A Chilly Sci-Fi Honey Winter Horror Review by Katie

Dreamcatcher (2003)

‘Tis the season for barring yourself indoors, huddling around the soothing flicker of your tv screen, and taking in a movie that’ll chill your bones as much as the wintry weather outside.  This month, the Horror Honeys are looking at frosty frights, and this Sci-Fi Honey sat down for a feature I had not attempted to watch since I sat through 2+ painful hours of it in a cineplex over a decade ago.  Thought you’d expelled this one from your memory warehouse for good?  Think again!  Today’s winter Sci-Friday review sends us to the freezing environs of Derry, Maine, to catch up with a group of boyhood friends, a crazed military Colonel, and a whole load of butt-crazy aliens in Lawrence Kasdan’s 2003 adaptation of Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher.

You're gonna need a drink for this one.
Kasdan’s film centers around four men – played by the usually-stellar Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Jason Lee and Timothy Olyphant – who share unique psychic abilities stemming from a moment in their childhood when they saved a mentally challenged boy named Duddits from being tormented by a schoolyard bully.  Now approaching middle age, each man suffers from one existential crisis or another – divorce, alcoholism, personal failures – which looms over each of them as they set out on their annual hunting trip in the remote Maine woods.  Bound together by their supernatural connection, the men reminisce about their experiences since intervening in the life of Duddits, and his subsequent intervention in their own lives and minds.  The first third of Dreamcatcher plays like a paranormal adaptation of King’s novella “The Body” (made into a film as Stand By Me) combined with director Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill.  The film does a remarkable job in the first act of introducing and fleshing out the lead characters, and much of it is genuinely funny, sentimental, and intriguing.

And then, the shit weasels show up.

And it is unholy.
You think I made that cute nickname up for this review?  I wish I had.  Instead, the anus-dwelling, lamprey-eel looking alien baddies are referred to as “shit weasels” by numerous characters throughout the movie.  Incubating itself in the human digestive tract and then expelling itself into the toilet, like some even more horrifying episode of I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant, the shit weasel gnashes its teeth and leaps from the toilet bowl to kill a character who doesn’t deserve the indignity of dying on a bathroom floor.  This is not played for (intentional) laughs.  What the film devolves into from this moment defies explanation, but let me give you a taste: in one scene, a character uses another character’s gun to answer a phone call from third character calling from a psychic phone inside his own mind.  It was at this point that I noticed my posture had shifted into permanent Facepalm status.
Pictured: Me watching Dreamcatcher
Basically, as soon as aliens are thrown in the mix – which usually makes this girl squeal with delight – Dreamcatcher becomes another film entirely, and spends the remainder of its runtime jumping from one ludicrous plotline, character stereotype, or groan-inducing special effect after another.  Even the usually reliable Morgan Freeman, as a Colonel gone mad from hunting aliens for too long, plays his character more like a parody than an actual human being.  I’ve seen plenty of awful Stephen King adaptations in my day, but they’re usually relegated to network television and are never taken that seriously (The Tommyknockers and The Langoliers are prime examples).  This adaptation had a lot of elements that could have made it a clever and thrilling film; instead, it self-destructs on an epic scale.

"Look at me, I'm about to shoot everyone's career down!"
Based on a 2001 novel King wrote while recuperating from being hit by a car (a devastating incident that is rendered in the book as well as the film), the source material is a 600+ page meditation on memory, human connection, and terminal illness with a War of the Worlds flavor.  Indeed, King’s novel is full of allusions to other forms of science fiction entertainment, from Independence Day to Alien.  It’s a hodgepodge of themes and ideas that never fully congeals, perhaps explained by King’s recent admission that he was completely high the whole time he was writing it.  Still, these are issues that could’ve been addressed when adapting Dreamcatcher from page to screen; yet the changes they made are even more uneven in tone and disjointed in its plot and pacing than the material it’s based on.

He should not be crying. The audience should be crying.
Maybe I’m too hard on this movie, but it’s doubly disappointing when you sit down for a cinematic experience crafted by so many respected artists – even the screenwriter, William Goldman, is revered in his field – and instead you are met with an audio/visual assault on both your patience and your intellect.  Dreamcatcher is downright insulting for squandering so much potential on an overlong, convoluted, horrifically flatulent endeavor.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: One shit weasel out of five, for the movie it could have been.