No Sweet 'Dream'
More gags than scares
By Rachel Deahl

After the winter we had, do you really want to watch a bunch of dudes trapped in a cabin?

If a horror movie should earn kudos for making you nauseous, then Dreamcatcher deserves a standing ovation. Traversing the icky, gooey territory of angry extraterrestrials, and wedding it to the intricacies of human gastroenterology, the latest Stephen King vehicle delivers more material worthy of a gag reflex than a serious scare.

Set in the familiar King territory of rural Maine, Dreamcatcher follows a reunion among four friends that spirals into a gory alien invasion. Bound by strange psychic powers, an unsteady professor (Damian Lewis), suicidal shrink (Thomas Jane), hard-drinking car salesman (Timothy Olyphant), and a wise-cracking loser (Jason Lee) get together for their annual hunting retreat in the deep north woods of the New England state. All haunted by their strange powers and troubled in their lives, the group reminisces about old times and the strange boy who changed them all in childhood. The group now finds themselves at the center of a horrifying tragedy.

After discovering a sickly hunter wandering in the woods, the boys take him in only to find that he's been infected with what the army has called "The Ripley." Appropriately dubbed for its similarity to the alien creature which ripped through the stomachs of the humans it inhabited in the movie Alien, the lethal parasites here take a more graphically unfortunate escape route from their hosts... further south.

Quarantined by an insane military chief (Morgan Freeman) who's spent a lifetime fighting said aliens (and who already battled a virus in Outbreak), the boys slowly fall prey to the chief bad guy known as "Mr. Grey." Eager to simply wipe out the hundreds of civilians who've been infected by the parasite, the military's determined to leave no man standing in order to stamp out the threat.

Following too many fractured storylines and clocking in at about 45 minutes longer than it should, director Lawrence Kasdan's rendering of this simple Stephen King yarn is entirely too ambitious. Attempting to turn King's B-grade "little green men" tale into an intelligent, nuanced story about the fears without and within, Kasdan fails to make his film into the only logical thing it should have been: a campy horror flick. Instead, the director tries to soberly meld an insane Army captain (complete with a gun given to him by John Wayne), a mass alien invasion, and slimy, man-eating, oversized parasites with the stuff of mature drama.

In the end, as apropos as it was to name the evil E.T. force "The Ripley," the effect only recalls the classic sci-fi/horror blend that did all this so much better.