Dreamscape (1984) – Joseph Ruben

Dennis Quaid, Kate Capshaw, Eddie Albert, Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow, George Wendt and David Patrick Kelly (has this guy ever played a good guy?!) star in Ruben’s 1984 psychic thriller, Dreamscape. Quaid is Alex Gardner, a psychic who has been using his gifts for his own benefit, but gets recruited by Paul Novotny (von Sydow) and Jane DeVries (Capshaw) to take part in an experiment that will allow Alex to project himself into the mind of a dreamer.

Overseeing the project is Bob Blair (Plummer), a close ally of the President (Albert) who is having horrifying nightmares about a nuclear apocalypse. To ease the dreams, he is going to reach out the the Soviets about a disarmament treaty, something Blair refuses to allow.

Blair has his own psychic in Novotny’s project, Tommy Ray Glatman (Kelly), and he is not only psychic but psychotic, and for Blair he’ll serve as a dream assassin…

There’s some interesting dream sequences, especially the nightmare sequence that Alex finds himself in when attempting to help a young boy, Buddy (Cory Yothers) deal with his night terrors. It also provides Tommy Ray with an opportunity to learn what really scares Alex.

Of course, there’s a bif of romantic chemistry between Jane and Alex, and Quaid’s winning smile and charm is constantly on display in response to it. But it’s the story that I really find entertaining. Who doesn’t love the idea of being able to slip into other people’s dreams, and the powers and abilities one can have only in their dream life?

The film moves along at a good pace, though I feel the film could have been expanded to allow for more character development and dream exploration. It’s such fun subject matter that it should have been explored a little more indepth.

And speaking of characters, George Wendt plays Charlie Prince a thinly veiled Stephen King, a horror author, who is working on a new novel about dreams and assassins… which brings him into close quarters with Alex, and ultimately Blair’s men.

The dream sequences see a combination of a number of different special effects (including some wonderful stop-motion for the snake-man) and it’s great seeing all these different effects being married together. And the cast is incredibly solid, with some high profile names bringing the story to life. I mean you add in names like Plummer and von Sydow, the project gains a whole new level of credibility.

I remember seeing this film when it hit video, I missed the theatrical release, and was immediately taken in by the story, and the concept, and so wanted to explore other films like that – unfortunately, it’s a limited genre. That being said, the film could have been both more action oriented and horrific. You know, if they had a bigger budget.

Still, this one is a film that I remember fondly, and like revisiting every now and again (though I could do without Maurice Jarre’s synth soundtrack).

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