Dreamcatcher, the 2003 film adaptation of a Stephen King sci-fi horror novella that he hand wrote in a hospital bed while high on oxycontin, is not good. It’s just…it’s just really not good. Which shouldn’t be surprising, as Stephen King is quoted as saying “I don’t like Dreamcatcher very much.” But you know what he DID like? He liked that sweet sweet movie option money. He didn’t say “You know what, guys? This book is a piece of shit and probably shouldn’t be made into a film.” He said “Zoink!” as he grabbed the paycheck, threw a smoke bomb onto the ground, and was never seen or heard from again.
Beside the whole “movie adaptation of a Stephen King novel” thing to hold against it (let’s be honest here, a lot more stinkers than not), this film actually had quite a bit going for it on paper. It was directed by 4 time Oscar nominee Lawrence Kasden. I mean, he’d already done a movie about a group of friends together in a house in the winter (see The Big Chill), but you probably know him best as one of the writers for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Kasden wrote the screenplay for Dreamcatcher along side two time Oscar winner William Goldman, who most know as the writer of The Princess Bride, an actually good Stephen King adaptation of Misery, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and All the President’s Men. It had cinematography by Oscar winner John Seale, music by Oscar nominee James Newton Howard, visual effects by Oscar winning VFX house Industrial Light and Magic, not to mention the actors cast in the film. Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, and award winners Thomas Jane, Timothy Olyphant, Damian Lewis, Jason Lee, Tom Sizemore, and former New Kid on the Block singer/dancer Donnie Wahlberg. All of that talent, still, somehow couldn’t balance the fact that it was built on a foundation of opioid constipated turd hunks.
The film’s elevator pitch description doesn’t even really do it justice at all and disguises a lot of what makes this film so batshit crazy.
“Friends on a camping trip discover that the town they’re vacationing in is being plagued in an unusual fashion by parasitic aliens from outer space.”
Honestly, though, there is so much going on in this movie that it can’t be summarized in such a short sentence. This film requires a run-on, for sure. I think a more appropriate summary of the film would be “Four friends imbued with special powers by their developmentally disabled childhood friend stay in a cabin to honor him (even though he’s not dead and they could have just invited him along), and are confronted by a gassy hunter who shits an alien parasite dubbed by the film-makers as a “buttweasel” into the toilet, while another kind of alien turns itself into spores and takes over one of the guy’s brains and gives him an English accent for no reason, and then a special segment of the US government arrives to destroy the alien threat, BUT AT WHAT COST?!.” That sorta gives a little bit better picture, I guess.
If you want to break down exactly why this movie is fucking madness, there are probably too many reasons to count. The podcast How Did This Get Made actually handles this in an extremely entertaining way with their episode dedicated to Dreamcatcher (which I personally pushed for on their suggestion message board) and is highly recommended, but my choice to cover this film for Robot’s Pajamas 2017 Horror Month wasn’t even to pick it apart, as I’ve done with most of my other submissions. This film has a much more personal attachment for me that I’d like to share.
One of the best parts of starting a relationship with someone is sharing the things that you love with them. A deeper connection can be made when a person of romantic interest shares interests with you. In the case of my girlfriend, our tastes in a wide variety of things line up in the most compatible and enjoyable ways, especially with horror and sci-fi films. We’re both nutso for that stuff. We seem to have an affinity for a lot of the same films, and enjoy watching them together, but a distinct kind of pleasure comes when it’s discovered that one of us missed out on some movie, and we can show the other something brand new. We do that with movies, music, comic books, and it always feels great to share something new with someone you love. Especially if you correctly predict how they’re going to feel about something. So, when I found out that my girlfriend Liza had never seen Dreamcatcher, I pounced on the opportunity to show it to her. It was an easy sell, honestly. She enjoys Stephen King, loves horror and sci-fi, and heck, look at all of those things I mentioned in the beginning of this post. I just told her “You have to see this movie.” So one night, early in our relationship, we popped in the DVD (which I own), and snuggled up on the couch. She sat through the film, mostly quiet beyond a few “What the fuck”s, and when it concluded I asked her what she thought, and she responded “That…was a thing.” The look on her face was as if she just had rectal surgery. I said “It’s so fucking bad, right?” and I saw her face relax. After a deep sigh of relief, she exclaimed “Holy shit, I thought you actually liked that movie. I sat here the entire time thinking what the fuck. This is so horrible. How can he like this?” and the entire experience of watching this shitshow of a film made her question everything about our relationship, to the point where in the last moments of the viewing, she thought she might actually have to break up with me.
