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Released: 15th August 1984

Director: Joseph Ruben

Stars: Dennis Quaid, Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer

Certificate: 15

Reviewer: Ryan Gelley
Before I begin to worship at the altar of Dreamscape, a relevant quote from director John Landis (American Werewolf In London:( “Interestingly enough ‘Inception‘ which is wonderful, is not original. There have been a lot of movies like it; remember ‘Dreamscape?’ Oh that’s bad special effects but almost the same movie. It’s Dennis Quaid and Edward Albert is the president of the United States and they insert him into his dreams”

The premise of Dreamscape is very similar to that of Inception. I posit thatDreamscape is the more entertaining of the two films, and certainly more deserving of the descriptor “original”, having been released 26 years beforeNolan‘s “masterpiece”. The story: a select few have discovered a way to enter and influence others’ dreams. Soon, sinister forces begin to use this ability to commit unseen crimes within the minds of others. Freddy Krueger, also introduced to the world in 1984, had a similar MO, using his demonic powers to gain access to dreams. Mr. Nolan, you are a great director, just not the singular genius many Inception fans made you out to be. It’s been done before.

The cast of Dreamscape is perfect. Dennis Quaid plays Alex, a psychic who uses his gift to pick up women and gamble. His performance of the aloof yet principled Alex provides more charisma in one shit-eating grin than the entire cast of the

overly serious, austere Inception. Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, and Eddie Albert are also predictably terrific. It is David Patrick Kelly who gives my favorite performance in Dreamscape, though, playing Tommy Ray Glatman, Alex’s dream-rival. Kelly plays the ultimate douchebag, scattering menacing, knowing glances like candy from a burst drama-pinata. He would go on to star in David Lynch‘s Twin Peaks as the deranged baguette-scarfing Jerry Horne, another memorable and scummy performance. If you take away the awesome science-fiction premise of Dreamscape , you are still left with a talented cast working off a fine script, and performing some inspired dialogue:

Jane: Well, one of our areas of research is sexual dysfunction. If a man is experiencing impotency, we can determine whether the cause is physical or psychological by monitoring his sleep. Alex: Mm-hmm. How’s that? Jane: Well, if it isn’t physical, he’ll experience three or four erections during the course of the night. Alex: Mm, I see. So, Jane, what you do here, in effect, is count boners.

This is a movie about entering dreams, so there are some special effects to consider. A large amount of the rear-projection and green-screen work does not look real, but is somehow charming. The iffy-looking effects in Dreamscapecan be justified by its setting, though. If this is a dream, of course it looks fake! As a Harryhausen/Willis O’Brien fan, the appearance of an 8 feet tall stop-motion SnakeMan in the dream-world pushed my geek-buttons harder than a folding street ever could. If you, like me, prefer practical effects over digital, & engaging performances over bombastic spectacle, you should be a fan ofDreamscape.

Dreamscape has an excellent cast and delightfully retro FX, but it is also quite scary. The scenes that take place within the President’s dreams are familiar to anyone who dreamt at all in the Cold War 1980s. They are post-apocalyptic red nightmares, like the depiction of Hell in 2005′s Constantine, only without the spindly, eyeless demons. The dream-train filled with grasping zombie-like fallout victims gave me nightmares for months.

Dreamscape is an entertaining, frightening and fun sci-fi horror film. It is also where 50% of the praise for Inception should have gone.

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