Back in the days of VHS, one of Dreamscape’s releases on the format had a cover that suggested a knockabout Indiana Jones-style action movie was contained within. In actuality, what you get is a sci-fi flick with some horror and humour mixed in. Released the same year as the original A Nightmare on Elm Street it’s another film about dreams and how they can be invaded and manipulated. Instead of slasher horror what we get here is The Dead Zone by way of Spielberg (if he was working on a seriously reduced budget). Dreamscape wasn’t a hit when it first came out but like many had a second life on home video and this new release offers an opportunity to reappraise another minor cult classic.
Dennis Quaid plays Alex, a young man with a psychic gift. For 10 years he’s been using it to his own advantage, both with the ladies and making money through ‘gambling’ (not really that when you know the outcome). Reconnecting with an old mentor in von Sydow, he’s made the classic offer he can’t refuse to become part of a programme that sends people with abilities into the dreams of others. Despite his natural inclination to steer clear of authority, Alex starts to discover he could really do some good with his gift. But ominous warnings from George Wendt’s King-like author, and the sinister machinations of government man Christopher Plummer and his psychotic psychic stooge David Patrick Kelly suggest Alex would do better to get out while he can.
Dreamscape’s relative failure at the box office was a shame, as it’s a strong science fiction thriller with a great concept. Quaid is a born movie star with effortless charisma and his likeable hero is ably supported by the cast, including Kate Capshaw (here allowed to give a performance instead of the extended scream-fit of the same year's Temple of Doom). Director Ruben keeps things moving along at a brisk pace. Some of the set piece special effects are pretty basic but it lends them a charm now that they would have lacked when it first came out. In these days of conspiracy thrillers and Inception-style big idea films it could really do with a remake. Overall though, it’s a clever little flick that would undoubtedly have benefited from a bigger budget to really let the dream ideas take off, but still entertains.
Fans of the film are well-served by this release and should certainly pick this up. There’s an interview with Quaid, a retrospective documentary, a commentary and some other decent extras, as well as a recent scan of the film that generally cleans it up well. Warmly recommended.
DREAMSCAPE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOSEPH RUBEN / SCREENPLAY: DAVID LOUGHERY, CHUCK RUSSELL, JOSEPH RUBEN / STARRING: DENNIS QUAID, MAX VON SYDOW, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER / RELEASE DATE: 31ST JULY