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Stephen King takes more lumps from Hollywood. For every successful trip from novel to screen — Carrie, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Misery — Maine’s scaremeister must assess the damage done to Cujo, Firestarter, Pet Semetery and on and on. Dreamcatcher is the first novel King wrote after a van ran him down in 1999. Now it’s a film directed by Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill), who wrote the script with William Goldman (All the President’s Men). Pretty lofty company for a flick about aliens popping out of people’s asses. These so-called “shit weasels” look like the thing that burst out of John Hurt’s belly in Alien.

To be fair, Dreamcatcher starts more subtly, with four friends — Henry the shrink (Thomas Jane), Beaver the carpenter (Jason Lee), Pete the car salesman (Timothy Olyphant) and Jonesy the college prof (Damian Lewis) — enjoying a hunting weekend in the Maine woods. The guys are linked by a childhood incident in which they saved a sickly boy, Duddits (Donnie Wahlberg), from bullies. This is King in Stand by Me mode. Then the aliens show up, chased by Morgan Freeman as a nut-job Army colonel, and the movie degenerates into a sorry, silly, gory, punishingly overlong (131 minutes) creature feature. King deserves better.

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