At 32 years young, Jacob Johnston has accumulated quite the impressive resume, having worked in the Visual Development department on pretty much every other Marvel film out there, starting with Thor. One would think he must have learned a thing or two during his time on these gargantuan sets, watching A-list directors orchestrate epic, organized chaos. Judging by his feature directorial debut, Dreamcatcher, he sadly did not.
Let me take a stab at recounting the plot (it’s bound to be sharper/cut deeper than the multiple ones inflicted by its masked killer). After a young woman with a tendency of speaking to herself gets her head brutally bashed in, the film introduces its plethora of protagonists. There’s the anguished Jake (Zachary Gordon), in love with his best friend, Pierce (Niki Koss). There’s Ivy (Elizabeth Posey), who has been Brecken’s (Emrhys Cooper) emotional support since they were children. There’s the hunky Dylan, also known as DJ Dreamcatcher (Travis Burns). There’s the arguably hunkier Hunter (Blaine Kern III), and his girlfriend, Raye (Olivia Sui)… I’ll stop here, for the list goes on, my friends.
They all group together, ravin’ and trippin’ at a shoddy EDM party. The DJ happens to be wearing – wait for it – the same mask as the killer. After an indulgently extended build-up, wherein not much happens, one of the characters inexplicably stabs herself in the neck with a knife, to the drugged shock of her besties. In what I assume was an attempt to avoid a run-of-the-mill slasher flick, something I wish to God he’d stuck with, Johnston complicates his narrative with a bold look behind the EDM curtain at the evil agents and managers – amongst them, the hunkiest one of all, Colton (Lou Ferrigno Jr.). One by one, our heroes get offed to the sound of crunchy rave beats when they’re not being blackmailed or waxing philosophical about deep matters like human suffering.
“…ravin’ and trippin’ at a shoddy EDM party…our heroes get offed…”
Dreamcatcher is an assault on the senses, and not in a good way, like, say, Gaspar Noe’s oeuvre. Watching the multiple, nonsensical, seizure-inducing sequences, set to bottom-of-the-barrel, thunderous EDM and homemade melodramatic beats feels like being smacked in the head repeatedly by a blaring subwoofer. The so-called “insane” EDM parties look like poorly staged high school dances – something the characters acknowledge, in an attempt to be self-referential, I guess. The film would have functioned better as a parody, but alas, it’s as serious as cancer when it says rhythm is a dancer.
If that’s not enough to deafen the viewer, Johnston’s stilted, inconsequential dialogue is there to finish the job. After a while, even lines like, “We won’t be bullied by your industry tactics,” stop being fun and become redundant. Still, here’s a few choice examples: “Can I just be 21? Can I just be completely incapable of emotional commitment to internalized self-loathing?” “Hold on, Erin Brockovich. We’re not going to trial. We’re going to settle here.” “I’m not a dog, so don’t treat me like a bitch.” “No one has the power to measure someone’s pain. That’s one of the flaws of humanity.” My favorite exchange, however, must be the following repartee: “I’m Raye.” “Like the gun?” “No. Like the sun.”
The cast struggles to make the aforementioned pearls of wisdom sound believable. Amongst the deluge of characters, not a single one is relatable or pursues any sort of recognizable ambition or short-term goal. All these young dimwits want to do is pursue their primal desires – fu*k and do drugs – and no amount of pseudo-philosophizing can embellish that.
The entire enterprise is ludicrous, protracted, and patience-testing. Dreamcatcher sort of harkens back to cheesy 1990s Kevin Williamson fare, without the production values, game actors, wit, or most crucially, scares. You’ll be too busy being annoyed at the headache-inducing incomprehensibility of it all to be frightened. Perhaps Johnston should stick to developing visuals for glossy Hollywood blockbusters.
"…harkens back to cheesy 1990s Kevin Williamson fare, without the production values, game actors, wit, or most crucially, scares."