Entry updated 6 March 2019. Tagged: Film.
Film (2003). Castle Rock Entertainment presents a Kasdan Pictures production in association with Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment. Directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Written by William Goldman and Lawrence Kasdan, based on the novel Dreamcatcher (2001) by Stephen King. Cast includes Giacomo Baessato, Rosemary Dunsmore, Morgan Freeman, Mikey Holekamp, Thomas Jane, Eric Keenleyside, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Joel Palmer, Andrew Robb, Tom Sizemore, Reece Thompson and Donnie Wahlberg. Colour. 134 minutes.
Farting as a signifier of the arrival of Aliens on planet Earth is unusual. Here, interrelated species of extraterrestrial life including aquatic worms, lamprey-like water-snakes and a large, amphibious humanoid known only as "Mr Gray" become intent on subjecting humanity to a perfidiously unhygienic form of Parasitism and Symbiosis after crash-landing their Spaceship into the remote pine forests of Maine. "They never visited a world they wouldn't rather own," says Colonel Abraham Curtis (Freeman) of his twenty-five-year battle to safeguard the United States against the incursions of the "shit-weasels", a form of Life on Other Worlds whose latest wheeze is to occupy the large intestines of the populace of Boston via its water supply at the Quabbin Reservoir. "I think maybe our friend 'Dudds' is not from this planet," says car salesman Pete Moore (Olyphant) of the boy he and friends Joe Clarendon (Lee), Gary Jones (Lewis) and Henry Devlin (Jane) rescued from bullies as children and from whom they received their powers of Telepathy: "I think he's from somewhere else and he came here to prepare us for something." Young "Duddits" (Robb) serves to relay a series of visual and thematic quotations from the Stephen King novella The Body (1982) and its subsequent film adaptation as Stand by Me (1986), while the older "Duddits" (Wahlberg) functions as deus ex machina to a series of a dizzyingly-contradictory plot developments, confirming himself at the last to be an alien come to save humanity from others of his kind.
Quite how Hollywood screenwriters of the calibre of William Goldman (1931-2018), winner of Academy Awards for his screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and All the President's Men (1976) – the latter is regularly cited as exemplar for where to begin and end an adaptation of complex material due to its interpolation of the "follow the money" McGuffin into Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's All the President's Men (1974) – and Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of, among other films, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) with Leigh Brackett and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015) with J J Abrams, produced a film as messy and ill-conceived as Dreamcatcher is a mystery. "I don't like Dreamcatcher very much," Stephen King said of his own novel in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in October 2014. "Dreamcatcher was written after the accident. I was using a lot of Oxycontin for pain ... and that's another book that shows the drugs at work." Biographical characteristics from King's life are perceptible in the protagonists of Dreamcatcher – Pete Moore is a heavy drinker, and Gary Jones struggles to walk after being knocked down by a car (King was himself hit by a van while walking in the woods of Maine in 1999) – and some of the metaphoric freight from the author's struggle with Drugs and alcohol between 1978 and 1986 seems to suffuse the atmosphere of a book whose story-protocols resemble those borrowed from Genre SF for The Tommyknockers (1987), later adapted for Television as the miniseries The Tommyknockers (1993). "Tommyknockers is a forties-style science fiction tale in which the writer-heroine discovers an alien spaceship buried in the ground," wrote King of The Tommyknockers in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000). "These alien creatures got into your head and just started ... well, tommyknocking around in there ... It was the best metaphor for drugs and alcohol my tired, overstressed mind could come up with."
Many of the elements of King's best Horror in SF occur in Dreamcatcher – domestic detail is used to emphasize an atmosphere of small-town fragility and Paranoia, and the moral force of childhood reminiscence is, as so often in King's work, set against the pain and aggression of the adult world – but are arranged in too haphazard a fashion to convey their usual force. Similar themes are mined in the 1980s-set tv series Stranger Things (2016-current) and in the water-borne high-school invasion Satire The Faculty (1998). [MD]
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