Synopsis: A masked killer terrorizes a disc jockey and a group of friends at a drug-fueled underground music festival.
Stars: Niki Koss, Zachary Gordon, Travis Burns, Blaine Kern III, Olivia Sui, Emrhys Cooper, Elizabeth Posey, Nazanin Mandi, Adrienne Wilkinson, Lou Ferrigno Jr.
Director: Jacob Johnston
Running Length: 108 minutes
TMMM Score: (2/10)
Review: You can’t even blame Scream at this point for any masked killer movie that has a cast of young know-it-alls that fall prey to a knife-wielding psycho. After that blockbuster 1996 film arrived, giving the teen slashers a nice jolt of electricity, countless other copycats attempted to emulate screenwriter Kevin Williamson’s finely tuned dialogue and clever skewering of (aside from unfortunate victims) the tenets of the horror genre. Few came close and over time the competition began to cannibalize itself so that each film started to become its own parody. Now that we’re past the small peak of remakes and reboots, it appears the slasher film is on the rise again and aside from a few recent winners such as Hunter Hunter and The Stylist most have been decidedly thumbs down.
You can add the dank and dreary Dreamcatcher to the rubbish bin of also-ran Scream wannabes, an unfortunate fate to be sure in light of a director that comes armed with an impressive resume as a visual artist and at least three performances that hint at the kind of fun I think everyone was going for. Alas, everyone is let down by writer/director Jacob Johnston’s confounding screenplay that changes the rules at whim and has so much eye-rolling dialogue you should watch the film with your head titled back just in case yours fall out unexpectedly.
While it kicks off with a nasty bit of prologue business, dispatching a character you’ll wish stuck around longer when you see who else winds up making it until the end, things are torpedoed quickly in the very next scene between friends Jake (Zachary Gordon, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) and Pierce (Niki Kloss, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) as they enjoy a movie night in. Long-time pals that moved into the friend zone quicker than Jake would have liked, their discussion sounds like the malarky written to make people sound like they have a point of view, though not like anything a human being actually says. It’s phony baloney and it instantly takes you out of the scene, making you think about the actors going through the motions rather than establishing their characters.
Soon joined by Pierce’s sister Ivy (Elizabeth Posey) and her friend Brecken (Emrhys Cooper), both in town for a visit and looking for a night out, the four wind up at an exclusive party where DJ Dremcatcher (Travis Burns) is appearing. Now, I guess it’s still a big deal to hear what tunes a DJ is playing because let me tell you, Pierce flips her lid when she hears DJ Dreamcatcher is going to be there. This all sets up how she winds up going backstage before his show where something, um, unfortunate happens, setting into motion 24 hours of mayhem for Pierce and her friends. As they struggle to keep a secret they shouldn’t remotely be holding back from telling in the first place, they become the target for a omnipresent figure in a creepy mask that manages to turn up at the most inopportune times to, y’know, kill them and stuff. If only they’d kill them before they had a chance to get through more of Johnston’s crushingly terrible dialogue.
Sensing a straightforward killer film isn’t enough to satisfy experienced genre fans, Johnston resorts to a late breaking twist surrounding the final reveal that’s so dopey you’ll wish he had kept going with the stale take he’d been running with up until then. This is all assuming you’re even paying attention by that point after all the yapping throughout the overlong run time. Dragging itself through 108 very long minutes, the movie only finds a pulse when Adrienne Wilkinson is onscreen as Josephine, DJ Dreamcatcher’s scheming agent. Finding the right balance in delivering Johnston’s campy one-liner takedowns of Pierce and her friends or any number of guests at a launch party, Wilkinson could have taken the part up five more notches and pushed the acting over the top, but she wisely keeps it low-key and makes the role much more memorable. It’s always better to play the villain when there’s someone else worse running amok and Wilkinson pretty much walks away with the movie. There’s also some good energy to be found from Olivia Sui as, you guessed it, another female that enjoys making life difficult for those around her. I’m not sure what this says about the movie, Johnston, or myself but the best acting in the movie and the most appealing performers just happen to be those that have some snap to them.
The rest of the cast, including a specially credited Lou Ferrigno Jr. who after watching the movie I still couldn’t pick out in a line-up if you paid me, are mostly forgettable and likely will want you to forget they were in this too. I mean, would you want to be Posey in a few years when she’s the star on some streaming show having Jimmy Fallon playing the clip where she’s somberly reciting Shakespeare and then recounting the time she played Lady Macbeth while her sister played one of the witches…all in the middle of an evening when her friends are dying around her? She’s trying not to burst out crying while we’re stifling a laugh. It’s just one example of several moments in Johnston’s screenplay where things are played so deadly serious it comes off as comedy instead.
With a huge list of credits on the visual design side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’d have thought Johnston’s film would at least have some flair to it but it’s not even interesting to look at. There aren’t any unique camera tricks or impressively rendered sequences, even a Marvel movie that is largely using worlds created by CGI has some sense of its surroundings. Dreamcatcher doesn’t even bother to establish time or place. It’s a jumbled mess of a movie.