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IN SHORT: Best Stephen King based movie since Carrie. [Rated R for violence, gore and language. 136 minutes]
Carrie, of course, had a second adaptation on NBC last year, so we're playing with you as much as Dreamcatcher will.
Twenty years ago (1983) four boys rescue a "mentally challenged" boy, from a beating at the hands of stars of the local high school football team. In present day, the now grown men return to the Maine woods for some well earned downtime. Some will go down for the count in this riveting thriller, fully complimented in the summary above. We couldn't take our eyes off the screen. Our femme friend Samantha kept grabbing at our arm (which was much easier on our arm than her usual practice of whacking at it with her fist. but Ii digress...)
As we begin, psychiatrist Dr. Henry Devlin (Thomas Jane) is shattering the psyche of an obese patient, all the while watching the clock and counting the seconds until he can get in the car and flee Boston, Mass. for the woods of Derry, Maine. Joe "Beaver" Clarendon (Jason Lee), Gary Jones aka "Jonesy" (Damian Lewis) and Pete Moore (Timothy Olyphant) the remaining grown characters, are also on the road to that cabin in Maine for the usual rituals of drinking and hunting and male bonding. It's a tradition that stretches back the twenty years since coming to the defense of the poor retard 'Duddits' (played as an adult by Donnie Wahlberg).
The men drift to the cabin two by two but something strange is happening in the woods. The local animals are seen making a run en masse for the border (sic). A woman is found nearly frozen to death in the middle of a road. A hunter comes stumbling through the woods, covered with rash-like red spots and belching and farting like there's no tomorrow. He'll also expel something else before he dies in the cabin's bathroom, leaving a bloody mess on the floor and something murderous hiding behind his corpse.
Simply put: there's a really good reason why you should keep the toilet lid shut. That reason brings the top secret Operation Blueboy, a band of US Military men led by Colonel Abraham Curtis (Morgan Freeman, click for CrankyCritic® StarTalk) and his second in command Owen Underhill (Tom Sizemore), into the story in the requisite black helicopters. Colonel Curtis has been hunting . . . something . . . for a quarter of a century. The hunt has, quite possibly, driven him utter raving bonkers.
Dreamcatcher is a perfect blend of guts and gore and mystery. Our four principals are linked not only by friendship but also by a generous gift bestowed upon them by young Duddits, a gift of mental telepathy. All four, perhaps five, can communicate silently, brain to brain. This becomes an important plot hook as Dreamcatcher's screenplay (by director Lawrence Kasdan and writer William Goldman) sucks you deeper and deeper into a great, horrific thriller. Both men know what they're doing. Kasdan has (co)written sweeping epics like The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark, stuffing "real" characterizations in among the genre stereotypes; Goldman has penned adaptations of Stephen King's Misery, suspenseflicks like The Stepford Wives, family flicks like The Great Waldo Pepper and The Princess Bride and his ultimate work, the greatest thriller we've ever writhed through, Marathon Man. Together, yes, there are flaws in the adaptation -- reminding you that we don't compare to Source Material, we still can tell when story elements don't fit or are dropped into a movie's story seemingly willy nilly -- but director Kasdan's control of the story is total.
The Evil Monster is terrific. The characters are just dumb enough that our audience members (including yours truly) were muttering "Don't do that!" at the screen. As always, King's story has its share of gimmicks -- besides the telepathic link, the Jonesy character has conveniently divided his memory into different "rooms" containing file cabinets holding all of said character's recollections. Hiding in these rooms keep Jonesy safe even as the Evil That Lurks, uh, lurks. We had such a good time at Dreamcatcher that we've been dodging the bullet paragraph after paragraph: we're not going to tell you what the Evil is. It is a living thing which is as common as common can be and it has all the scare power, in this story's form, of the creature from the first Alien movie. It produced enough gory moments to creep us out but fell short of the stomach distress that usually comes along with yer average slice 'n' dice movie.
As it tries to wrap all of its pieces into one nice package at the end, Dreamcatcher gets a little ragged and rushed. For those that are hardcore devoted to the original story, there are significant changes made to it, so we were told. Not our concern. This is one helluva popcorn scareflick.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Dreamcatcher, he would have paid . . .
The Final Flight of the Osiris, one of nine 'toons that fall in continuity between The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded plays in theaters with Dreamcatcher. It is, as a solo item, a waste of eleven minutes. For rabid fans of The Matrix, the only folk who can make sense of this nonsense, you'll be able to buy a DVD with all nine parts sometime this summer. Samantha's a fan. She turned thumbs down. 'nuff said.
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