Dreamkatcher (Movie Review)

A dreamcatcher is meant to ward off evil and hold on to the good inside its delicate hoop, but other similar creations are not so benevolent. Radha Mitchell and Lin Shaye star in the Horror-Thriller Dreamkatcher, which arrives to DVD, Digital, and On Demand on Tuesday, April 28th, 2020, thanks to Lionsgate.

With only the best intentions, Luke (Henry Thomas: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 1982, The Haunting of Hill House series) brings his young son Josh (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong: The Kindness of Strangers 2019, The Banana Splits Movie 2019), along with his girlfriend, child psychotherapist Gail (Mitchell: Silent Hill 2006, The Shack 2017), for a much-needed respite in the woods. Before he’s even out of the car, the haunted little jackrabbit is hearing voices.

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Then it gets worse. Just as dad disappears back to the city for work, Josh begins having horrific nightmares of his dead mother (Jules Willcox: Chicago P.D. series, Bloodline series). Gail does her very best to be understanding as his behavior seems to grow increasingly erratic, and one day while out hiking, a chance encounter with a kindly woman named Miss Ruth (Shaye: Insidious 2010, Gothic Harvest 2019) opens up a whole new world. A purveyor of spiritual bits and bobbles, along with homemade goods, Ruth is attuned to the supernatural and she warns Joshy that the spirits linger in the woods.

Quick to find protection in a discarded dreamcatcher, the grieving young man and his family will soon learn that nothing is ever as simple as hanging a spirit trap above your bed. There’s a mysterious aura to this rural area, one that possesses a disturbing history of death and it’s beginning to circle the cabin.

Clocking in at 85 minutes, Dreamkatcher is a feature-length debut for the talented Kerry Harris (Grip and Electric series, :Dryvrs series), and was written by Harris with Dan V. Shea (Tic(k) short 2003, Imperium 2016). The movie also features the talents of Actor-Composer Joseph Bishara (The Conjuring 2013, Insidious: The Last Key 2018), as the night hag.

A tense opening sequence sets the mood for the Horror-Thriller Dreamkatcher, which places a spin on the idea of possession and night terrors. Though this is certainly not the most ground-breaking tale, the film has more than enough to offer to make the time spent watching worthwhile. Not the least of which is the wonderful cinematography by George Wieser (Regina Spektor: Bleeding Heart video short 2016, We Only Know So Much 2018) that often accentuates the grandeur of the natural landscape, and is aided by the gorgeous aerial sequence at the start of the film that was shot by J. Christian Ingvordsen (The Stuff 1985, A Return to Salem’s Lot 1987).

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Couple this with a splendidly artistic and quirky cabin in the woods of Bovina, New York, and an eerily lovely original score by Joseph Bishara (who also stars as the nightmarish visitor), and you have a film that, while not especially scary, certainly offers enough to keep viewers intrigued. It does this by blending a multitude of Horror elements, from hatchet-slashing to possession, with thrills and chills, as well as some severed fingers.

Delivering the story to the screen, the cast do an excellent job in their roles, particularly the adorable Wojtak-Hissong as Josh. Riding high off the coattails of his main role in 2019’s truly bizarre The Banana Splits Movie, the young actor picks up where he left off and offers up a phenomenally eerie performance here. Managing to provide nuance to his character, Wojtak-Hissong is equal parts lovable, spooky, and deadly as he portrays a young man who has lost his mother and is desperate to have her back.

His chemistry with both Mitchell and Shaye is perfect, making their interactions feel organic. There’s a push and pull between Wojtak-Hissong and Mitchell as they work through the kinks in their relationships, and both deliver a wholly believable portrayal of these events (minus the possession). Mitchell’s Gail is the type of city slicker who finds the peace of the country to be unnerving, and who feels that her textbook knowledge of child psychology makes her able to handle a child on her own. She is suitably stiff in the beginning, uncertain of her place in Josh’s life, but as the story unravels the little boy breaks down walls and enters her heart.

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In her latest role, Shaye shows that she is meant to tackle a family-friendly film next. Working closely alongside Wojtak-Hissong, she is a natural with a tenderness to her interactions with her young co-star, a grandmotherly figure who is soft-spoken and yet deeply haunted by supernatural events of the past. In this, she always keeps one foot in the Horror genre that adores her, and yet she also flexes her diverse abilities to show that, yes, this lady can do anything. Sadly, talented Thomas has significantly less screen time, and his Luke is not going to win any Father of the Year awards. (When your son is manifesting latent violent tendencies, not sure that teaching him how to use a hatchet should be first on your list, Elliott!)

The only snafu of the entire film is the lead-in to Shaye’s major moment on screen, which feels too rushed and too random without a proper build-up. Otherwise, this is an enjoyable ride that is easy to digest and will appeal to a wide array of both Horror and Thriller fans. Not too bloody and certainly not frightening, Dreamkatcher is creepiness that you can imbibe safely with the lights off. For this, Cryptic Rock gives the film 3.5 of 5 stars. Oh, and keep watching after the first set of credits!


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