As one character explains five minutes into Dreamcatcher while watching a horror marathon, the whole point of torture porn is to make one squirm. I don’t think this film falls under that category, and sadly, it doesn’t seem to be part of any category. That in itself, isn’t a bad thing. Some of the best films upend their genres to deliver something thrilling. Here, I didn’t find much that was thrilling. I was more likely to squirm just from a surreal sense of boredom.
After a nice opening kill, two sisters convince others to attend Cataclysm, an underground electric music festival. The younger sister Pierce (Niki Koss) leaves the group to flirt with a musician and ends up doing drugs that put her in a hallucinatory state. One thing I can give a thumbs up on is the awkward and endearing conversations between Pierce and her childhood friend Jake (Zachary Gordon). She knows he has a crush on her, but he is enduring, sometimes patiently, and sometimes jealousy, as he tries to appease her by going to the concert and stepping outside his comfort-zone. Their friendship is palpable.
What I had gathered from the movie up until this point was that writer/director Jacob Johnston had wanted to explore the power of various emotions such as lust and friendship while playing through the motions of a slasher. It seemed like a fun idea. Pierce’s trance is well-orchestrated with the pulsing music of the club and intercut scenes of peace and despair.
And then another death occurs. The musician’s agent arrives, saying to a grieving group that they will receive compensation and the body will be disposed of. If they report the death, they face consequences. “I have ruined more lives than Mitch McConnell,” she brags. Somehow I doubt that, but moving on. The grieving friends are told they need to come back to the festival the next night to collect their money. Satire is meant to be at the center of this and there’s a lot of lengthy dialogue that could’ve been effective, had it been trimmed, spruced, and sped up when appropriate.
Budget issues are probably to blame for a lot of the film’s low points. It’s as if all of the mayhem has been put in slow motion. So many scenes are intercut with dancers gyrating to strobes and music like a scene from Skins and only a few of them serve a discernible purpose aside from filling dead space. The effectiveness wears off like a magic trick we’ve seen before. When the remaining kids return to the concert for a second night, a series of lower-class attacks begin and the film stumbles to reach a conclusion. After the first important death, I really felt like the survivor’s would be protective of one another returning the very next night.
One of the films' clear influences is Scream. You can tell by the dialogue and the knife-happy atmosphere. With Scream, one could guess the killer(s) and still enjoy the ride to get there. Here, it sadly feels like a chore.
I can feel the gears turning on this film but they don’t appear to be working toward the same goal. There’s a killer in a unique mask and plenty of kills, but the film itself is stuck between a fever dream and slasher. I think Johnston has some ideas worth developing, but they aren’t proudly on display here.
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