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In Dreams

review by Ren C.

Rated R

Studio: Dreamworks

Running Time: 100 minutes

Starring Annette Bening, Robert Downey Jr., Aidan Quinn

Written by Bari Wood, Bruce Robinson and Neil Jordan

Directed by Neil Jordan

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: Theatrical Trailer, Production Notes

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1, English 2.0 Dolby Digital, English Subtitles, Chapter Search

"I see bad people." Despite being released a year before "The Sixth Sense", this was the thought in my head as I watched "In Dreams". The movie is set up with an interesting plot and an above average cast, and somehow manages to waste both of them. The basic plot revolves around Claire Cooper, an illustrator who is plagued with bad dreams. This is a problem that many people have, but Claire's are different, her dreams become reality. Despite this, Claire lives a normal, almost idyllic life with her husband Paul (Quinn), and daughter Rebecca.


Things take a turn for the worse however, when Claire starts receiving "clues" through her dreams connected to the disappearance of a young girl in the community. The dreams start to get worse and worse, and finally Paul goes to the police to enlighten them. Sadly, it is too late, as the body of the young girl has been found. The dreams don't stop however, and they soon get much closer to home. Claire shares a very special connection with the kidnapper-his crimes are forecast through her dreams...and her family is very soon affected.


The night of a school play, Rebecca is abducted, and Claire has a vision of Rebecca's death, which all too quickly is proven true. Claire is so overcome with grief that she attempts to take her own life as well, and goes into a coma for six weeks. When she comes out of it, she continues to have dreams, although by this point the dreams have become "visions" that can strike at any time. The question now is, is there really a connection between Claire and the man who has been dubbed Red (Downey), or is Claire slowly going insane. More importantly, can the answer be determined before the rest of Claire's family is affected?


On the surface, this sounds like a quite engaging and interesting plot. However, the way in which it is executed is confusing and at times, mind-boggling. There are several holes in the plot that a truck could be driven through, and the movie quickly goes from compelling to confusing. Artistically, the movie also seems very muddled. Several of the scenes are done in near-total darkness, for reasons that escape me.


Another major problem I had with the movie was the lack of character development. We are dropped right into the middle of the situation, with no explanation of who the characters are, or why Claire is having these particular dreams starting now. More light is shed on this later in the movie, but it makes for a very confusing first half-hour. The actors also seem to be on cruise control throughout the movie, although Bening makes a valid effort, and Downey, for some reason does his best Anthony Perkins in portraying Red. It is disappointing that what could have been an inventive and original movie instead turns into a second-rate thriller.


The transfer here has some very interesting contrasts. While many of the scenes are either too dark, or overly lit, those were cinematography choices, and not faults of the transfer. As such, the transfer can hardly be blamed, although there were a few instances where the actors had a slightly "circus peanut-y" hue to them. I also noticed a few stray specks on the transfer, but aside from that, the transfer is fairly good.

I was less than impressed with the Dolby Digital track here. The audio track throughout seemed to be mixed very low, with dialogue especially suffering at some points. There were a few instances in the movie where the dialogue was almost drowned out by the sound of footsteps on the stairs. I enjoy and appreciate the work that Foley artists do on movies, but not quite to the extent where I want the effects to be the most powerful thing on the track.

Yawn. "In Dreams" practically defines bare bones, with the only supplements being the absolute minimum of cast and crew biographies, production notes, and a fairly underwhelming theatrical trailer.

To reiterate, this movie had a lot of potential, but all it managed to do with it was produce something that would fit easier within the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series than a credible drama or thriller. The audio and video are nothing spectacular, and features are nearly nonexistent. Recommendation to avoid.

(1.5/5, NOT included in final score)




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