(Region 1 edition)

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane and Jason Lee
Warner Home Video
RRP US$27.95
Certificate: R - Restricted
Available now


Four boys, Henry, Beaver, Jonesy and Pete, save a mentally challenged boy from being taunted and beaten by older boys. Douglas Cavell, soon known as Duddits because of his hands raised exclamation of "I duddits" instead of "done it", now sees the boys as close friends. Duddits is discovered to be more than he seems when he imparts certain abilities on them, including telepathy and uncanny seeing skills, which help them find a missing girl. Years later, and now adults, the four are enjoying their annual reunion when a sick man staggers from out of the woods. Inside him gestates a worm-like parasitic creature, which leads to an early confrontation with a large alien to become known as Mr Gray. All the natural creatures inhabiting the mountainous areas flee and are quickly superseded by the army, led by Colonel Abraham Curtis. Curtis quarantines the region and incarcerates all those who carry the rust-like infection of the aliens. An attack on a crashed spacecraft triggers its self-destruction, but the menace is far from over. Curtis plans on sterilising the entire area, but the four friends have other ideas. When Jonesy is possessed by Mr Gray his subconscious retreats to the Memory Warehouse, the only part of his mind that the invader can't penetrate. Henry realises that Duddits' extraordinary abilities means he knew this would happen from the time they were boys, and that he was always the focus of their group. But Duddits is older now and is sick with leukaemia...

In previous reviews I have revealed that I am not a fan of Stephen King on the printed page. A wealth of original ideas are often tainted by the need to describe the floral wallpaper and regency furniture, information most readers simply don't want to know. Film adaptations are another matter, however. Although there have been some derisory attempts to convert King's fertile imagination to celluloid form, a handful of films based on his books have succeeded spectacularly: The Dead Zone, Misery, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile, to name but a handful. Whilst Dreamcatcher is not as emotionally compelling as these, it is gripping all the same. You get the impression that all the stops have been pulled out to produce the best film possible from the book. Acting, special effects and scenery combine in a not often seen synergy.

Question: How do you show alien parasitic creatures gestating inside human or animal hosts without seeming to emulate the science fiction classic Alien? Answer: you make the connection obvious by having the military nickname them "The Ripleys". Much as this description may make you think otherwise, appearance and motives are not even close to the Alien movies, and even Mr Gray turns out to be a shape-changing creature which uses the standard alien look, albeit on a much larger scale, for its own nefarious motives. The scene with the worm parasite in the toilet is both hilarious and chilling, and was said to have been used as a location in the book by King because he felt it was the only room left in a house which people don't want to see beyond in a movie.

The Dreamcatcher of the title is mainly a metaphor for the prophetic bonding of the four friends. As a child Duddits creates an image in the air of a Red Indian dreamcatcher (which is said to have had the ability to prevent bad dreams from taking form, or allowing evil spirits through) in the air. The four friends later create the real thing; four circles with another in the centre representing Duddits. It hangs in the cabin where they meet yearly. Donnie Wahlberg, as one of seven headlining names in the film, will no doubt receive plaudits for his portrayal of the adult Duddits, when clearly Andrew Robb as the young version is so much better. He is a little aloof, somewhat strange and yet very friendly, and all of this comes across extremely well.

The mass exodus of animals from the forest looks Jumanji-like, when this kind of CGI was in its infancy, but as we witness the movements from a distance the shortfalls are not so evident. There is so much to appreciate here. The spiral architecture of the Memory Warehouse, packed-out from floor to high ceiling with dusty boxes, and labelled with subject information, is impressive, as is the way we see Jonesy inside the room protected from Mr Gray, even though he is possessed by the creature.

The picture and sound quality on this widescreen version is superb. Extras include five alternate or extended scenes, an interview with writer Stephen King (in which he comes across friendly and enthusiastic), a behind the scenes feature, a visual effects feature, a film trailer and DVD ROM stuff. Coupled with the film running time of 134 minutes, all on one disc, this makes for an impressive and cost effective package.

Ty Power

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