It’s murder on the dance floor in new horror Dreamcatcher, which sees visual development producer Jacob Johnston making his feature length debut in both screenwriting and directing. The film’s tagline, “Get ready for a killer night out” sums up the premise of this slasher quite accurately. A group of friends attend a 10 hour underground EDM (electronic dance music) event, however there’s a masked killer on the loose and they’re impersonating the DJ. After a traumatic encounter involving the headliner of the event, DJ Dreamcatcher, the group become the masked killer’s newest targets.
This really is a fun idea and whilst fans of the slasher genre will recognise its unoriginality, namely the threat of a masked killer plus a unique setting, it remains a concept with a lot of potential thanks to this particular setting being an underused example for the genre. The popularity of slasher films like these has been proven to be very much still alive in recent years with the likes of Christopher Landon’s Happy Death Day series and David Gordon Green’s much celebrated Halloween sequel. However, despite its exciting premise, Dreamcatcher ends up being nothing more than cinematic nightmare fuel. Not because it’s scary, but because it’s of such a poor quality.
Dreamcatcher does start with some promise though. An early murder introduces us to the masked killer, who wears the same headgear that DJ Dreamcatcher does. This is a fun idea and mirrors many real life DJs and artists who also dawn masks for their performances, such as Deadmau5, Marshmello and of course the just recently disbanded Daft Punk *pause for tears*.
Between the killer’s mask and the protective rain jacket they wear, their image ends up not far off Patrick Bateman-meets-Ghostface, and the Scream similarities don’t stop there. Johnston’s love of 90’s ensemble horror films continues to be clear as we meet two of the film’s main characters. We’re introduced to Pierce (Niki Koss) and Jake (Zachary Gordon) sitting on a sofa watching a scary movie, they discuss the genre tropes and the homage to Wes Craven’s classic films is less than subtle. However, the director’s love for this genre is evident and after the gory demise of the film’s first victim, this may fill audiences with hope for the rest of the film. Although where this hope will swiftly die is when the characters arrive at the EDM event, Cataclysm.
It’s here where any plausibility quickly fades from the production, with this supposedly popular EDM event feeling more reminiscent of a year 8 school disco than a must-attend rave to end all raves. Far more convincing set and costume designs are needed in this setting and definitely more extras as well. The film gets away with this in a few of the montage sequences but when audiences are left with characters and their conversations, the unconvincing setting and a few glow sticks simply won’t cut it and will take viewers straight out of the illusion.
It’s also in these moments where audiences will discover just how dull the character drama is going to be. Instead of delivering on the horror action which is seen in the film’s opening scene Dreamcatcher draws out this tedious and uninteresting drama between its characters in a spectacularly boring way. The only entertainment comes from the odd line of dialogue which is so ridiculously over-the-top and unrealistic that it becomes funny. As a result, the cast truly suffer, failing to make any kind of memorable impact with their performances. The only exception to this is Adrienne Wilkinson who plays Josephine, DJ Dreamcatcher’s agent. She plays an executive bitch and is the closest to fun that any of the cast or any aspect of the narrative manages to achieve. Her campness is the only thing viewers will be able to cling to, giving the briefest of relief from an otherwise lifeless roster of characters and a concept wasted beyond belief.
Dreamcatcher has ninety-minute running time written all over it, but chooses to stretch its already severely-lacking story out for an extra 20 minutes. This is an oversight which should have been caught in the edit, as with this unnecessary elongation chopped, Dreamcatcher might have got away with more. Instead the film chooses to overcomplicate its premise and drag it out for much longer than anyone will want to endure it.
Admittedly Johnston’s past experience in working with visuals, which he has done on several Marvel films, does help to create some alluring aesthetics. There are several sequences of trippy visuals that match the setting and subjects relevant to the film, but these moments never further the plot or really enhance the final product. As a whole the film doesn’t look awful either, there are certainly films that have as poor a narrative and character work as this that look a hell of a lot worse. So it’s maybe somewhat admirable that the film consistently looks better than what the story makes you think it should.
Even long before the lights come on and the last track has played, Dreamcatcher feels like a devastatingly disappointing drop after a promising beat that you thought was building to something far more satisfying. Other than its potentially riotously entertaining premise and the enjoyable bitchiness of Wilkinson’s performance there’s little to enjoy here. So while it might be murder on the dance floor Dreamcatcher is also at serious risk of killing your vibes.
Samuel Goldwyn Films will release DREAMCATCHER On Digital and On Demand March 5, 2021.