Oh dear lord, how is this movie making a resurgence 13 years after its release? I saw this damned movie in theaters back in 2003, and I didn’t remember a damn thing about it. I remember wanting to see it because Warner Brothers had released the first episode of The Animatrix as an opening cartoon with this already 2.5 hour movie, making the full package almost 3 hours in a theater. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on my side. I waited until the movie hit the second-run theaters and the theater I went to removed The Animatrix so they could fit 2 screenings in without keeping their employees there until 1 in the morning. To this day, I remember absolutely nothing from this screening other than being frustrated there was no episode of The Animatrix and my mom complaining that the movie sucked.
Seriously, I must have slept through this god forsaken movie because this is one unforgettable piece of shit. Before you sigh in frustration at yet another Julius Kassendorf trashterpiece, let me tell you that Dreamcatcher is no fly-by-night horror-on-the-cheap bag of gleeful garbage. On paper, Dreamcatcher had all the ingredients for a good movie. Based on a book by Stephen King (OK, given the median quality of Stephen King adaptations, this might be considered a negative), adapted by William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All The President’s Men) and Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back and The Big Chill), directed by Mr. Kasdan, and given a budget of $65m, Dreamcatcher was an A-list Hollywood movie that came with A- and upcoming B-list stars: Morgan Freeman, Tom Sizemore, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Donnie Wahlberg, Timothy Olyphant, and Damian Lewis (fresh off a Golden Globe-nominated performance in Band of Brothers). Heck, they even hired Oscar-winning cinematographer John Seale (The English Patient, Mad Max Fury Road) and Oscar-nominated composer James Newton Howard (The Fugitive, The Village). One might expect a movie of such pedigree to be respectable, subdued, or maybe even a bit stodgy. But, let me tell you, none of those words apply to this ball of insanity, and it all starts with the source material.
It all starts in 1999 when Stephen King was in a severe car accident and spent most of the next year or so blown out of his mind on opiates. Of course, this was also the period in which he wrote the 600+-page novel Dreamcatcher that he has since admitted he doesn’t even like that much. Like many of Stephen King’s works from the 1990s, Dreamcatcher is chock full the hoariest of Stephen King tropes: multiple storylines that barely hold together, random tangents, bad dialogue, and pop culture references galore. And, much like mid-era Stephen King novels, it defies adaptation if only through sheer length alone.
As such, the movie Dreamcatcher feels like it was written by somebody knocked up on opiates. Remember those days when you were sick with the flu or chicken pox or some other feverish disease, and you stayed home from school watching daytime movies, perhaps in the days when HBO only showed like 8 movies a month on a loop? Remember how you sort of slept through them, and only remembered bits and pieces of these B-movies until they mashed into a singularity that never made any sense the next day? That’s the net effect of Dreamcatcher. It’s a fevered mashup of those 80s/90s movies that frequented daytime television: Dean Koontz’ government alien/paranoia movies (Phantoms), Stand By Me, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Species, The Fugitive, Dr. Who, and The Cell. These elements are all connected by a metric ton of Freudian homophobia and an adolescent fear of genitalia. How does this work you might ask? Before I go further, I highly recommend you watch and see for yourself…but, if you know you’re probably not going to venture down this rabbit hole, read on…
Four adult men – Olyphant, Jane, Lee, and Lewis – go on an annual hunting trip to a cabin in the middle of the woods. They’re childhood friends who became psychics and supernaturally fast healers through their friendship with a mentally-challenged boy they once saved from a couple of bullies. Their hunting trip is punctuated by bad sub-Kevin-Smith friendship banter about pop culture and their past. Their trip is interrupted by the appearance of a fat frostbitten man who is farting and burping up noxious gasses at an alarming rate. After taking him in, they soon discover that he has given anal birth to a giant phallic alien worm with a very vaginal mouth full of teeth (homophobia and vagina dentata!!!). At one point, Jason Lee has the worm trapped in the toilet, until he decides that he needs to have a toothpick in his mouth…except the toothpick ended up on the dirty bathroom floor! But, he really needs it! And, so, for want of the toothpick, he ends up killed by the vagina penis (no, I’m not kidding).
But, this isn’t any normal penis worm with vagina dentata. It is an alien penis worm with vagina dentata that has the ability to turn to dust and possess people (if you feel your head hurting right now, don’t feel bad). This alien penis vagina dust takes over Damien Lewis’ body and mind. Eventually, the alien penis vagina dust calls itself Mr. Grey and has a British accent. The effete Mr. Grey is intent on taking over the planet through its laying of eggs and hatching tiny worms to possess the human race. Although Dreamcatcher never clearly defines the alien life cycle, I believe it is eggs hatch into tiny worms that then penetrate human bodies and grow into the fully sized penis worms before exiting the anus as a full grown adult with shape shifting and body possessing abilities. When he is possessed by Mr. Grey, Damien Lewis gets trapped inside the ornate library/warehouse of his mind trying to hide all memories of the mentally challenged friend Duddits.
In the meantime, Morgan Freeman (with amazingly crazy eyebrows) is a military general who is intent on eliminating all alien invasions. He knows about this alien race, and is going to destroy its invasion attempt, by killing everybody within a few mile radius of the spaceship crashing into earth. At one point, there are a bunch of penis vagina worm aliens (posing as friendly smooth-skinned aliens) hanging out by the spaceship all waving at the pilots and telling them how friendly they are…and they get carpet bombed into oblivion.
This all climaxes in a water treatment facility where Duddits, all grown and seemingly dying of cancer, reveals himself to be an alien intent on destroying his former foe, Mr. Grey (whom he pronounces Meestah Gay…after the ass penis worms, do you think my charges of homophobia are a bit justified?). And, that climactic fight is actually the end. Denouements are for losers.
This movie sucks in the best/worst way possible. It’s a psychotic plot with hammy acting (Damien Lewis does a majestic job), bad dialogue, and homophobia galore. None of the various plot threads hold together other than they’re in the same damn movie and share characters on an intermittent basis. The script from two academy award winning screenwriters sounds like drivel written by a 10-year-old. The direction is polished but with haphazard and kooky color schemes mixed with fairly nutty editing that obliterates time and space.
Is there anything we can learn from Dreamcatcher? Is the xenophobic anti-alien plot predicative of the recent rise of our latent nationalism? Is our fear of government foretold by the Koontz stories that King steals from? Is the ridiculous homophobia and fear of women something that is attributable to the nation at large, or just riffs on King’s favorite fears? Why does the alien have an effete British accent, is it our anti-intellectualism? Is there a fear of fluoridation in the finale? Is this pure satire?
Of course, I’m just grasping at straws trying to identify anything of value in this obnoxiously long movie that killed careers. Really, what I’m saying, is that we should all gawk at this piece of bizarre crap and laugh or cry. I watched this with a friend who loves/loathes this kind of trash (last year, we watched Demon Seed, the Dean Koontz movie about a sexist robot house), and even he admitted there were few movies that were as insane as Dreamcatcher. He’s currently recovering from a bizarre operation right now, and I told him to watch while on pain killers in the hopes that it makes sense. He said, “will never make sense.”
Dreamcatcher is streaming on Netflix.