Dreamkatcher (2020) – movie review

Dreamkatcher. Image credit: Courtesy of IMDb Dreamkatcher. Image credit: Courtesy of IMDb

In case you’re wondering about the title: no, I didn’t misspell it, because Dreamkatcher refers to “a misshapen wooden hoop asymmetrically looped with blackened string, decorated with feathers and beads, believed to hold evil”. Yet, as the title card of the movie suggests, “its origins are ancient and unknown…

As you can imagine, Dreamkatcher is a supernatural horror movie, co-written and directed by first-timer Kerry Harris, and starring a very respectable bunch of actors: Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill), Lin Shaye (Insidious), Henry Thomas (Hill House, Doctor Sleep,Gerald’s Game…), as well as composer and character actor Joseph Bishara (Annabelle and The Conjuring movies). Dreamkatcher is available on digital and on DVD since April 27th.

Continue reading and check my final grade below…


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My review is also available on IMDb – Dreamkatcher (2020)

Check out the official list of 2020 horror films I’ve watched

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Dreamkatcher – plot and clichés

The story of Dreamkatcher might sound very familiar… and that’s because it really is. In fact, this movie reuses plot points and story bits we’ve seen countless times in supernatural horror flicks that came out throughout the last 15-20 years. Mother (Mitchell), father (Thomas) and son (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, from The Banana Splits horror movie) move to an isolated house in the middle of a forest, where the kid starts having terrible nightmares that keep him and his mom awake. In order to stop his bad dreams, Josh steals a dreamcatcher from a mysterious neighbour (Shaye) forcing his family to rescue him from an evil, nightmarish entity.

Aside from the story itself, Dreamkatcher is comprised of clichés and conveniences to move the plot forward. We have the typical cabin in the woods, the dad character who’s absent and detached, a character dumping exposition and knowing everything about the supernatural element, a series of fake and cheap jump-scares, a “spooky” backstory and so on. Worst of all, we get a never-ending stream of dream sequences, including a double-dream-sequence just like that awful scene in Nic Cage’s The Wicker Man. A movie that features a similar scene to one of the worst horror flicks made in recent years can simply not be taken seriously.

Tropey characters and recognisable faces

Although the aforementioned elements are extreme clichés to begin with, the most formulaic and generic aspect of Dreamkatcher is the characters. I already mentioned how the father figure, played by Henry Thomas, is just absent, sceptical and generally unlikeable; Ruth (Shaye) pops up on screen every now and again to blatantly tell the other characters (and, thus, the audience) the rules of the evil entity. It’s clear, to me, that Lin Shaye was on set for one or two days just to collect her paycheque and say her lines in the most unenthused way. Radha Mitchell’s character has more material to work with, but most of it is still incredibly generic and dull: she’s afraid of Josh, she seeks help but can’t find it, and so on.

As a result of such poor character writing and non-existent development, the acting is overall dull and laughably bad. Aside from Radha Mitchell, who tries her best even with the atrocious dialogue she had to deliver, everyone else in the movie pulls off very weak and bland performances. I don’t blame any of the actors, as all of them proved themselves many times before: unfortunately, they had nothing to work with and, probably, Kerry Harris’ forte isn’t directing performers… this is particularly dreadful when it comes to Finlay Wojtak-Hissong’s acting. He’s supposed to carry many scenes but, due to his unconvincing performance, all those scenes came off as ridiculous and unintentionally funny. Due to his pivotal role towards the end of Dreamkatcher, the ending really felt poorly done and thrown in.

Decent filmmaking and creepy imagery

Despite the absurdly high number of clichés, Dreamkatcher features a few quality elements and, surprisingly, some really creepy and violent moments. First of all, this movie has good production values: it’s an indie horror flick, probably made with a very low budget, but it still looks good and polished in terms of locations and setting.

What’s quite impressive – in comparison to the subpar level of everything else – is that Dreamkatcher has some great visuals and camera work. The filmmaking, here, has personality, which helps making certain scenes quite creepy: in some of the more eventful moments of the movie, Dreamkatcher avoids jump-scares and relies on nightmarish imagery and great lighting, making for some genuinely scary bits. The movie is, also, rated R: this allows for some violent and graphic moments that, while not great, are still a nice change of pace.

Conclusions

Overall, just like the recently reviewed Behind You, Dreamkatcher feels like a wasted opportunity: it had all the ingredients to be a good, creative and original indie horror film, but it decided to become a dull, uninspired and middle-of-the-road possession flick. Between bad performances, awful characters and formulaic story and scares, Dreamkatcher fails at delivering in most departments. The lame ending, unfortunately, is likely to disappoint even those of you who enjoy this kind of uninspired horror flicks.

However, the visuals, a few unsettling imagery and Radha Mitchell’s performance save Dreamkatcher from being a complete and utter waste of time and money. If this is enough for you to decide to watch this film, then go ahead. If not, please avoid Dreamkatcher.

Rating 4

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