In Dreams

While it’s never boring to look at, director Neil Jordan’s “In Dreams” is so silly you want to bitch slap those involved. Pompous, overblown and overacted, “In Dreams” is a psycho-thriller that never manages to thrill.


indreamsInstead, one is left scratching their head, wondering why someone as talented as Jordan (“Interview with a Vampire,” “The Crying Game,” “The Butcher Boy“) would even agree to direct such drivel. Even worse, it’s painful to watch the somewhat talented cast chew scenery faster than production designer Nigel Phelps can throw it up. “In Dreams” isn’t an exercise in terror, it’s an exercise in futility.

Annette Bening stars as Claire Cooper, mother and daughter, who lives a quiet existence in a picture perfect New England town. Aidan Quinn plays her husband Paul, who can’t understand the violent dreams that Claire is having. Claire doesn’t understand them at first, but eventually realizes that she’s psychically connected to a serial killer who uses her dreams to show off his handy work.

Everyone thinks Claire is nuts, and she begins to suspect that he is as well until the killer kidnaps and kills her daughter. When she tries to commit suicide, Claire winds up in a mental hospital, where she baffles the doctors in general and her personal psychiatrist, Dr. Silverman (Jordan favorite Stephen Rae) specifically. They can’t understand her nightmares, which always end with a real victim. When her husband is murdered by the killer, Claire decides to find the killer. His name is Vivian (Robert Downey Jr., still looking he’s ready to crash land), and when he was a little boy, his mother tried to kill. How and why we won’t get into, because it’s so extremely silly, and is nothing more than a plot device to film in an underwater ghost town.

It seems Vivian wants to create the perfect family, and has chosen Claire and another little girl to be his. At least he’s not making a prom dress out of their skin. The screenplay by Bruce Robinson and Jordan is filled with all sorts of plot holes and outrageous lapses of logic. Things happen only to help advance the plot, regardless of how insipid they seem. Characters are asked to do and say things that make them look and sound stupid. Poor Annette Bening. She begins the film on a psycho scale of ten and has nowhere to go from there.

Instead, she’s forced to scream and shout a lot while make-up runs down her cheeks. Aidan Quinn is only along for the ride because they needed a name to kill in the second act, while Robert Downey Jr. is so over the top he’s almost in another movie. The film looks great (a Jordan trademark), largely thanks to Darius Khondji’s dreamy photography. Elliot Goldenthal’s musical score seems to suggest more suspense than the film delivers. Apples figure prominently in “In Dreams,” but this wannabe thriller was definitely not the apple of my eye.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Director of photography Darius Khondji used numerous filters and extreme lighting to create a dream-like effect, and all survive intact on this stunning 1.85:1 widescreen transfer (enhanced at 16:9). Some of the colors are so warm you can feel their heat radiating from the television set. The images are sharp and vivid, with full color saturation that never fades or bleeds. Flesh tones are lifelike when they are allowed to be (color filters turn the skin tones yellow, etc.), while the blacks are uniformly strong and impenetrable. Whites and shadows are also clean, obviously the sign of a pristine negative used during the transfer. No obvious compression artifacts or pixelation. Depth of field was excellent, with strong attention to detail. I thought some scenes would break up, but they held their ground.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Intense 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack is constantly in your face. The basses are strong and memorable, while the middle and high ends are so clean they sound live. The stereo effects are creepier than the movie, with great left to right split. The front to rear spatial separation keeps the action coming at you, even when you don’t really care. Dialogue mix is excellent. Surround effects and ambient noise are noticeable throughout, while Elliot Goldenthal’s musical score sounds crisp. No hiss or distortion.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor

Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

If there is one thing Dreamworks does well, it is their animated main and scene access menus. The ones created for “In Dreams” are actually more disturbing than the film. The animators use an apple as their clicker of choice. The menus look like the credits in “Seven.” Nice collection of productions notes and cast & crew bios and filmographies, plus the film’s original theatrical trailer.

PROGNOSIS: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

Hey, I didn’t particularly like “In Dreams,” but if it is your bag, you will be pleased with the effort that went into making this DVD look and sound terrific.

VITALS: $29.99/Rated R/100 Minutes/Color/21 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#84665

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: IN DREAMS

BIRTH DATE: 1999

HMO: Dreamworks Home Video



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