I should have seen it coming: a book I liked, a filmmaker I've always admired, a screenwriter I consider a God, a studio sometimes willing to support something new, and a cast of also-rans that can make or break a genre flick. And wouldn't you know it? Flick's a freakin' turkey! Argh!I feel no shame in admitting that I adore the "old" Stephen King; the one who churned out book after book about haunted toasters, flammable preteens and automotive exorcisms. Of King's other work, there's the Dark Tower series (a compendium of twisted genius that I pray never earns a Hollywood Greenlight) and there's his new-age touchy-feely navel gazing nostalagizing. (Just made up a new word. Cool.)
King's Dreamcatcher was a half-and-half melange of both divisions; there's goopy gore and nefarious goings-on to titillate the horror mavens - plus there's that now-wearisome Stand By Me / Hearts in Atlantis / It "childhood friendships are quite literally magical even 25 years later" schpiel that's become King's trademark.
And what often works in print can thud miserably on a movie screen. Case in point: 'Story A' of Lawrence Kasdan's Dreamcatcher. Story A is a flashback tale of four young buddies who rescue a keening retarded boy from the clutches of bullies wielding poop. (Just for the sake of clarity, we'll call Story B the modern-day aliens-in-the-woods stuff, and Story C the wholly disposal Government Reaction to Alien Invasion the Audience Is Never Shown.) The old-fasioned kids (and their present-day incarnations) communicate in a series of corny old in-joke slang; this is meant to make them seem like endearingly old friends. What actually happens is this: audience members cringe at dialogue that hits their ears like broken glass.
Story B does indeed contain a few moments of goopy gloriousness that should have devoted Gorehounds briefly perking up in their seats - but if you happen to wake up and see anything onscreen that's NOT taking place inside a log cabin - feel free to fall back asleep.
But a few moments of wonderfully gory carnage (something that Larry Kasdan clearly knows very little about) aside, there's very little of intentional entertainment worth recalling. Morgan Freeman delivers arguably his worst performance EVER as a gruff military man destined to assassinate a hundred 'infected' Americans; Tom Sizemore seems neutered and lobotomized; Thomas Jane proves once and for all that he'll never have leading man chops; Jason Lee (saddled with awful prop specs) manages a few mild chuckles before his dispatch.
Proof positive that there's never a "sure thing" where upcoming movies are concerned, Dreamcatcher probably won't rank among my worst of the year. (A slick visual sensibility and a few alien attacks do count for something after all.) But if I were to come up with a list for the year's Most Disappointing Movies, I doubt any flick could bump this one from the #1 spot.Perhaps it was the source material after all. Stephen King can write whatever he freakin' wants at this point in his career. Maybe in the future he could do Schmaltz in one book and Horror in another. I'd still read both, but I like my Horror Stuff undiluted by nostalgic glad-handing and forced Motown.