Movies You Might Not Know: Stephen King Edition

A more appropriate heading for this post could be Movies You Might Think Todd Is Crazy For Recommending.

The literary works of the great Stephen King has given us some classic films from 1976’s Carrie to 1980’s The Shining to 1990’s Misery to 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption. There’s also been major disappointments. Two pictures from 1993 immediately come to mind: The Dark Half and Needful Things. There’s a whole lot more from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s guilty pleasure The Running Man to that creepy clown played by Tim Curry in “Stephen King’s IT”, an effective and frightening TV movie.

Any self-described movie buff has those films that they seem to like, even though pretty much no one else seems to agree. One of those titles for me is undoubtedly 2003’s Dreamcatcher, based on King’s 2001 novel.

First off: I will readily admit Dreamcatcher is a mess of a film. Tonally it’s all over the map, switching from psychological drama to gross-out horror flick to alien invasion military thriller, sometimes from scene to scene.

There is a lot of talent involved here. The director is Lawrence Kasdan, who brought us The Big Chill and Silverado. He also co-wrote the screenplays to The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Return of the Jedi. His co-writer here is William Goldman, writer of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, All the President’s Men, and The Princess Bride. And, once again, it’s based on a work by one of the world’s most celebrated novelists.

The cast includes Morgan Freeman, Tom Sizemore, Damian Lewis (Brody from “Homeland”!), Jason Lee, Thomas Jane, Timothy Olyphant, and Donnie Wahlberg.

With all the pedigree involved, audiences had a reasonable expectation that Dreamcatcher could join the pantheon of classic King adaptations. What audiences got is a movie that is just… well, way out there. Its plot involves a group of guys reuniting for their annual Maine hunting trip at a cabin when they encounter alien forces… including in one extremely disgusting and shocking bathroom scene. Turns out the group all became telepathic as young boys after they befriended a mentally challenged boy who also possessed similar abilities. It’s as strange as it sounds. When the alien forces who have infiltrated the cabin are revealed, the military moves in with Morgan Freeman playing a ruthless commander.

Just when you think Dreamcatcher can’t get more bizarre, it does. Consistently. And there is no doubt that moviegoers were probably completely blindsided by it. I know I was. Strangely enough, though, I totally dug it. I sincerely admired its go-for-broke attitude, even though it doesn’t always work. I found it quite entertaining.

Film goers did not respond positively. Dreamcatcher grossed a weak $33 million domestically and suffered a nearly 60% drop in its second weekend, indicating that audiences were not telling their friends to go see it.

Now, ten years later, I am telling my friends to go see it. You may resent me for it if you take me up on the offer. Or you might have the same positive reaction I did. That’s what movies are all about and that’s why I’m proud to recommend Dreamcatcher for your consideration.

 

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