Saturday, February 13, 2010

Psychic madman stalks innocent family

In Dreams (1999)
Starring: Annette Bening, Aiden Quinn, Paul Guilfoyle, Stephen Rea, Katie Sagona and Robert Downey, Jr.
Director: Neil Jordan
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Claire (Bening) finds herself connected psychically to a madman (Downey) who starts targeting her family for reasons only he understands. Will she able to convince anyone that she isn't crazy before he kills everyone she loves, including Claire herself?

"In Dreams" is an interesting supernatural thriller where the film takes its time revealing whether the main character is psychic, telepathically linked with a serial killer, or just plain crazy. That aspect of the film is very well done. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is dragged down by over-acting and poorly developed story elements.

Take for example the psychiatrist that plays a key role in getting Claire committed to a mental hospital. It's one thing to for him to do so initially, but why does it take him and the orderlies a couple of days to notice the carvings on the wall of Claire's cell, carvings that she could not have made? Well... no reason other than some time needed to pass for plot reasons. And it really is too much of a coincidence that Claire just happened to be placed in the same cell that her "psychic twin" had inhabited a decade or so earlier.

Too much of the movie's story relies on such far-feteched coincidences to be fully effective. If just a little more care and effort had been put into the script and if Annette Bening had dailed back the histronics and melodrama just a tad, this could have been an excellent little chiller. It's still entertaining--Robert Downey, Jr. makes a great madman and his final fate is one that will cause most viewers to chuckle evilly to themselves--but there are too many moments where the attentive viewer will be annoyed by the sloppy story. (Actually, even the ending, which I am fond of, is a bit underdeveloped.)

This flawed film is worth checking out if you notice it showing on TV, but it's not worth going out of your way for. It has some great and creepy moments and it has a neat ending, but those aren't enough to save it.

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