Retro Review, Dreamcatcher
Stephen King-related content may be the greatest enigma in cinema, particularly in the realm of book-to-film adaptations. It is surprising the number of books King has seen made into films or miniseries. It is even more surprising that despite the oft-low box office numbers and poor reviews, studios continue to try to make them work. And even more surprising than that is, despite King's affinity for the horror genre, his two most popular and critically-acclaimed works were in the drama department. Even from a horror fan such as myself, it is difficult to disagree. Shawshank Redemption and, to a lesser degree, The Green Mile and Stand By Me are fantastic films and deserve to be atop the King totem pole. Sure...Misery, Carrie, and of course The Shining can flirt with those, but few compare to the acting prowess of Shawshank and Green Mile with the exception of perhaps The Shining. But what about those horror installments, and where exactly does Dreamcatcher sit among them?
Dreamcatcher doesn't rank atop the list, but it is also nowhere near the bottom. There are many other adaptations that are of a higher caliber, adapted their respective books more seamlessly, or better translated King's dialogue to film (which I will get into more later). But, Dreamcatcher has some of the more impressive imagery and effects, and is easily one of the more fun King films out there. There is a power to some of his films, like The Shining, Misery, Cujo, or even Pet Sematary. And Dreamcatcher doesn't make that cut. But I would say it rounds out above more mainstream-adapted films like 1408, The Mist, and Secret Window. If Dreamcatcher was sitting on a bell curve, it probably would be able to work out a solid B to B+, based on its competition within its own class.
Perhaps the greatest flaw that seems ongoing in all King films (sans his aforementioned drama efforts) is the struggle to translate dialogue from his books into sensible and coherent script for film. As much as I consider Dreamcatcher one of King's more enjoyable films, it is the poster child for this common problem. Though much of the film plays out like an 80's campy cult classic, I find the dialogue between Morgan Freeman and Tom Sizemore to be near-unbearable during most of their screentime. It leads me to flirt with the opinion that the film would've been better had the parts been lessened and Sizemore and Freeman not been involved at all. I hold nothing against either of them, even in the horror department. Se7en and The Relic are great horror films. But, focusing entirely on the four friends and their special buddy would've been great. The army quarantine and the crazy colonel are just unnecessary additions that made less sense in the context of a massive book being condensed into a 2-hour affair. The claustrophobic atmosphere of a cabin-centric film feeding off the character development of its great cast could have been something special, if a bit too far off from King's original work.
The graphics and special effects in this movie are top-notch. We have enjoyed many great practical effects from King films in the past. It (miniseries) and Sleepwalkers are two that quickly come to mind. But Dreamcatcher had so much power in this department that it gave the film a blockbuster-like feel at times. The creature designs were great and paid homage to iconic alien villains of films past. I still find myself enthralled with some of the more intense scenes of the film, with perhaps the most impactful scene occurring on a toilet of all places.
Sometimes I get the urge to watch Dreamcatcher, which is a big compliment that puts it into a class with other high-end King films I admittedly excluded Dreamcatcher from. But, when I get that urge, I soon decide that muting the TV and just enjoying the visuals in silence is almost better. And while that may be a tip-of-the-hat to the visuals, it isn't exactly a resounding endorsement of the film's script.
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 7/10
Film Quality: 4/10