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DREAMCATCHER

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Sizemore, Donnie Wahlberg
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 134 Minutes
Release Date: September 30, 2003

“Come with me, Owen. I’ll show you things you’ll wish you never seen.”

Film ***1/2

So far, there have been two releases this year that I liked, while all the top critics united in bashing to unnecessary full extremes. They were Bad Boys II and Dreamcatcher, the latter being the latest Stephen King novel to make it to the big screen. I hope my accurate review will help illustrate my point that this time around, the critics were wrong.

In some respects the movie, directed by the multi-genre talented Lawrence Kasdan, can best be described as two completely different genres mixed into one entertainment. The first half is a much strong account of four friends who’ve known each other since their childhood. The four men, each haunted by something each of them posses, are about to go on a yearly trip to the wilderness, where the second part of the movie kicks into high gear.

From what I gathered, critics were eager to rip the film apart for its alleged cliché ridden story surrounding a possible alien invasion on U.S. soil. The centerpiece of the story does concern the arrival of deadly extraterrestrial activity, and despite the harsh reviews, this part of the movie is done quite well. But Dreamcatcher also happens to have a great deal of character development, as the story centers in closely on the four men before and during their trip to the woods.

The men are Henry (Thomas Jane), Beaver (Jason Lee), Pete (Timothy Olyphant), and Jonesy (Damian Lewis), and they get together the same time each year and travel to the wilderness. The four men have each hit something of a bump in their lives, which comes as the result of a special telekinetic power that each of them posses. When they were kids, they rescued a retarded boy from a group of bullies. The boy, named Duddits, possibly returned the favor by lending each of them a special mental ability.

Soon after beginning their yearly lodging in the woods, the men soon come face to face with the unexpected. They encounter a lost hitchhiker, who looks infected from something. Before long, a worm-like alien creature has hatched (in a most disgusting way, I might add) from the man’s body, and they must engage in a battle of wits against an alien force that may have been foreseen by Duddits.

Another part of the movie involves a covert military unit of alien chasers, led by veteran Col. Abraham Kurtz (Morgan Freeman), who insists on a thorough quarantine of the entire area, of which has been laced with alien activity. The twist with Freeman’s character is that he has gone insane from years of chasing down E.T.’s all over the world, and his decision to inevitably slaughter infected but innocent humans may challenge the morals of his second in command (Tom Sizemore).

Movies like this aren’t made that often, and I feel the gimmick of mixing in two kinds of stories into the same movie, and involving the same characters is a much fascinating one. In fact, many of Stephen King’s novels have a much similar narrative, taking the stories rich characterizations and plunging them into unimaginably terrifying situations. Another movie that pulled of a similar trick was Robert Rodriguez’ From Dusk Till Dawn, the cult classic which began as a criminals-on-the-lam action flick, only to morph into a vampire bloodbath halfway through the movie. The movie was the ultimate hybrid of two genres, and Dreamcatcher accomplishes the same technique very well.

Loaded with a sharp narrative style, sleek suspense, stunning effects, very memorable human characters and some uniquely disgusting looking alien creatures, Dreamcatcher is, in my opinion, the best alien creature movie since Alien or The Thing. A note to the wise, you might want to consider watching this movie before eating rather than the other way around.

Video ****

Warner has had many terrific looking discs this year, but Dreamcatcher is thus far their most grand looking presentation for 2003. Set in a mostly snowy setting, the anamorphic picture outstandingly enhances the landscapes and stunning camera work by veteran John Seale. No image flaws detected at all, and the special effects sequences, including an elaborate air strike on the aliens, look nothing short of spectacular in the format. A full screen version is also available.

Audio ****

Having seen the movie during its theatrical run, I had a feeling the audio area would get its share of excellence, and I was right. The 5.1 track excels in non stop sharpness in all noted areas, including that of dialogue, special effects sequences, some minor action set pieces, and James Newton Howard’s pulsating score which really delivers during scenes of suspense. A superb sound of a movie that is one of the best audio tracks of the year, as well.

Features ***

Even though a potentially intriguing commentary track is missing, Warner has included some good enough feats for this disc. Included is an alternate ending, as well as 4 additional deleted, or “lifted”, scenes. Also featured are three nicely done documentaries, “DreamWriter-An Interview with Stephen King”, “DreamWeavers-The Visual Effects of Dreamcatcher” and “DreamMakers-A Journey Through Production”, and a teaser trailer.

Summary:

Dreamcatcher is definitive proof that you can have character development and excessive gore in the same film, to help add up to a bloody good time. I would find it wise to ignore the bad press this one got and take it up. You may thank me in the end, hopefully.