Dreamscape review

Banana Rating: 2 out of 5

High concept movies always seem to come in twos. And sure enough, in 1984, about three months before A Night­mare on Elm Street was released, Dream­s­cape emerged. Two movies, both deal­ing with the pos­sib­il­ity of hav­ing your dreams invaded and messed around with, both of them sug­gest­ing that the old wives tale of “You die in your dream, you die in real life!” was a ter­ri­fy­ing reality.

Den­nis Quaid, bring­ing his cocky Han Solo and Jack Nich­olson wolfish grin combo to the table, is a young and gif­ted psychic who’s gone off the grid, using his tal­ents to pre­dict win­ners at the racetrack. Not long after, he’s unwill­ingly pulled back into the research lab by his old mentor, Max von Sydow, to help out with a new gov­ern­ment fun­ded psychic research pro­ject involving dreams.

Of course, he doesn’t remain unwill­ing for long, espe­cially when he spies an oppor­tun­ity to jump the bones of under­rated hot­tie of the time, Kate Cap­shaw, in her own dream. That sounds worse than it is. But don’t worry, Kate secretly has the hots for him any­way, and the bonk­ing is totally con­sen­sual, and in soft focus. On a train. It’s dead classy.

I remem­ber see­ing Dream­s­cape back in the day, and think­ing it was pretty good. How­ever, it hasn’t aged well at all. The spe­cial FX by today’s stand­ards look awful, with ropey back pro­jec­tion, and badly anim­ated stop motion mon­sters. The plain old rub­ber mon­sters look even sil­lier. One psychic ends up men­tally scarred. It’s never made clear whether it’s the hor­ror of the mon­ster itself that’s made him cata­tonic, or the dis­be­lief that his act­ing career has brought him to this time and place.

It’s not that there isn’t some fun to be had from the story. There is. David Patrick Kelly, great in The War­ri­ors (“War­ri­ors, come out to plaaayy!”) and Com­mando (“This place used to be good for hunt­ing slash!”), trots out another one of his amus­ing, over­con­fid­ent, irre­deem­able scum­bag char­ac­ters. He’s a psychic in dir­ect com­pet­i­tion with Den­nis Quaid. Or so he likes to think.

Max von Sydow, and Chris­topher Plum­mer as a slimy gov­ern­ment big shot, give the film a much needed boost of grav­itas. When Von Sydow talks of psych­ic­ally invad­ing another person’s dream, he makes it sound all sci­en­cey and believable.

Dream­s­cape is a film where the ideas are cool and full of poten­tial, but the exe­cu­tion is some­how lack­ing. The cli­matic battle doesn’t quite deliver on its prom­ise, with the pacing and cam­er­a­work feel­ing pedestrian.

Hon­estly? It’s cry­ing out for a remake. How­ever, Hol­ly­wood has a habit of rework­ing films that are already good, play­ing it safe on ones that don’t need an over­haul. Instead, I wish they’d grab a hold of this one, refine the story, improve the spe­cial FX, and knock out a film that’s a good rival to the likes of Incep­tion. A fun, less earn­est, coun­ter­point to Chris­topher Nolan’s mind bender.