Though an accomplished and often underrated horror writer, Stephen King has always had a problem with excess, particularly in his books' third acts, when his hyperbolic prose style bubbles over into something close to apocalyptic. But the word "excess" doesn't even begin to describe the breathtaking insanity of Lawrence Kasdan's Dreamcatcher, an instant bad-cinema classic that attempts to stuff a career's worth of King material (among other sources) into one unwieldy package. Based on King's 2001 novel, the story concerns four boyhood friends ("The Body," a.k.a. Stand By Me) who have extrasensory perception (The Dead Zone) and are predestined to join forces in a battle royal (It) against alien creatures (The Tommyknockers) that infect the blood like a plague (The Stand). There's no better example of the film's crazed logic than the aliens themselves, which have a life cycle that evokes Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Alien, a touch of The Ghoulies, and a gross-out Farrelly brothers comedy. Intent on world domination, the head alien–who calls himself "Mr. Gray," speaks in a British accent for some reason, and looks like E.T. with elephantiasis–has the ability to transform into bloody mist and possess certain people. His deadly minions, colorfully referred to here as "assweasels," are borne from human hosts who are infected by a worm virus, suffer a colossal bout of flatulence, and then birth the monsters from their backsides. These "assweasels," in turn, produce new viruses by laying eggs, and it only takes one worm to spread the sickness like a plague over land and sea. The fate of humanity rests with four psychic friends (Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, and Timothy Olyphant) who convene in a Maine cabin for their annual weekend get-together. As the forest comes alive with grisly activity, a covert military operation quarantines the area, led by Morgan Freeman, an officer who has been intrepidly fighting aliens for 25 years. (In the film's most uproarious monologue, Freeman hails the lifestyle he's defending: "They drive Chevys, they shop at Wal-Mart, and they never miss an episode of Friends. These are Americans.") New to the horror game, the blood-curdling Baby Boomer movies The Big Chill and Grand Canyon notwithstanding, Kasdan handles the introductions with smooth craft and intrigue, but once the ludicrous story gets set in motion, he follows King straight off the cliff. Perhaps due to the talent of everyone involved, Dreamcatcher moves with an oddly exhilarating awfulness that sets it apart from more run-of-the-mill horror films, which lack the imagination and budget to be so thoroughly misconceived. How many other films could recall Scooby-Doo, Apocalypse Now, a disease-of-the-week movie, and Japanese animation within the space of five minutes, and still have plenty of bad ideas to spare?
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