered, it didn’t deserve to bomb as hard at the box office as it ultimately did, and the critical slamming it received was a little unfair.
Dreamcatcher hasn’t aged particularly well, but the things that make it worth watching are timeless, and even though there are places in which it feels a little lazy, it’s all in all a decent watch with that trademarked Stephen King style.
Summary: When it’s good, it’s alright, but it wears its insensitivity on its sleeve, and that brings the whole thing down. Overall, it’s fun, it’s pretty gross, and it’s worth watching for its cast alone, but don’t expect art, ’cause you’re likely to be disappointed.
Highlight: The bathroom scene is as tense as they come, and Jason Lee highlights his ability to be both funny and sympathetic as he tries desperately to keep an alien parasite contained inside a toilet.