Awfully Good: Dreamcatcher

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Originally I chose this movie to coincide with the release of the extraterrestrial drama ARRIVAL, but after the U.S. election last night, a column about sentient shit-weasels also seems appropriate today.

Dreamcatcher (2003)

Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Stars:Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee

A group of four psychic friends go camping in the woods and encounter parasitic poop aliens.

Is there such a thing as a serious fart? Because if there’s one thing DREAMCATCHER proves, it’s that there’s no situation where flatulence isn’t funny.

Nobody was prepared for the aliens to all have the face of Gary Busey.

Scatological elements notwithstanding, DREAMCATCHER probably counts as one of the biggest cinematic misfires in modern times. There are plenty of bad movies made each year, but not many have a pedigree behind the scenes that includes Lawrence Kasdan (EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK),
William Goldman (THE PRINCESS BRIDE, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN) and Stephen King. And the flick is no slouch in front of the camera either, boasting talented actors like Tom Jane, Timothy Olyphant, Jason Lee, Tom Sizemore and Morgan Freeman—sporting eyebrows that would arouse Eugene Levy.

Freeman’s R. Lee Ermey cosplay was on point.

So what went so wrong? I blame the script, which in spite of Kasdan and Goldman’s track record, is utterly lacking in all departments. From the opening scene, which features long-winded product placement for Carl’s Jr., to the dramatically inert ending, there is just a cavalcade of bad decisions and poor writing. Stephen King novels have been a catalyst for some great movies, but even the author himself admitted that he doesn’t like DREAMCATCHER and wrote it while “under the influence of Oxycontin.” Perhaps that’s why the film feels like a lazy “greatest hits” of other King movies, as opposed to something original or more interesting. You’ll see shades of the kids from STAND BY ME and IT, creatures from THE MIST, malevolent alien visitors from THE TOMMYKNOCKERS, and of course psychic children from THE SHINING or FIRESTARTER. And you’ll be wishing you were watching any of those adaptations instead.

As was this guy’s MEET JOE BLACK cosplay.

The only thing DREAMCATCHER actually succeeds in doing is provide countless bits of unintentional comedy. To call this movie tone deaf is like saying Morgan Freeman is just an okay narrator. The best examples are the aliens themselves. If you’ve heard them referred to as “shit weasels,” that is not an exaggeration. They are literally poop-shaped slugs that blow out of peoples asses like violent diarrhea. And what is a precursor to violent diarrhea? Gas! DREAMCATCHER actually has a rather intriguing setup and initial mystery going for it… and then the farting starts. Our heroes keep encountering sick-looking people who are clearly hiding something, and as the tension builds and builds…they fart. Comedic movie farts that the Farrelly Brothers might use. Imagine watching THE THING or INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, but with every suspenseful scene tempered with flatulence. It’s mind-boggling that this made it out of the editing room intact.

The film’s commentary on the dangers of masculinity was subtle, but there if you really looked for it.

In case constant wind-breaking wasn’t juvenile enough for you, there’s also plenty of hilariously awkward phallic imagery. At one point Jason Lee sits on a toilet, gripping a veiny penis-shaped alien with both hands, holding it between his legs as he tries to fight it off. (If that’s not an obvious visual metaphor for masturbation then Lawrence Kasdan and William Goldman have some serious issues they need to work out.) And that’s not all! Later, Timothy Olyphant is pissing his friend’s name in the snow when another girthy alien snake jumps out and bites him on the actual trouser snake. We see him run around with this giant sentient schlong swinging from his crotch like he’s on his way to a outdoor circle jerk. Eventually Olyphant is able to defeat the extraterrestrial by literally humping a campfire.

Again, this movie is not meant to be a comedy.

Turns out Jared really wanted that chocolate-covered pretzel.

At least I don’t think so. There’s so much bizarre, random stuff that it makes you wonder if the filmmakers had any idea what kind of film they were making. One of the characters, Jonesy, gets inhabited by an alien who takes over his body. Aside from randomly smiling like a psychopath or putting on a hat in the most dramatic fashion possible, Alien Jonesy also speaks with a foppish British accent, which makes zero sense. There’s also the fact that the four main characters are psychic, a favorite quality of Stephen King’s, which does little for this story aside from lazily let characters know what’s going on without having to work it narratively in to the script. At best, this deflates tension same as the farting—instead of milking the body-possession points for suspense, everyone just automatically knows who is an alien and exactly what they need to do because they have ESP. At worst, you have hysterical scenes where Jonesy uses a phone inside his mind to psychically call Tom Jane in the real world, where he uses a gun as a phone (puts it up to his ear and everything) and begins to have an actual conversation with his friend.

Trump’s redecorating of the White House was predictable.

Stupid as they are, some of these elements might work better in a written novel where nuance is easier to achieve. Unfortunately that tone is much harder to balance in a film, even with such talented craftsmen as Kasdan and Goldman. Let’s just forget this movie ever existed and move on with our lives.

From bad banter to sucky speeches, some examples of the terrible writing.

Farts, phallic fights, gun telephones, and other stupidity.

The aliens are phallic enough.

Scooby Dooby Doo, we got some work to do! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Someone says “SSDD”
  • Someone farts or burps
  • Morgan Freeman calls someone “bucko”
  • Someone loses a finger
  • There’s a random pop culture reference
  • A collection of sticks falls in slow motion

Double shot if:

  • “I Duddits!”

Thanks to Abbi for suggesting this week’s movie!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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