—incidentally. Here’s a film that freaks the bejesus outta me. The little known Lawrence Kasdan: Dreamcatcher (2003) sits apart from most Stephen King adaptations, alongside Frank Darabont’s hopscotch The Mist (2007). Unlike other Stephen King stories, there’s a deliberately unresolved mystery to Dreamcatcher, as there is with The Mist, that arguably helps foster a dialogue between horror and science-fiction that few films have ever actually done.
Where science-fiction adaptations of Stephen King’s novels, like Paul Michael Glaser’s The Running Man (1987) are kitsch, if not a bit tongue-in-cheek, the anomaly that is Dreamcatcher remains as sorely misunderstood as it is underappreciated. The closest companion it has, in more ways than one, is probably John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). Not the least for being set in the snow. The 2001 novel Dreamtcatcher is a glorified road-trip with telepathy and aliens. A psychological thriller that the film actually translates better than the book conveys.
The film plops you in the thicket of things. I think that’s what I like the most about it. Assumption: You’ve seen Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me (1986), you’ve seen Tommy Lee Wallace’s It (1990), you get a concentrated version of these friendships without waffles. Childhood weaves in and out of adulthood as characters remember. That’s key. The steady realisations adulthood brings with it are unrealised childhood perspectives, and, to be honest, better reflect the non-linearity of our lives, and the way we interact with our past, than linear transitions from childhood to adulthood do.
While I can understand how the film feels rushed, I actually think it’s perfectly paced for other reasons. You’re always left unsteady, uneasy, unbalanced, unable to stop and catch your breath. There’s an element of suspense to this pace that directly contributes to the horror. When events start unfolding, and unfolding quickly, you’re still reeling from the fact you’ve just witnessed a grown man give birth to an ungodly, unworldly, snakeful of teeth. Every moment in this film is important. Especially the calm before the storm.
The storm itself? Fuck. Me. Personally, they embody that aspect of alienness seldom seen in science-fiction, and that’s inscrutability. The intentions of these motherfuckers are unapproachable. At best, colonialism on a budget. There’s some slight similarity between H. G. Wells’ 1897 novel The War of the Worlds, and, at times, the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness is uncanny. But you’re not meant to know, and what scraps you do get, are as thoughtful as they are spine-tingling.
You want answers, sure. It’s not that kind of film, but. It wouldn’t work if you knew too much. What is alien remains alien, in that sense. There are several points throughout the film, I feel have always had the potential to be divisive, like the memory warehouse, but also The Ripley, Col. Abraham Curtis (Morgan Freeman), Duddits (Donnie Wahlberg), and the ending. Given the scale of the threat, the abruptness of the ending, I think, is honestly the most human way about finishing off a truly alien invasion.