In Dreams Movie Review

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This year's first cold body buried in the cinematic graveyardof late January is "In Dreams," a high-rent horror flick masqueradingas an entry in that more prestigious genre, the Psychological Thriller(a la "Silence of the Lambs").

Co-written and directed by Neil Jordan ("The CryingGame," "The Butcher Boy") and based on a Bari Wood novelcalled "Doll's Eyes," it is little more than a somebody-stole-my-babyversion of "A Nightmare on Elm Street," with a cast of honorablebut affordable players to lend it the veneer of credibility. One of thosetear-at-your-heart, pump-your-adrenaline stories designed to compel youto watch when you'd rather turn away, it's about a grieving mother (AnnetteBening) with an unexplained psychic connection with the whack job (RobertDowney, Jr.) that murdered her little girl.

Maybe I've become a softy, but I'm not at all clear whyanyone would want to pay $8 to watch something this purposeless and deliberatelyunpleasant. In this case, however, my discomfort is beside the point. "InDreams" uses its semi-pedigree players -- Bening, Downey and Jordanregular Stephen Rea as a shrink -- to masque its heart of abject and sordidshock-value.

Jordan employs art-house versions of B-movie techniques(lunging, hand-held cinematography; shadowy, fish-eye-lensed dream sequences;flashlight beams bobbing through a misty forest) and inspires a habituallyadmirable performance from Bening as she teeters on the brink of madnesswhile her mind is invaded by murderous nightmares that soon come true.

But no matter how much money is thrown at "In Dreams"by way of casting and darkly copious production design, it doesn't changethe fact that this story turns on shameless emotional extortion.

It's hard to watch this movie without wondering how itfound its way to the big screen instead of turning up on USA Network withVirginia Madsen and Rob Lowe in the leads.

What the filmmakers in this emerging genre of disturbinglyrealistic horror (e.g. "Kiss the Girls") fail to realize is that serialkillers are only entertaining as caricatures (Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger)or disturbed geniuses (Hannibal Lecter). Otherwise, they're just the samesickos we see on the nightly news, devoid of any allure outside the documentaryrealm and the purulent interest of lowest-common denominator TV drama.

That such respected players attached themselves to thisproject did nothing to elevate it beyond this very base appeal and onlyserves to make them look as if they're in need of new agents.

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In Dreams Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: R, Friday, January 15, 1999

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