Runtime: 85 minute
Director: Kerry Harris
Writer: Dan V. Shea
Stars: Radha Mitchell, Henry Thomas, Lin Shaye
By Mique Watson
Luke (Henry Thomas), a widower and his new girlfriend, Gail (who happens to be a child psychologist), retreat to a–pause for groans–cabin in the woods! They’re accompanied by his traumatized son, Josh. A cabin which, by the way, was the final resting place of his late wife, Becky (Jules Willcox)–whose murder he has hidden from both Gail and Josh. As far as they’re concerned, she had drowned in the lake; the film, however, opens up with her being brutally axed to death. What could possibly go wrong?
Despite her profession, Gail (Radha Mitchell) is surprised to learn that Josh, a child, has a mind of his own! He loiters out and steals a talisman from the resident kook of a neighbour, Ruth (the always-fantastic Lin Shaye). The scariest thing about this preposterous film is, perhaps, that brilliant women like Radha Mitchell and horror legend Lin Shaye serve as its executive producers.
Poor Radha Mitchell does her best to depict an intelligent, albeit frustrated woman genuinely trying to be a mother figure to a traumatized child. “We’re all characters in our own dreams,” she says in response to Josh suffering from recurring nightmares about his deceased mother. Even more horrific is how Luke outright refuses Gail’s professional advice when she suggests that Josh ought to be in therapy.
“The scariest thing about this preposterous film is, perhaps, that brilliant women like Radha Mitchell and horror legend Lin Shaye serve as its executive producers.”
These suggestions go ignored by Luke; he proceeds to gaslight her. Yes, you heard that right–Luke scoffs at Gail’s professional advice and tries to convince her into thinking she’s the one with the hang-ups. Even when Josh–seemingly out of nowhere–starts behaving like one of the sociopathic Bughuul-possessed kids in “Sinister”, Luke still responds with “kids pull pranks all the time”. Not one single interaction here between humans rings true. None of this is helped by a setup that is so phoney and trite. You can walk out of this film after 15 minutes, make up what you think happened, and be assured that there is an infinitesimal chance that you wouldn’t be right.
So Luke leaves for some work thing, as such, Gail and Josh are left alone. For obvious reasons, things begin to go awry–so awry that one could assume this is because of something supernatural. And for quite a while, the film does tease you with the possibility that it could be a study on trauma, territory, and biological attachment…until it throws all of that, along with basic coherence, out of the window.
“Director Kerry Harris doesn’t particularly define himself as a force to be reckoned with: the cinematography is flat, the colour-grading is obvious, and the picture–to put it bluntly–looks cheap.”
There is absolutely nothing ambiguous here; and as such, all chances of provocation are rendered banal. Everything you’re seeing on-screen is presented as a literal sequence of events; it’s all surface and no subtext. Mitchell and Shay deliver captivating performances, but Thomas (an actor who I normally find to be quite reliable–I loved him in Netflix’s “Haunting of Hill House”) is absolutely terrible here; seeing them play off one another is hilarious.
Even from a technical perspective, “Dreamkatcher” is just terrible. Director Kerry Harris doesn’t particularly define himself as a force to be reckoned with: the cinematography is flat, the colour-grading is obvious, and the picture–to put it bluntly–looks cheap. As it happens, “Dreamkatcher”–despite the promise of a new filmmaker and a wonderful cast–is a bizarre series of speculative elements… until it isn’t. Just when the story begins to get somewhat intriguing, the screenplay by Harris and Dan V. Shea attempts, again, to be vague. Except by then, it’s just groan-inducing.