In 2008, director Bruce McDonald and writer Tony Burgess teamed up to make Pontypool, whose twist on the zombie genre was highly original and influential. Now, 12 years later, with the help of writer Patrick Whistler, the duo has come up with one of the weirdest, funniest, and craziest films I’ve seen in quite some time, Dreamland.
In Luxembourg, at the nightclub Al Queda, mob boss Hercules (Henry Rollins) hires hitman Johnny (Stephen McHattie) to eliminate the competition. After Johnny does, he discovers that Hercules trafficks humans and chooses to sever ties with the corrupt, power-hungry man. However, he is tasked with cutting off the finger of a famous trumpet player (also McHattie) who forgot Hercules’s name earlier that day. The musician is playing at the wedding of The Countess’s (Juliette Lewis) brother, who is for whatever reason a vampire (Tomas Lemarquis), and one of the mafioso’s underage girls he locks away in the basement of the club.
Mind you, this is but a broad plot overview. There are child gangsters, cabaret dancers, heroin, and lots and lots of guns. Stephen McHattie hunting himself is, of course, a bit of a mindf*ck but is put together well and not as sloppily as some big-budget films which star one person as two characters. Juliette Lewis is in total over the top, bombastic, borderline scary form. Henry Rollins is hilarious as a person so utterly despicable as to sell children. But to be fair, he’s just doing it to let the competition know who’s the boss. Tomas Lemarquis is delightfully weird as a vampire who’s marrying a 14-year-old.
“…child gangsters, cabaret dancers, heroin, and lots and lots of guns.”
Delightfully weird is probably the best description of this film. Dreamland feels like Lost Highway on mushrooms. It doesn’t follow a typical trajectory, and at times you have no idea what the hell is going on, but it doesn’t matter because you’re having too much fun. The music is really exceptional, especially that of the trumpet player, which Michael White provided. The set pieces are great for this deluded fairytale, as the palace is both opulent and utterly mundane at the same time. The last twenty minutes has one of the best gunfights since The Wild Bunch.
If what I’ve said to describe this movie doesn’t make much sense, get used to it. Dreamland is very appropriately named, as it feels like we’re in either Johnny or the trumpet player’s dreams (or both, or are they the same person? It’s hard to say). The only character that seems stable is Lisa, played by Lisa Houle (also in Pontypool). She’s a bar patron who becomes a babysitter for the vampire’s bride and brother at Hercules’s behest. She attempts to help Johnny in his quest to take the kids away from Hercules, to not so fantastic results.
If you can handle a movie with a jam-packed ridiculous narrative that doesn’t entirely solve itself, then you should definitely watch Dreamland. Its Lynchian vibe and sheer audacity make it one of my favorite films I’ve seen so far this year. It’s so weird that I can’t stop thinking about it. Check it out on VOD to get your weirdo fix on.
"…delightfully weird is probably the best description of this film."