In 2003, Warner Bros. released Dreamcatcher, an adaptation of the Stephen King novel starring Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Sizemore and Donnie Wahlberg. Directed and produced by Lawrence Kasdan with screenplay by William Goldman.

What struck when I first saw Dreamcatcher was how remarkably cross-genre it was, not only did it surpass my expectations as a King adaptation, but it also went beyond the usual aliens-chase-human-chase-aliens storyline and delivered an intelligent, well thought out story which was well acted, filmed and scored. The cinematography in this movie is superb and the special effects are ingenious and very imaginative. But you may well be asking, so what the heck is this film about anyway?

After four friends perform a heroic act as children and gain psychic powers in return, they reunite every winter in Maine to hunt, drink and celebrate the special bond they share. However, this year’s reunion is ruined when a lost and disoriented hunter stumbles upon their camp mumbling about strange lights in the sky. Soon after, horrific creatures begin to emerge and a heavily armed government operative, led by the psychotic Colonel Curtis (Freeman), attempts to take over the area. Challenged to stop this alien force, the friends must confront an unparalleled horror while they take part in an all-out battle to rescue the fate of humanity.

In a nutshell, that’s pretty much what the movie is about, but there’s so much more to it that makes it a great piece of cinema. While IMBD board users might be quick to brandish something which they fail to understand and be quicker on their heels to label Morgan Freeman as “miscast”, I think Dreamcatcher is best viewed with an open mind and a willingness to follow the story and appreciate how all the events unfold and trace back to the beginning. I must admit as well, I was sceptical about the movie at first, simply because of Morgan Freeman. I thought, ok, here we go again, another movie where Freeman is a law enforcement officer, easily substituted for Tommy Lee Jones, and no doubt he is chasing somebody down, but his role here is pretty much reversed and after watching it I find it hard to picture anyone else in that role but him. Another bit of casting which struck me as a surprise was Donnie Wahlberg playing the character of Duddits who had Downs Syndrome. While watching the movie over the years I never realised it was him until just recently (today to be precise!), he plays it with such a natural ability that his performance has to be compared with Meryl Streep in Sophie Choice or Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises, it’s so fascinating to watch that you just don’t realise the actor behind it, only the character in front of you.

Like many science-fiction horror films before and after it, Dreamcatcher does follow the traditional “alien civilisation threatens the well-being of earthlings” storyline, but unlike most them, the characters who must face the forces of evil are they untypical heroes; Harry for example is on the brink of suicide when we first meet him, Jonesy is almost crippled by the road accident at the start of the film and Duddits, because of his Downs Syndrome has impaired cognitive abilities which affect his speech, movement and how he views the world. While they may also be gifted with supernatural abilities, it is their humanity and their natures as conscious beings which lead them to becoming the heroes in Dreamcatcher. For those reasons alone, Dreamcatcher is worth watching and having if you are drawn to movies which tell and show you a little bit more than your average sci-fi horrors.

The only thing it left me wondering though is how exactly the dreamcatcher relates to the story. Although one is shown briefly in one of the scenes in the cabin, and one is represented in the power that Duddits gives to Pete, it was never really discussed or expanded on. But then after pondering it for some time I realised that the dreamcatcher the title relates to it is not a physical one, but an invisible one which Duddits created when he was a child in order to keep Mr. Gray out whom he knew would come one day and who he would have seen as something like a bad dream, but then again, to have it fully explained kinda takes some of the mystery away, doesn’t it? Either way, that’s why it’s called Dreamcatcher, for all those IMDB users out there who didn’t figure it out!

Morgan Freeman … Col. Abraham Curtis
Thomas Jane … Henry
Jason Lee … Beaver
Damian Lewis … Jonesy
Timothy Olyphant … Pete
Tom Sizemore … Owen
Donnie Wahlberg … Duddits

1. In Native American tradition, the dreamcatcher is a circle made of twigs woven together in an intricate pattern which can be hung in a room. It is believed that that good dreams, which float in the night air around the dreamer, pass through the hanging web and flow down to its feathers to the sleeper beneath it. But bad dreams are caught within it and held there until the first light of morning when they perish. Keeping the dreamer safe.

2. The basic content of the movie very closely followed the original book, but the ending of the movie is drastically changed to an alien showdown. Duddits ends up morphing into an alien and engages into a duel with Mr. Gray, unlike in the book, where Jonesy apparently kills Mr. Gray while the latter is still occupying his body.

3. The Stephen King adaptations of Stand By Me (1986) and the mini-series It (1990) also featured a group of friends who had grown up together since childhood, forming a bond after an event which would shape them.

4. The alien species featured in the film, were called the “Ripleys” by Col. Curtis (Freeman), this was a reference to Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien (1979) who was called Ellen Ripley.

5. Dreamcatcher is the third film William Goldman has adapted for the screen from a Stephen King novel, the others being Hearts In Atlantis (2001) and Misery (1990).

6. This was not the first Stephen King story to feature a snow-covered landscape; previous stories such as The Shining (1980) and Misery (1990) have also shared similar icy conditions!

7. The road accident Jonesy is involved early on in the film can be viewed as semi-auto-biographical. Stephen King was involved in a similar road accident back in 1999 and it was during his recovery he wrote Dreamcatcher.

8. Very rarely do movies touch on the subject of Downs Syndrome. The IMBD database has only 19 titles collected, one of them The Seventh Sign (1988) starring Demi Moore, Michael Biehn and Jürgen Prochnow and features a character by the name of Jimmy who has Downs Syndrome and is on death row awaiting execution after killing his parents who were brother and sister. His motive was that the Devil told him to do it.

9. The song “Blue Bayou” which features throughout the film is sung by Roy Orbison who recorded it in 1963. Other movies which have also featured the song are:
Man on Fire (2004)
Last Orders (2001)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

10. Ever wondered just how many Stephen King book to film adaptations there have been? Well, the answer is a whopping 33! Here is the full list (not including short films, episodes or re-makes):
1976 – Carrie
1979 – Salem’s Lot
1980 – The Shining
1983 – Cujo
1983 – The Dead Zone
1983 – Christine
1984 – Children of the Corn
1984 – Firestarter
1985 – Silver Bullet
1986 – Maximum Overdrive
1986 – Stand By Me
1987 – A Return to Salem’s Lot
1987 – The Running Man
1989 – Pet Sematary
1990 – Graveyard Shift
1990 – Misery
1991 – Sometimes They Come Back
1992 – Sleepwalkers
1993 – The Dark Half
1993 – Needful Things
1994 – The Shawshank Redemption
1995 – The Mangler
1995 – Dolores Claiborne
1996 – Thinner
1998 – Apt Pupil
1999 – The Green Mile
1999 – The Rage: Carrie 2
2001 – Hearts in Atlantis
2003 – Dreamcatcher
2004 – Secret Window
2004 – Riding the Bullet
2007 – 1408
2007 – The Mist