STARRING: Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Timothy Olyphant, Donnie Wahlberg

2003, 134 Minutes, Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan

Description: Four long-time friends (Damian Lewis, Jason Lee, Thomas Jane, Timothy Olyphant) whose past--and a shared gift of telepathy--connects them to a present-day alien invasion in the snowy forests of Maine. Like an ambitious episode of The X-Files, this slick production offers slimy "weasels" that gestate in human bowels; ominous aliens who seize control of bodies and minds; a secret military strike (led by Morgan Freeman) against the invaders.

There was a time when everyone stole from horror writer Stephen King. Nowadays King seems intent on stealing from everybody else. I haven’t read King’s novel on which Dreamcatcher is based, but judging from this movie King has been watching a lot of X-Files lately. Also, he must have also seen The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Robert Heinlein’s Puppet Masters, Independence Day and a whole lot of other alien invasion movies lately. (Actually the movie reminded me a lot of the Mel Gibson/M. Night Shyamalan pic Signs in that they a similar logic in their plot twists. However, King couldn't have seen the movie, because the book was published before Sign's release.)

Oh, and don’t forget the original Alien. At one point the homage (or is that theft?) is acknowledged when one character refers to some of the alien creatures in Dreamcatcher as “Ripleys.” The point is driven home when he adds, “from the Alien movies.” We got that, right.

Yup, Dreamcatcher is a standard alien invasion tale. I don’t know how it plays off in King’s book, but I have a suspicion that it all probably went down a whole lot better. One gets the idea that the book probably would have been quite the page turner – just as King usually writes them. However, being visualized like this the whole effort seems derivative.

"The film's seriousness undermines it . . ."

It needn’t have been like this. The movie starts off as an intriguing tale of boyhood friends sharing a rare telepathic gift to read the mind of others and even communicate with each other. They just seem to “know” things ever since rescuing a mentally retarded boy from some older bullies. (King must also have seen Stand By Me lately – oh, wait, he wrote that.)

The movie then however abruptly shifts gear. In their mid-thirties now, the old friends re-unite at an isolated cabin in the snowy mountains. Pretty soon they are confronted by aliens that lay its eggs inside one (sound familiar?) and a shadowy government agency dealing with the alien invaders for the past twenty years or so (also sound familiar?). From there on, events become quite predictable and the ending is an anti-climax.

Come to think of it, this is a standard Stephen King trademark. A lot of his books are resolved poorly. He is great at building an eerie and creepy atmosphere, but appears to simply not know how to end his stories. Considering the talent involved (director Lawrence Kasdan helped write Empire Strikes Back!) the film is a disappointment.

To be honest, the film’s seriousness undermines it: it needed a lighter touch. Perhaps Sam Raimi (of Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness fame) would have been a better choice for director. The effects and gory make-up are well-done and the cast does okay under the circumstances. The problem isn’t that Dreamcatcher is all that bad, but that it could have been so much better. And far less predictable too . . .


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