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Dreamkatcher (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 30, 2020


Starring Radha Mitchell, Henry Thomas, Lin Shaye, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Jules Willcox and Joseph Bishara.

Screenplay by Dan V. Shea.

Directed by Kerry Harris.

Distributed by Lionsgate. 101 minutes. Rated PG-13.

So, what exactly is Dreamkatcher?

Dreamkatcher is not to be confused with Dreamcatcher, Lawrence Kasdan’s 2003 film version of the Stephen King novel of the same name – which just happens to be one of the worst Stephen King adaptations ever (and that is saying a lot). It was also one of King’s weakest books.

Dreamkatcher with a “k” is a much better film than that one – not great, but it has some very decent scares and surreal moments of isolation and malevolence.

Actually, Dreamkatcher is more specifically based on the ancient Indian tradition of dreamcatchers – looms made of willow wood and yarn or thread, which are often garnished by feathers or beads – than the older film was. Though dreamcatchers did play a part in that plotline, Dreamcatcher was more specifically about an alien invasion and a government clampdown than a story about dreams, spirits and demons, as its title might suggest.

As Wikipedia explains about dreamcatchers: “Traditionally they are often hung over a cradle as protection. It originates in Ojibwe culture as the ‘spider web charm’ … a hoop with woven string or sinew meant to replicate a spider's web, used as a protective charm…”

This movie creates a new variation of the old charm, the dreamkatcher, a burnt and dirty evil twin of the original. They not only do not protect people from evil spirits, the dreamkatcher in fact gives the spirits free access to the real world and to people’s subconscious.

Besides, as lead actress Radha Mitchell good-naturedly told us in a recent interview about the film, “You really know it’s evil because the K is backwards. That means it’s evil!”

Either that, or someone struck out while looking. (Okay, okay, I know that’s a semi-obscure and not totally relevant baseball scorekeeping reference, but what do you want? I’m missing baseball in the post-Covid-19 world.)

But anyway, back to Dreamkatcher. Mitchell told us she was fascinated by the idea of a “dream invasion” in the script, and to a large extent that is what the film is about. It is paranoid and isolated – there are only four important characters in the film, six if you count evil spirits – but it is also often legitimately creepy, even if the climax somewhat gets away from the filmmakers.

Mitchell plays Gail, a child psychologist who takes a trip to her new boyfriend’s strange but luxurious vacation house (what’s the deal with all of those randomly placed front windows?) in rural New York. It is the first time the guy had been to the house since his late wife’s mysterious death at the cabin a few years earlier.

Boyfriend Luke is played by Henry Thomas. (Elliott from ET all grown up!) Along for the trip is Luke’s young son Josh (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong from The Banana Splits Movie), who is honestly more than a bit of a brat and determined not to like this strange lady who wants to take his mom’s place. And that is even before his mom starts to pop up in his dreams.

Lin Shaye plays a nearby shopkeeper who specializes in native knick-knacks and particularly dreamcatchers. She also knows a lot more about the mother’s death and local evil than Luke is willing to let on.

Like I said, the film has a weird sense of isolation and desperation – they don’t even get cell phone reception. Mostly it is just Gail and Josh in the cabin trying to deal with each other. (Luke is called back to the city for work early on and is gone for a good chunk of the film, and the shopkeeper is an important supporting role, but comes and goes.) And while Gail tries to bond with Josh – even succeeding to a certain extent – evil spirits try to pull them apart.

As I said earlier, the story gets a bit out of hand towards the end, as the ratcheting up of the violence overwhelms the tightly coiled seclusion and creepiness of the storyline. However, there are enough decent scares to make it worth a watch.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place world, Dreamkatcher is being released directly on VOD (though honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it would have skipped the theaters anyway). So, if you are looking for some fresh horror content while you are self-isolating, give it a chance.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: April 28, 2020.

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