Viking Night: Dreamscape

By Bruce Hall

September 24, 2013

Yes, this was a real thing in a movie.

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You know what’s worse than a bad movie? A good idea that gets made into one.

Dreamscape has a lot going for it. It’s got the awesomeness of Dennis Quaid. It’s got the one-two punch of Max von Sydow and Christopher Plummer, which is like having Ian McKellan and Patrick Stuart, except they’re kind of both Ian McKellan. It’s got Norm from Cheers, Indiana Jones’ ex-girlfriend, the husband from Green Acres and all in all, a pretty cool premise: What if powerful psychics had the power to project themselves into your dreams and influence your behavior? And what if sinister forces were determined to use that power for their own spooky needs?


Personally, I think that sounds pretty sweet, but that’s because I have an active imagination. In my hands, Dreamscape would include cyborg wizards riding dinosaurs and shooting lightning at each other on top of a volcano. In the hands of director Joseph Ruben (and with an assist from two other screenwriters), it plays out closer to a live action Dean Koontz novel. That means it’s got a lot of things wrong with it, too. The story is kind of obvious, and it lurches forward in fits and starts. The musical soundtrack (by Academy Award nominee Maurice Jarre) sounds like someone gave a monkey ten minutes with a keyboard and a tape deck. And yet dreamscape has its moments, even daring to flirt with outright mediocrity from time to time.

It’s not Cool Hand Luke or Silence of the Lambs, but Alex Gardner (Dennis Quaid) gets a pretty slick intro. Once a promising psychic, he has put the academic pursuits behind him and is using his powers to make easy money betting on horses. He’s cocky and proud as he coolly watches a race go his way, the winner circled in red on the newspaper tucked under his arm as the camera sweeps in. It’s a rare early high point, and it’s designed to show you that when one can see the future, betting on horses is easy business. What’s not is avoiding one’s competition, the kind of lowlifes who’d try to make an easy buck off someone else’s cheating. I know what you’re thinking: Alex seems a lot like a regular, everyday mind-reading kid who has traded the gift of serving humanity for easy money and cheap girls.

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