PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 October, 2003, 12:00am


Starring: Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis

Director: Lawrence Kasdan

The film: The works of Stephen King have long provided a rich seam for studios to mine - all the way back to 1976's superb Carrie. He has cast a wide net too - from horror, to rites of passage, to prison drama. So it was with some excitement then that Dreamcatcher came about - combining King's natural storytelling skills with those of director Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill), and throwing the presence of acting heavyweight Morgan Freeman (right) into the bargain.

The story - as it appears on paper anyway - is full of promise. A group of friends with extraordinary powers, given to them by a special little boy they save from bullies, finds themselves caught up in an alien invasion. And they must not only battle wits with the creepy crawlies from beyond, but with the menace threatened by the maverick military leader Colonel Curtis (Freeman). With the substantial clout of the Warner studio behind them, the filmmakers were also able to go hog-wild with the special effects. So where do things start to fall apart?

First, while on paper the story is full of promise, transferred to the big screen it becomes a convoluted mess. None of this is helped by the distinct lack of any real suspence - things simply just happen. Then there is the cast. Freeman here seems a million miles from his memorable collaboration with King in The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Maybe he has been blinded by the dollar signs flashing before his eyes, but this is a case of someone going through the motions. And the fact that the alien beings are as frightening as an earthworm makes you snigger instead of scream.

The talented Jason Lee (Chasing Amy, 1997) is wasted in a minor role and just what Damien Lewis was thinking is anyone's guess. As the 'possessed' Jonesy, he curiously changes nationality, from American to 18th century English nobleman.

The extras: The original ending is including along with a selection of deleted scenes. None of these make the film any more coherent, or lend weight to any theory that the filmmakers were anything but lost during production. Best of all is a documentary with King, which sheds some degree of light on the horror master and the workings of his mind.

The verdict: Great entertainment. But for all the wrong reasons.