Worth A Look: 17.98%
Just Average: 25.28%
Pretty Crappy: 11.8%
12 reviews, 106 user ratings
by Doug Bentin
Every so often a genre film comes along that defies mainstream, middle-class criticism and just lies there on its back, wanting no more than to have its tummy rubbed. It’s dumb, sloppy, over the top and derivative, but more fun than watching your little brother get grounded for something you did.“Movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them.” So saith Pauline Kael in an essay (“Trash and the Movies”) you have to read and come to grips with if you want to be taken seriously as a film buff. You don’t have to agree with her, but you have to be familiar with her stand on this point.
"Great art? Please. Great trash? Get a grip. Good trash? Oh, yeah."
I know I’ve quoted Kael’s famous mantra before, but it remains the essential statement for fans of motion pictures, and especially for those of us who review the damn things.
Case in point—I sound just like Rod Serling when I say that, don’t I—this week’s major release, “Dreamcatcher.” The movie is based on a novel by Stephen King, but this isn’t the King who has been adapted to the screen recently. There isn’t much to touch the heart, a la “The Green Mile” or “Hearts in Atlantis” in this one. This one is nasty. This one is reading comic books with a flashlight under the blanket. This one is staying up way past bedtime on Friday night to watch Shock Theater on TV. This one is visiting a cemetery at gloaming and having your asshole brother creeping around between the headstones whispering, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara” with a lousy Boris Karloff lisp.
This one is about why that burnt out cabin in the woods still seems so creepy, even after you’ve grown up.
See, there are these four friends: psychologist Henry “H” Devlin; Gary “Jonesy” Jones; Joe “Beaver” Clarenden; and Pete Moore. (Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Jason Lee, and Timothy Olyphant) Twenty years ago, they saved “Duddits,” an apparently retarded kid, from a beating. In return, Duddits somehow gave them the ability to read minds.
Now they’ve drifted away from Duddits, but they stay in touch with each other and every winter spend a few days in a cabin in the Maine woods, doing a little hunting, a little poker playing, and a lot of hanging out. This year, something weird is happening in the woods. The animals are vamoosing and a fat guy they’ve never seen before shows up at the cabin looking for help. He got lost from his hunting party and his face is covered with this nasty red soreness. When he goes to use the bathroom, something we will later learn is nicknamed a “shit weasel” escapes from his body by the back door, if you know what I mean. The icky red stuff on his face is called “ripley,” after the Sigourney Weaver character in “Alien.”
Yes, the bad tempered things from space have arrived, and they’re hungry and looking for a place to reproduce.
Enter into the story Morgan Freeman and Tom Sizemore. Freeman is Col. Kurtz, a soldier in a special force who has been hunting and killing alien invaders for 25 years, and Sizemore is Capt. Underhill, Kurtz’ heir apparent. They are here to contain this particular alien landing, killing everyone and everything unfortunate enough to be within the perimeter of alien infestation.
Is this stuff silly? You bet it is. Does the movie go flying off in all directions, from ESP drama to space monster-stomping melodrama? Not just yes, but hell yes. Are there times when you feel confused? Not if you’re paying attention and you’re over twelve years old. (The film does contain a lot of blood and swearing, so maybe you shouldn’t even be watching if you’re younger than 12. Wait for the DVD and then sneak out to the den after your parents have gone to sleep to watch it. I won’t tell.)
I know, you expect more than this kind of thing from director Lawrence Kasdan, whose “The Big Chill” and “Grand Canyon” were emotional dramas of human compassion and warmth. But don’t forget that Kasdan also made “Silverado” and “Body Heat,” and so has demonstrated at least a slight appreciation for genre films.
In this one, he lets his hair down, grabs a baseball bat, and wallops the hell out of the piñata, scattering goodies all over the place.
One of the things I like about “Dreamcatcher,” derived I’m certain from King’s novel (sorry, but I haven’t read it), is the fact that these characters exist in the real world, one in which they’ve seen movies like “Alien” and remember the simple pleasures of “Scooby-Doo” after school. The truth is, Scoob is made better use of here than he was in his own movie in 2002.
Okay, “Dreamcatcher” isn’t going to win any awards, even within the sci fi/horror movie ghetto, but it is a lot of creepy, gory fun. The actors playing the four pals are all good—even Jason Lee, who is usually pretty dull—and Damian Lewis is more than good. Jonesy should have been a breakout role for him.
It’s also nice to see Morgan Freeman play a bad guy and borderline psychotic for a change. It’s no coincidence that his name is the same as that of Joseph Conrad’s mad Mr. Kurtz in “Heart of Darkness.”But if “Dreamcatcher” isn’t great art—and honestly, it isn’t really great trash, either—it is solidly made, jump-a-little-and-grab-your-date’s-arm second tier trash, and, at that level, a lot of fun.
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originally posted: 09/23/05 11:13:12