Saturday, December 10, 2016

DREAMSCAPE (1984) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Duration: 99 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Joseph Rubin
Cast: Christopher Plummer, Kate Capshaw, Eddie Albert, David Patrick Kelly, George Wendt

Alex Gardner (Dennis Quaid, Innerspace) is a psychic-wunderkind who at the age of nineteen was a participant in a scientific research project headed Dr. Paul Novotny (Max Von Sydow, The Exorcist) until he dropped out and disappeared. Now in his twenties he seems to have been using his psychic-gift to win at the horse track. Thinking about it now, I am unsure how that works, being a psychic is one thing, but knowing the outcome of a horse race in sounds more like clairvoyance to me, but whatever, I'll agree not to over-think it, and just go with it.  

Anyway, Alex ends up running afoul of a local thug named Snead (Redmond Gleeson) and his pair of henchmen who want in on his track-action. In an effort to avoid them he accepts an invitation by is former mentor Dr. Novotny to participate in a brand new research program, one now funded by a dark arm of the U.S. government, embodied by the cold-menace Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer, Murder By Decree). The new program is designed to allow gifted psychics to link minds with sleeping patients who have been experiencing sleep disorders, such as horrific nightmares. The combination of psychic powers and science enables the psychics to become part of the dream and to help them address the root cause of the problem. Alex doesn't seem that keen to join in on the program but is smitten by the attractive scientist Dr. Jane DeVries (Kate Capshaw), and the alternative involves being beat to a pulp by the thugs. Devries and Alex have good chemistry together, there's a spark but she keep a professional distance from him, for a while any, until the dream-rape, but we'll get to that. 

The dream sequences are pretty creepy, hyper realistic and surreal, some are downright frightening, some are silly, such as a middle-aged man suffering from a fear that his wife is cheating on him. When Alex enters his dream the two sneak into the couple's home and find the too-hot-for-him wife cheating on him with his own brother, and under the bed they find more men still, including the stereotypical 80s Japanese gardener complete with a groan-inducing Japanese music cue, ugh, the 80s.

Alex befriends a young boy at the institute who is suffering from horrific nightmares so intense that when another psychic entered his dreams to help he was stricken catatonic, we learn that dreams have real life and death consequences, if you die in your dreams you die in reality, an idea that A Nightmare On Elm Street, which released just a few months after this hit the cinema, would explore even further. Feeling confident of his dream-link prowess Alex volunteers to enter the boys dreams, and whoa nelly is it horrific, a snake headed man that was pure nightmare fuel to me as a kid, it still has some intrinsic fright about it even now. Alex and the kid barely make it out of the dream intact, but Alex does help him, and he next takes aim at entering the the dreams of sexy Dr. DeVries. Inside her mind he seduces her in what amounts to a bit of dream-rape, even though it's not actually rape, he did enter her dreams without her permission, which is a bit weird but not too weird for PG-13, oh the eighties, I miss you. 

At some point Alex makes a brief acquaintance of a book writer named Charlie Prince (George Wendt) at a local bar, the author warns him that Blair is using the research center to create an army of dream assassins, and sure enough, it turns out to be true. Poor Wendt is there and gone in just a few moments, just long enough to plant the seeds of conspiracy, then he's shot dead. His warning turn true soon enough when we realize that Blair is friends with the President, played by Eddie Albert (Escape to witch Mountain), who has been suffering from debilitating nuclear apocalypse nightmares, and big bad Blair fears that these anti-nuke nightmares are leading toward a path of nuclear disarmament and perhaps a defunding of his own black ops, which he cannot allow. To this end he enlists the help of Novotny and his team of dream warriors to aid the President, however, Blair has ulterior motives, a new recruit at the lab, the psychotic Tommy Ray Glatman (David Patrick Kelly, The Warriors, Twin Peaks),is meant to assassinate the President in his dreams while at the lab, and it's up to Alex to stop him. 

I love the concept of this movie, it was first of many that would tackle dreams, from A Nightmare on Elm Street on through to Inception, these movies owe a tip of that hat to Dreamscape. The hyper realistic dreams are fun stuff, as are the nightmare fuel within, we have glowing-eyed nuclear fallout dogs, a killer with finger-knives (hmm, sound familiar?), glowing nun chucks, post-apocalyptic subway tunnels, the dreaded snakeman, and surreal glowing environs that are creepy and weird. Created using dated optical effects, claymation, matte paintings and garish 80s lighting, this is just fun stuff. 

