A psychic, Alex Gardner (Dennis Quaid, Breaking Away), reluctantly joins a secret government project about dream manipulation. But Alex soon finds out that the project is part of devilish plot to kill the President of the United States.
Reaction & Thoughts:
There were two movies in 1984 with similar themes that I enjoyed: Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and Dreamscape. The former has gone on to achieve even greater notoriety, while the latter has been unfairly pushed by the wayside. I loved Dreamscape as a kid, and I still think it’s a fine fantasy movie. The film is a pretty good mash-up of genres — it has a touch of Indian Jones, a bit of Stephen King, a pinch of Twilight Zone, even a nip of Hitchcock.
The script is credited to David Loughery (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier), Joseph Ruben (he also directed the movie) and Chuck Russell (interestingly, Russell would later work on A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors). In its more infirm moments, the story resorts to predictable twists (the Freudian picturizations could have been sharper). But the film’s deliberate cheekiness is appealing — Dreamscape winks at the audience to let us know that it’s fully aware of its clichés.
The visual and make-up effects are awesome. By the time the movie was made, the film industry was beginning to move away from practical effects, relying more and more on computer-generated images. Dreamscape refused to embrace new technological advances, canoodling with classic techniques instead. We get a little bit of everything: stop-motion animation, matte paintings, blue-screen process, etc. The images might hurt the eyes of younger viewers accustomed to modern CGI work, but I’m sure older viewers will enjoy the old-school work.
Maurice Jarre’s (Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago) electronic music score is excellent too. It was interesting to see an old master embrace the then popular electronic music (the music sounds very much like Tangerine Dream).
The film has a nice cast. It’s surprising to see such a group of fine actors in what amounts to an expensive B-movie. Dennis Quaid has a twinkle in his eye that’s irresistible. Kate Capshaw (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) is Quaid’s love interest. Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music) is wonderfully sneery as a sinister government official. David Patrick Kelly (The Warriors) is scary as an evil psychic. Max Von Sydow (The Exorcist) is sturdy as a brilliant scientist. George Wendt (Normie, TV’s Cheers) plays a reporter. Eddie Albert (Roman Holiday) plays The President.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Dreamscape has cool ideas, nice visuals and a solid cast of talented actors. The plot moves swiftly to a satisfactory conclusion. Dreamscape also perfectly captures the anxieties of the Reagan era — USSR’s occupation of Afghanistan sent us into a panic attack! In this regard, the film offers modern viewers a snapshot of the USA in the 1980s. Color, 99 minutes, Rated PG-13.