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Tom Sizemore takes aim at something wicked.

© 2003, Warner Bros.
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As four friends who share a psychic connection with one another, Jonesy (Damien Lewis, "Band Of Brothers"), Henry (Thomas Jane, "Deep Blue Sea"), Beaver (Jason Lee, "Mallrats"), and Pete (Timothy Olyphant, "Go") have retreated to their Maine cabin for a weekend of laughs and memories of their childhood together. But as the group begins to settle in, they realize that something sinister is afoot. An alien force has come to Earth, and it uses eel-like creatures, dubbed "weasels," to take over their human hosts by incubating in their stomachs, then exiting violently out their anuses. While a special alien invasion branch of the government (led by Morgan Freeman and Tom Sizemore) works around the clock to quarantine the town and find the source, the four men left alone in the cabin must find other means to combat this ever-growing presence of evil.

"Dreamcatcher" (IMDb listing) has the distinction of being the first book Stephen King wrote after the terrible incident in 1999, when he was struck, and nearly killed, by a distracted driver while out for a walk. This would explain the many instances of pivotal car accidents in the story. As channeled through writer/director Lawrence Kasdan ("The Big Chill," "Grand Canyon," and the underrated and criminally underseen "Mumford"), "Dreamcatcher" embodies all the best things about King adaptations and crams them into one single motion picture. It has the alien invasions, the childhood memories (shades of "Stand By Me"), the gifted handicapped, and the tongue-twisting wordplay, which makes it often exhausting, but a terrifically entertaining ride all the way.

Actually, this may also be the first film in history where flatulence gags are a central and integral part of the storyline. So there's something to celebrate!

You do have to find a different state of mind while watching "Dreamcatcher." Kasdan has approached the film in a stylistically and verbally heightened way. The film is directed very broadly, using elaborate and unnatural dialog, and aggressively expressive characters to lead the journey. It's a big, old-fashioned, B-level monster movie, complete with John-Wayne-loving army generals and a distinct (and welcome) lack of pretension in dealing with the appearance of the weasels. I haven't read the King novel, and I've been informed that the film's final act differs greatly from what King conjured up. Judging it solely as a movie, however, "Dreamcatcher" is riveting genre entertainment, and is well-made all around (including marvelous winter photography by John Seale). Because of King's always unique brand of the macabre, Kasdan has created a film that defies easy explanation, and run circles around what other filmmakers are doing with their overly hip attempts at sci-fi/horror.

As the main villain, the weasels are, unfortunately, a mostly computer-generated creation. However, Kasdan does have fun with their appearance, which is a cross between the "Dune" sandworms and the face huggers from "Alien." Kasdan also finds creative ways to bring King's bizarre prose to the screen. A critical movement of the film takes places directly, and quite literally, in the recesses of Jonesy's mind, which Kasdan and King imagine as this delightfully cavernous warehouse where the memories of your life are stored as dusty old files. A tricky concept, but well played here. Kasdan also sells the "gifts" of the group well, employing his knack for storytelling along with some dangerously corny CGI to keep the supernatural theme running throughout the film.

Lawrence Kasdan is not known for his forays into this genre (though he is the man who co-wrote "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Raiders Of The Lost Ark"), but for a first timer helming an otherworldly horror film, this is knockout stuff. If you can bend your mind into the rhythm of this piece, you'll find a rousing good time, and one of the best Stephen King adaptations in recent memory.

Filmfodder Grade: A

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