31 Horror Movies in 31 Days- Dreamscape (1984)

Shortly around the time Wes Craven scrutinized our REM sleep, Joseph Rubin released his viscous, scalene hybrid Dreamscape which features some of the sloppiest matte paintings and superimpositions since the 30’s King Kong. Thankfully Dennis Quaid is purely tongue-in-cheek as Alex Gardner who is gerrymandering his psychic abilities for profiteering from horse races. With his shaggy hair and cavalier manner (certified by schizophrenic voicemail from spurned lovers), Alex is the film’s rendition of Han Solo.

It’s grey-matter espionage in the league of Inception as Alex is whisked away into slumber land. Before she was the caterwauling nuisance Willie Scott, Kate Capshaw was actually an effervescent “straight man” for the sardonic Quaid who patronizes her impotence analysis as “counting boners.” While it’s valiant that Quaid openly lampoons the film (“Who’s your decorator? Darth Vader?”), his toothless jokes don’t allay the prolonged set-up of clinical trials.

The steel worker dream atop a skyscraper is initially vertigo-inducing until Alex topples off a beam and his green-screen freefall is extremely dated. The doomsday nightmares of the President of the United States (Eddie Albert) are a contrivance to converge the two storylines but at least they’re blood-curdling visions of a nuclear wasteland. Two heavyweights like Max Von Sydow and Christopher Plummer look foolish by association with this dud.

The wide-angle lens and slow-motion jaunt adds to the oddity of a cuckolded husband’s paranoid rhapsody but the red filter blisters the retinas and Maurice Jarre’s cacophonous score is from a state carnival. The film never blurs the line between fantasy and reality. Alex and novelist Charlie’s (George Wendt) intermingling disappearance into a pep rally of cheerleaders seems so outrageously convenient that it’s unconscionable that it isn’t amidst someone’s nap. Overall, this is a botched opportunity for Freudian examination.

The assassination plot by government agent Bob Blair (Plummer) should be the prospective catalyst for Alex to join the squad but it doesn’t jut to the forefront until an hour into the runtime after a softcore Red Shoe Diaries romp between Quaid and Capshaw on a train. From disarmament negotiations to the penultimate fable, Ruben and company permit the film to be hopelessly mercurial in its whimsy.

Rating: 2 out of 5

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