starring Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Sizemore and Donnie Wahlberg
written by William Goldman and Lawrence kasdan
directed by Lawrence Kazdan
This is another horror movie based on a book by Stephen King. But when I rented the video I did not know it was a Stephen King movie. If I had, I would have let it alone, because Stephen King is such a lousy writer, and movies made form his awful books are usually awful movies. But the leaders, or video clips that I saw advertising it on other videos made it look pretty good. Also, I was attracted by names like Morgan Freeman (Seven Deadly Sins, Deep Impact), Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan), and Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers). Great actors. But a mediocre story and mediocre writing landed them in a poor movie. But I do not doubt that because of Stephen King’s (undeserved) reputation, the movie probably is/was a popular success.
I suppose we can say that many writers habitually follow a pattern in their work. It’s only natural. Woody Allen, for example, typically writes/directs comedies about middle aged men caught up in sexual/romantic angst. (I think it used to be funny, but not any more, coming from a man approaching 70.) With a few exceptions, Stephen King stories habitually feature a close-knit group of adult men who share some childhood nightmare. In adult life, that nightmare - which each of them thought they had left behind or cast away forever - returns to haunt them again. They resist the monster, or the ghost, or whatever horrific medium King is using. Some die in the struggle, but one always survives. These stories are like morality plays, but they are really bad morality plays. That is a pity, too, because Stephen King’s concepts usually have a good base which could be really scary if the stories were better written, or written by someone else.
In the case of Dreamcatcher, the medium of horror is space aliens, crash landed in the sate of Maine - King’s home state, where he sets many of his tales - in the winter time. Morgan Freeman and Tom Sizemore lead a secret military unit into a firefight to kill them all before they escape the quarantine area. (The aliens are malevolent. They breed like the Alien in Ridely Scott’s Alien, and spread like a parasitic fungus.) Four friends - Henry, Jonesy, Pete and Beave - are just in the wrong place at the wrong time, having gone to a cabin in the woods to celebrate their annual get-together.
The creature effects straddle the fence between good (I mean scary and grotesque) and pathetic. Telepathy, precognition, mind-reading, etc. are favorite devices that King uses to move the story along, to provide explanatory flashback information, etc., and they are trotted out here once more. Not very interesting for me, first, because that kind of device seems like a substitution for good writing more than a display of an interesting character trait; second, because it is not done well; and, third, because it is over-used to the point of boredom.
I don’t think of horror as high literature, or high culture. But that seems to be Kking’s intention/goal/purpose - to make it so.