2020 movie, not to be confused with the 2003 Stephen King adaptation, which I have reviewed here. Also, dreamkatchers are not to be confused with dreamcatchers–here’s the difference, according to a title card: a dreamkatcher is “a misshapen wooden hoop asymmetrically looped with blackened string, decorated with feathers and beads, believed to hold evil. Its origins are ancient and unknown…” Child psychologist Gail (Radha Mitchell) conveniently is dating Luke (Henry Thomas), a guy whose young son Josh (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) is traumatized by the recent death of his mother Becky (Jules Willcox), which is exacerbated by the three of them moving into her house. Turns out she was axe-murdered by a little boy after he came across one of those evil dreamkatchers because…reasons? The boy’s grandmother Ruth (Lin Shaye) has hidden the katcher safely in her barn, until Josh comes and steals it, which leads to him being possessed as well. Can Gail psychology him out of it?
If you’re thinking that perhaps a movie about white white whities playing with dreamcatchers (pardon me, dreamkatchers, totally different thing) is cultural appropriation, don’t worry, it’s totes not. Ruth runs a cute lil shop that specializes in spirit catchers and doodads. When Gail fingers a feathery, stereotypically Native American-looking object and states, “Some people might find this offensive,” Ruth counters that she appropriates items from all cultures, so it’s okay.
The movie had many of the cliches I’ve come to expect from mainstream horror: stuff moving by itself, whispering voices, the old character-appears-behind-an-open-refrigerator-door-and-is-suddenly-revealed-when-another-character-closes-it jump scare, dream sequences (including my very least favorite, the double dream sequence, when a character wakes up from a dream to find out that they’re in a second dream). Thankfully, the bathtub scene that appears exactly three and a half minutes into the movie doesn’t involve the character being startled or displaying full frontal nudity. But there is one extremely satisfying segment: Ruth busts into the house and confronts Josh with his theft of the dreamkatcher; she urges Gail to burn it, and wonder of wonders, she just tosses the thing right on a fire. Unfortunately, it’s indestructible and no one bothers to check that it actually burned up, but still, I think that’s the first time ever someone immediately followed orders to burn an evil artifact.
I was bored a lot of the time. The filmmakers tend to rely on the plot points of a possessed kid and a kid haunted by his dead mom to be scary, things which are horrifying in theory, but not in this movie. Mostly we have things like twigs snapping, Gail waking up to multiple pictures of Becky around her, and Becky appearing in Josh’s dreams, but for the most part looking like her normal self. The characters are pretty unremarkable, and it feels like they spend an inordinate amount of time yelling about their situation rather than doing anything about it. It’s rated R, I guess for the subject matter of a kid hacking people to bits and a couple uses of the f-word. But otherwise it has a majorly tame, PG-13 feel.
I wasn’t holding out much hope for this movie. I grabbed it from Redbox along with Uncut Gems for the sole reason that it was a freshly-released horror movie. Gems is a tough act to follow. Even its reference to The Exorcist is better than the one in this movie, when possessed Josh acts like Regan in her calm, talky mood. The first few minutes are confusing, and the cover, with some rando kid on it, is not helpful. On the plus side for James Wan-iverse fans, frequent collaborator Joseph Bishara has a cameo as a “Night Hag,” and he also scores the film. Check it out if you’re in the mood for something not too scary or original or thought-provoking.