Year 7, Day 302 - 10/29/15 - Movie #2,187
BEFORE: I've spent a few Octobers catching up on the horror films based on the books of Stephen King, but this one seemed to slip through the cracks. Last year I did some clean-up work with "Cujo", "Cat's Eye", and "Pet Sematary", but I wasn't done. And even after I watch this one, I still won't be done - even if I disallow miniseries based on his work, like "The Stand" and "The Tommyknockers", that still leaves "Salem's Lot", "Creepshow", "Graveyard Shift", "The Mist" and "Children of the Corn". Well, there's always next year, I'd at least like to get to "Salem's Lot", put that together with "The Lost Boys" (another vampire film) and maybe I've got the start of next October's chain.
Linking from "Body Snatchers", Terry Kinney was also in "Devil in a Blue Dress" with Tom Sizemore (last seen in "Play It to the Bone"). Other linkings are possible, but that one seems to be the most prominent.
THE PLOT: Friends on a camping trip discover that the town they're vacationing near is being plagued by parasitic aliens from outer space.
AFTER: That plotline doesn't really do this film justice, because this story is somewhat complicated. But interestingly, and this might be a result of watching too many horror films in a row, I saw a lot of repeated themes from other films I programmed this month. Yes, this is somewhat intentional and perhaps even ideal, but not at this level - this makes me start to wonder if every horror film is just a mishmash of tropes and themes taken from other films. Here we've got a crashed alien spaceship (as in "The Thing") with aliens that can take over human hosts ("The Thing", "Body Snatchers") and replicate themselves in all kinds of ways ("Gremlins" and "The Thing" again) and in some forms the aliens look like eels, or little worms that hatch from eggs ("Eraserhead") and sometimes they look like vaginas with teeth (yet again, "The Thing"). Then there's military involvement ("Body Snatchers") and a quarantined zone ("28 Days Later"). Plus the action all takes place in a winter scene and there's an anti-bullying statement ("Let the Right One In") - jeez, it's like old home week.
Not just that, but this film also sort of feels like a mishmash of other Stephen King storylines. The flashbacks to when the heroes were kids are reminiscent of both "Stand By Me" and "It", and some of the characters seem to have psychic powers, like in "Carrie" and "Hearts in Atlantis". I'm sure there are more connections, but I suppose that after writing so many novels, it's only natural that such a prolific writer in this genre would find the need to repeat certain themes.
Anyway, let's consider this story. If we take the flashback scenes first (which I wish this film had done, there really was no reason to withhold all that information for so long), then the story really begins with four childhood friends, who defend a mentally handicapped boy who's being tormented by older high-school kids. (I try to avoid the use of the "R" word, even though I grew up using it, and it seemed like an OK word at the time. Now I just save it for describing really dumb films.) This kid Douglas (or "Duddits") is more than he seems, since he gifts the four friends with various telepathic powers. Umm, I think. It's a little unclear.
The "why" of it all seems to be connected to the alien invasion 25 or so years later. The implication may be that Duddits gave the kids powers so that when they grew up, they'd be prepared to battle the aliens. But how did he know that the aliens were coming, and how did he know that these four kids (now men) would be in the proper position to do anything about it? Also, I'm not sure what this says about mentally handicapped people, if one of them is like a precog and has some kind of transferrable psychic abilities, I'm not sure if that's disrespectful to people with that condition.
There's also a problem similar to "Body Snatchers", in that there are so many main characters, there's not really much for each of them to do, or really any way to distinguish among the four. I take that back, one of them gets to do some interesting acting, but only after he gets corrupted. He gets to indulge in one of those Gollum-like split personality acting sequences, fighting with himself inside his own mind, or something like that. The inside of his mind is depicted as a library-like storehouse for his memories, and he has the ability to file memories away in certain places, to protect them from being read by others.
I've got a few NITPICK POINTS, such as wondering why one character was involved in a car accident, because this didn't seem to add anything to the story. This story was written around the time that Stephen King was hit by a van, so there's an obvious reason for this plot point being there, but I didn't see how this character being hit by a car brought about the result of bringing the four men in contact with the aliens. Maybe if he hadn't been injured, they would have gone camping 6 months earlier, which would have been at the wrong time? Again, this needed some more clarity.
I'm also unclear on the meaning of the title - obviously there was a dreamcatcher hanging in the cabin, and in one scene the kids make dreamcatchers with Duddits, but then they said that "Duddits was our dreamcatcher". What did this mean? The kid with Down Syndrome somehow filtered out bad dreams, keeping them away from our heroes? He was their friend, sure, and he gave them powers, but I don't see how that's similar to the function of the Native American craft object.
Also starring Thomas Jane (last seen in "The Thin Red Line"), Jason Lee (last seen in "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked"), Timothy Olyphant (last seen in "This Is Where I Leave You"), Damian Lewis (last seen in "Your Highness"), Morgan Freeman (last seen in "Amistad"), Donnie Wahlberg (last seen in "Zookeeper"), Joel Palmer, Giacomo Baessato, Reece Thompson, Mikey Holekamp, Andrew Robb, Michael O'Neill (last seen in "Dallas Buyers Club"), Eric Keenkeyside, C. Ernst Harth.
RATING: 5 out of 10 toothpicks