You guys, this film is so bad it can end relationships.
But, with the cat out of the bag and my true opinion of Dreamcatcher no longer withheld, we could both embrace what we also truly love to do together: bag on stupid movies! And while the movie is mostly forgettable in its awfulness, one piece of it that is unforgettable is Donnie Wahlberg and his portrayal of the film’s developmentally disabled story catalyst Douglas “Duddits” Cavell. You guys, this is a masterwork of horrible acting. I think this is a prime example of what Robert Downy Jr’s character described as “Going full retard” in Tropic Thunder.
I’m sorry for the use of the R-word, as I normally don’t use it, but the point here still very much stands. For the role of a character with Down’s Syndrome, the filmmakers decided to cast an actor to pretend he had a developmental disability versus just simply casting an actor with that disability. And not just any actor. They cast a former dancer/singer from the boyband New Kids on the Block. And for this role, for which I’m certain Donnie thought he was going to win an Oscar, he went “full retard”. This character is played so beyond ridiculous, it’s almost to the point of feeling like it’s bullying and making fun of actual people with developmental disabilities. And while he was doing this, there were Oscar winning actors, directors, writers, producers, and crew people just allowing it to happen. Everyone just went right along with it and honestly thought to themselves that this was good.
“Duddits” has had such an impact on me that it’s actually changed my daily used vocabulary. Because of this stupid movie, and this stupid character, I no longer use the words “do it” in conjunction with each other. Now, instead of saying “You should do it”, I say “You should duddits”. Actually, it doesn’t even need “it” in the sentence to be replaced, because if I were going to say “What did you do?” I would now say “What did you duddits?”. And it’s not just me, either. My girlfriend and kids do it all of the time, too. It’s a normal word that is used probably no less than 30 times in my house per day. My daughter actually calls me “Duddits” now instead of Dad. All because of this horrible movie.
So really, even though this movie is a steaming piece of garbage, if I were on the panel for the Dreamcatcher episode of How Did This Get Made and were asked if I would recommend people watch it, the answer is “Absolutely, yes.” For so many reasons.
…reasons that include:
- A serious movie that has so many farts!
- A movie monster called a “buttweasel”!
- A character that cares more about toothpicks than not being eaten alive!
- People being bestowed with super powers and not using them for any amount of good at all, to improve their lives or the lives of anyone else!
- Morgan Freeman’s crazy goddamn eyebrows!
- Mind controlled main character inexplicably developing a british accent and laser sounds when he puts up his hood!
- A literal mind library!
- A group of friends that were “good people”, that were awarded special powers for their goodness, that then completely abandoned the person who gave them their powers. These good people talk to each other frequently and say how they’ve been thinking about that person a lot lately, to the point that the viewer just assumes he’s dead now, but later we find out that he’s totally still alive, AND he’s dying from cancer, and these “good people” never once visit him or do anything to repay the amazing gifts he’s given them, beyond them going to a cabin up north every year to drink beers and talk about how cool it was that one time that dude gave them GODDAMN SUPERPOWERS!
- Tom Sizemore being all Tom Sizemorey!
- The developmentally disabled character with a speech impediment addressing the big bad guy of the movie Mr. Gray with “Ello, ister gay”. It must have taken a lot of sound editing work to remove the entire cast and crew of the film laughing hysterically when THAT line was delivered.
But honestly, it’s really for the word “duddits” being introduced to my lexicon. It’s spreading like the parasitic aliens in the film, too, because not only do my family members now use it, but my friends also use it constantly. We’ve made a stupid meme where we send “duddits” related pictures to each other, shared on social media, that nobody else ever gets. But, maybe if you’ve seen this stupid movie and like stupid things, you’d appreciate them.
So, if you haven’t watched this film, immediately watch it. Then show it to someone you love, making them think it’s a movie you think is really good, to make them seriously reconsider being with you.