DREAMSCAPE (directed by Joseph Ruben) is one of those weird films that has no business actually working, yet somehow does quite successfully. A perfect fit for Alamo Drafthouse, “Weird Wednesday” series. Released originally in 1984, DREAMSCAPE is one part paranormal science, one part government conspiracy, one part cloak and dagger (thanks oddly enough to Cheers star George Wendt), and a dash of romance thriller. With seemingly so much going on, it would not be surprising if it all produced a mess. But the success of this film is in no small part due to a plot that knows how to weave into and out of its various themes, and a cast of actors who create believable performances, out of unbelievable situations.
Following a down and out- and semi on the run- psychic, formally employed by the US government (played by Dennis Quaid) we are introduced to a slightly subversively paranormal world from our own. One where mysterious, all powerful government men (played by Christopher Plummer) want to use psychic research to solve a little problem he has with the sitting US President (played by Eddie Albert). One where science fiction writers play part time covert sleuths in government conspiracy theories. And one where love can even be found between scientist and human lab rat in the murkiest of university laboratory basements. The one lighthouse in this plot is Dennis Quaid who grounds the motivations of all the other characters, with the simplicity of his own- which is being as lazy and lustful as possible. Playing the “straight man” in the bizarre complex world swirling around him, we are navigated through this story by his altering participation and refusal to contribute to any grand plans- where his involvement is crucial for everyone else in the film.
Ultimately its the dream sequences in this film which highlight the quality of production in the form of a “cinematic stress test”. Instead of coming across as laughably ridiculous (which they easily could) we find set design in the form of morphed dimensions, slanted windows, and misplaced doors that capture the terror of navigating a dreamscape with the conscious mind. Certainly there is a lot about this film thats recycled, yet the final product, and the skill of knitting all these various parts together make for something unique, and worth losing a night of sleep for.
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