DREAMCATCHER. Cheesy science fiction horror based on a novel by Stephen King
Creating a good film based on the prose of Stephen King is not an easy task. It has been achieved by only a few, including Stanley Kubrick, who directed a film based on the novel The Shining. Ironically, this film is the most “disliked” by Stephen among all the film adaptations. King attributed this to significant deviations from the original book. The writer values faithful representation of the novel on screen. There have been a few successful adaptations as well, as discussed further in the text. I also want to mention at the outset that you won’t find “Dreamcatcher” in theaters. Originally slated for release around June, the distributor decided to release the film directly on media. Not very considerate. And now, onto the content itself.
Four men – Jonesy, Henry, Beaver, and Pete – are long-time friends who have known each other since childhood. Every year, they go to a cottage in the middle of the forest. There, they have fun, drink, and reminisce about old times. One day, Pete and Henry go to a store to restock supplies, while at the same time, a mysterious man arrives at their cottage after wandering in the woods for two days. Jonesy and Beaver help him. The man has strange red frostbite on his face and emits unpleasant gases. After a few hours, the two friends realize that something has come out of the newcomer’s body. At the same time, on their way back from the store, Henry and Pete get into an accident, and the nearby town is taken over by a military unit, isolating the town from the outside world and enforcing quarantine against an alien life form that spreads like a virus…
This is roughly the plot of the film, which is quite mediocre. Unfortunately, as is often the case with nearly every adaptation, the characters are not presented as magnificently as King does in his usually elaborate novels. Everything feels rushed. The characters and their problems are fairly well presented in the first half of the film, but the second half, lasting about 20 minutes, becomes rather foolish, lacking tension and creativity. This is quite different from the book, where the Gray and Jonesy storyline was much more expanded, and the chase had far greater tension and was simply more interesting.
Dreamcatcher is another big film (in terms of resources and production) that, unfortunately, didn’t fully deliver. The cast is good, even very good (Morgan Freeman, Tom Sizemore), but the actors can’t portray the characters in an engaging manner as King envisioned. I had a completely different image of them while reading the novel and experiencing the characters over many pages. Duddits is more amusing than inspiring respect, love, and friendship. Kurtz is not at all the demonic leader inducing immense fear among subordinates (and viewers themselves). Even Gray’s character is more pitiful than terrifying. The only thing saving this character is Damian Lewis’ fairly good performance. He portrays Jonesy, depicting Gray’s presence within him in an intriguing and thoughtful way, a sort of schizophrenic behavior.
The depiction of Jonesy’s journey within his own mind also falls short. I get the impression that it wasn’t how King envisioned it. Perhaps my perception of the film would have been different if I had seen it on the big screen. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible for me. The completely flattened second part of the film, deviating significantly from the book, average special effects, miscasting, and the atmosphere of the book, which served as a kind of therapy for the writer recovering from a car accident, not being captured at all – I lament all of these aspects. It’s also unfortunate that Stephen King has rarely appeared in his recent adaptations, something he used to do quite often in earlier years.
Furthermore, the technical side of the film is not impressive, nor does it surprise at any point. This was a plus for another adaptation, specifically Secret Window. The effects are more comical than impressive, and the most common critique of horror adaptations holds true here – the film is not scary at any moment (except perhaps for the closing scene with the weasel). Moreover, it leans more towards fantasy in a rather cheesy manner, with the Alien character looking funny and the handicapped boy as the defender of the world. It seems difficult to translate King’s fears and monsters onto the screen, as it’s easy to notice that all successful adaptations lack this factor (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me or Misery). As I await more adaptations (and there are many in the pipeline), I rate Dreamcatcher with a weak six out of ten…