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Semi-spoiler note: some aspects of the plot and characters are discussed but no surprises given away
2001 novel by Stephen King, involving ESP and little green men. It contains common themes as from previous King works: friendship, fanatics, heroes, horror, and an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario. It reads "okay" (as opposed to an "on the edge of your seat").

Among the main characters, there are no real surprises (although you might be disappointed that the author seems to keep them a little bit short of their full potential plot-wise).

Stephen King used many of his good-old techniques: dreams of the past, songs...and there are some plot/character similarities to Firestarter.

Overall, I found this to be about middle-of-the-road for King. Not among his greatest, not among his worst. It would make a great action/sci-fi movie, and King even has an excellent suggestion for one of the characters inside of the book.

620 pages...this includes a prologue and epilogue.

Stephen King should put William Goldman in his will.

Many of you probably know Goldman better as the novelist and screenwriter behind The Princess Bride. This is his third turn at adapting King's work for the big screen; he previously wrote the screenplays for Misery and Hearts in Atlantis (he also did uncredited fixer work on Dolores Claiborne). This time out, he's done a master's job of turning a fairly messy, bloated, hard-to-follow novel about four psychically-awakened friends encountering an alien invasion in the snowy woods of Maine into a lean, suspenseful screenplay that crackles with wicked dialog. He's deepened the story and added elements that vastly improve upon the source material, namely the characters of Captain Owen Underhill (Tom Sizemore) and Colonel Abraham Kurtz (Morgan Freeman), and Jonesy's memory warehouse.

Goldman should get an Oscar nomination for his work here.

But he won't.

The reason he won't get an Academy nod is the same reason that many of you out there really won't enjoy this film: it's got some of the nastiest sequences I've seen in any horror film. Really, stomach-churningly nasty. If you are the least bit squeamish, there's a scene in here that will make you want to avoid bathrooms for a solid month.

I have two words for you: shit weasels. If you think you might not want to know what a shit weasel is, you're probably right. If the idea of killer alien eels crawling out of people's butts is overwhelmingly vile to you, you probably won't be able to get past it enough to appreciate the film for its many merits.

Having said all that, if you're a horror movie fan and not easily squicked, check this movie out. I personally enjoyed it from start to finish. The excellent writing aside, it's uniformly well acted, from Morgan Freeman's truly scary colonel to Jason Lee as the goofy Beaver to Donnie Wahlberg as a psychically powerful retarded man.

The direction is sharp, and the cinematography and effects are top-notch; the film looks amazing.

It's enough to make you want to go read the book.

 

Movie Info

Running time: 136 minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: March 17, 2003

Director: Lawrence Kasdan

Screenwriters: William Goldman and Lawrence Kasdan

Cinematography: John Seale

Cast:

Morgan Freeman: Colonel Abraham Kurtz
Thomas Jane: Dr. Henry Devlin
Jason Lee: Joe 'Beaver' Clarendon
Damian Lewis: Gary 'Jonesy' Jones
Tom Sizemore: Captain Owen Underhill
Timothy Olyphant: Pete Moore
Donnie Wahlberg: Douglas 'Duddits' Cavell

I thought the movie adaptation of Stephen King's Dreamcatcher was remarkable; the photography, acting, pacing, direction, special effects, all of it was absolutely first-rate (Morgan Freeman, cast against type, is brilliant and frightening as hell).

But the real triumph of the film is the script. Goldman (with Lawrence Kasdan) have performed a miracle in the adaptation.

He and Kasdan did to the book what should have been done to it in the editing phase, and the result is a script that takes an ungodly amount of disparate elements (which, for me, in the book, never succeeded in coming together) and merges them into a cohesive, intelligent whole.

And I knew it was going to tank at the box office. It demands that the audience pay attention to every little thing going on. The first 45 minutes alone of this movie should be put on the roster for film school students.

If any of you X-Files or King fans didn't see this movie in the theaters, check it out on DVD, but be sure to get the widescreen version because it just doesn't look as good in pan-and-scan fullscreen.

The DVD features are decent, but not unusual. It includes four deleted scenes that I thought were pretty good, plus a joke deleted scene and the original ending. It also offers a production documentary, a special effects documentary, and an interview with King.

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