Plummer and Von Sydow play wonderfully off each other, both actors are legendary in their own right and they do a lot with what was probably not much on paper. Future Mrs. Steven Spielberg, the sweater-rocking Kate Capshaw, and Dennis Quaid have good on-screen chemistry, with Quaid's character coming off as a likable scammer, while Capshaw is a more refined buttoned-down type, they make for a good coupling. The real fun here though is actor David Patrick Kelly as the killer-psychic Tommy, who adopts the snakeman viage at some point during a nightmare in an effort to unhinge Alex, he's a great scuzzy character with some deep-seated daddy issues, while he's not quite chewing up the scenery he's certainly licking it little awkwardly, he gets under your skin.

Glad to see this one get the deluxe treatment from Scream Factory, it's a bit of an under seen gem of the 80s, a PG-13 sci-fi horror adventure with creepy visuals that deserves to be seen by a new generation of kids, this is a good gateway horror watch. Sure, some of the dated optical effects might not come off as effective as they once did, but the heart of the movies is solid, this is fun stuff.  

Audio/Video: Dreamscape (1984) arrives on single-disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a freshly minted 2K scan, looking the best it ever has on home video. I never did buy the 2010 Blu-ray from Image, but I have the Image DVD and this is a damn sight nicer all the way around. The image is crisper, the blacks are blacker and there looks to have been a nice clean-up of the dirt and debris that was more noticeable on previous versions of the movie, even some of the optical effects look cleaner. Pleasingly the film grain is left intact and nicely resolved, Scream Factory did some good work reinvigorating this 80s cult-classic

Audio options on the disc include both DTS-HD 5.1 ad 2.0 mizes with the surround option winning the day this time around with some decent use of the surrounds and more depth in general, the dated Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia) synth score still sounds a bit jarring at times, but the score, dialogue and effects are nicely balanced and clean. 

Onto the extras we have a full plate of fan-fuel beginning with an audio commentary with Bruce Cohn Curtis, David Loughery And Craig Reardon, the snakeman test footage, a trailer and an image gallery. I think all this stuff was on the previous Blu-ray. The new stuff begins with a 15 min interview with Dennis Quaid who just seems like a cool guy, reflecting on his work in the movie and his co-stars like Capshaw, Eddie Albert and Plummer. There's a new hour long doc about the movie with new interviews from Director Joseph Ruben, Co-Writer David Loughery, Actor David Patrick Kelly, cinematographer Brian Tufano, editor Richard Halsey, and members of the special effects team including James Aupperle, James Belohovek, Susan Turner, Kevin Kutchaver, Peter Kuran, and Craig Reardon. Truly an in-depth look at all facets of the film, this is a treasure trove of information about the production and fans will be quite pleased. 

The special effects team get their own featurette with 23-min “Nightmares and Dreamsnakes” as Ruben, Russell, Loughery and Reardon wax nostalgic on creating the dated but still impressive visual effects of the movie, including Reardon voicing his disdain for how his magnificent snake man creature was shot. It's hard to argue because when you see the test footage of the snakeman it is in my opinion better than what we see in the finished movie. The last of the new features is a 23-min in-depth conversation with Producer Bruce Cohn Curtis And Co-Writer/Producer Chuck Russell who speak about the project coming together, crafting the script being somewhat annoyed with the synth score and their first movie together, the porno film Chatterbox, which was one of the first porns I ever saw at way too young of an age.  

As a Collector's Edition from Scream Factory we also get a reversible sleeve of artwork featuring a new illustration by artist Paul Shipper which is featured on both the sleeve and the slipcover, the reverse side of the sleeve is the original Drew Struzan artwork, which while cool looks a bit too much like an action adventure film along the lines of Indiana Jones, not that the new illustration does much better at capturing the essence of the movie, this movie was never marketed right. 

Special Features:
- NEW 2K Scan of the Film
- NEW “The Actor’s Journey” - Interview with Dennis Quaid (15 Min) 
- NEW “Dreamscapes and Dreammakers” Retrospective (62 Min) including Brand-new interviews with Director Joseph Ruben, Co-Writer David Loughery, Actor David Patrick Kelly and other members of the special effects team
- NEW “Nightmares and Dreamsnakes” – Looking Back at the Snakeman with Craig Reardon, David Patrick Kelley and others. (23 Min)
- NEW In-Depth Conversation Between Bruce Cohn Curtis And Co-Writer/Producer Chuck Russell (24 Min) 
- Audio Commentary With Bruce Cohn Curtis, David Loughery And Craig Reardon
- Snake Man Test Footage (2 Min) 
- Still Gallery (3 Min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Min) 

This movie was nightmare fuel for me when I caught in on cable in '85 or '86 and it haunted by dreams for a while after. Watching it now the movie is a bit dated and goofy, but the thing was ahead of its time and while the movie overreached what it could actually deliver it still makes for a fun, nostalgic 80s sci-fi horror trip. The new Collector's Edition from Scream Factory looks and sounds great, a worthy Collector's Edition that should please fans, the movie has never looked better on home video, and is loaded with a wealth of cool extras.