In 1999, horror writer Stephen King was seriously injured when a distracted minivan driver ran him down on Route 5 in Lovell, Maine. While he was recovering and on a heavy supply of OxyContin, he hand-wrote, in cursive, a novel that was completed in less than a year. That novel was originally going to be called Cancer, but at the behest of his wife, Tabitha, Stephen changed the title to Dreamcatcher. Released in 2001, the book was a smashing success. A film adaptation followed in March 2003. Twenty years later, we look back at Lawrence Kasdan’s Dreamcatcher.
Before I go any further, I should point out that the only drastic difference between the book and the movie is the ending, which I won’t spoil. But let’s just say there’s just a bit of difference.
The plot of Dreamcatcher follows four childhood friends, Jonesy (Damian Lewis: Once Upon a Time In Hollywood 2019) Henry (Thomas Jane: Deep Blue Sea 1999), Beaver (Jason Lee: Dogma 1999), and Pete (Timothy Olyphant: Scream 2 1999), from Derry, Maine (yes, that Derry) who reunite for a camping trip in a log cabin. The only problem is an alien presence has been unleashed on Earth that was foretold years ago by their other childhood friend, Douglas “I Duddits” Cavell (Donnie Wahlberg: Dead Silence 2007).
Duddits, born with Down Syndrome, would tell them that “Ista Gay” was coming but nobody knew what he meant. They figure it out soon enough when the men reach the cabin. All hell breaks loose as the alien known as Mr. Gray possesses Jonesy’s body while unleashing his minions on the other three. While this is going on, half-insane military Colonel Curtis (Morgan Freeman: Unforgiven 1992) and his right-hand man, Lt Underhill (Tom Sizemore: Lock Up 1989), try to quell the alien uprising by blowing everyone and everything to hell. What mayhem!
You know the drill. It’s a race against time as Mr. Gray tries to poison the world, and it’s up to everyone else to stop him.
Now, for the million-dollar question: how good is Dreamcatcher? It’s definitely watchable, that’s for sure. With a script co-written by Academy Award nominee Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back 1980, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981) and Oscar winner William Goldman (The Princess Bride 1987, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969), you’d hope so.
Horror movie fans will probably laugh at the 2003 CGI aliens but the acting is pretty good. The late Tom Sizemore, Jason Lee, Morgan Freeman, and especially Damian Lewis all turn in top-notch performances. He’s featured more prominently in the book but Duddits does play a role in the end and Donnie Wahlberg gives an actual acting performance. Usually, he plays hard-nosed police officers like in Saw 2, Dead Silence, and Blue Bloods, but this time, he plays someone with Down Syndrome dying of leukemia. Quite a difference!
Unfortunately, Dreamcatcher was a complete flop in the Box Office, grossing just $33.6 million when its budget was $68 million. Roger Ebert was thoroughly disgusted, giving it a 1.5 out of 4 and saying the movie should have highlighted Jonesy’s battle with Mr. Gray more than the gratuitous gore.
Speaking of which, Dreamcatcher definitely has gore for the gore lovers out there. Critics didn’t like the movie but the audience is entitled to their its opinion. If you’re willing to ignore the critics to make your own observation, do it. However, I do warn you that the CGI looks more like it belongs in a Sega Saturn game from 1995 instead of a movie from 2003. The battle between Duddits and Mr. Gray will have you laughing regardless of how serious the scene is.
Twenty years after Dreamcatcher came out, there have been improvements in both CGI and Stephen King novel adaptations. The new versions of It have been amazing and Doctor Sleep has done well. Still, for a book written on drugs and filled with dated CGI, Dreamcatcher does have its charm in the world of horror mystery. Definitely give it a look if you can.