×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

In Dreams

Dark, scary and uncompromising, Neil Jordan's "In Dreams" is a wildly eccentric picture: a metaphysical horror tale that's likely to intrigue cerebral viewers but will frustrate the more typical horror crowd fond of "Scream" and its offshoots. In an extremely challenging role that calls for her to appear in almost every frame, Annette Bening gives a riveting performance as a woman whose mind is invaded by supernatural forces.

With:
Claire Cooper - Annette Bening Paul Cooper - Aidan Quinn Vivian Thompson - Robert Downey Jr. Detective Jack Kay - Paul Guilfoyle Dr. Stevens - Dennis Boutsikaris Dr. Silverman - Stephen Rea Mary - Prudence Wright Holmes Rebecca Cooper - Katie Sagona Ruby - Krystal Benn Ethel - Pamela Payton-Wright Nurse Floyd - Margo Martindale

Dark, scary and uncompromising, Neil Jordan’s “In Dreams” is a wildly eccentric picture: a metaphysical horror tale that’s likely to intrigue cerebral viewers but will frustrate the more typical horror crowd fond of “Scream” and its offshoots. In an extremely challenging role that calls for her to appear in almost every frame, Annette Bening gives a riveting performance as a bright, married career woman whose mind is invaded by irrational and supernatural forces. Well-mounted, with startling imagery from ace lenser Darius Khondji, DreamWorks’ release should enjoy a decent opening, but iffy reviews and unenthusiastic word-of-mouth will curtail B.O., due to an intense, convoluted narrative with a downbeat tone and shockingly unconventional ending, which doesn’t provide the genre’s customary pay-off.

“In Dreams” is not as flawed as Jordan’s other big budget Hollywood movies, but it lacks the coherence and creative control of most of his small-scale Irish pictures. Mining similar terrain as “The Company of Wolves,” a horror film structured as an adult fairy tale, Jordan’s new effort — which also works as a fairy tale — might be similarly dismissed as seedy, lurid and mean-spirited.

Though the script, which concerns the relatively unexplored and scientifically taboo realm of clairvoyance, is based on a novel and written in collaboration with Bruce Robinson, those familiar with Jordan’s work will be able to detect familiar thematic motifs: lost childhood, the haunting of the mind by irrational and unconscious forces, gender-bending and cross-dressing, the inextricable effect of the past on the present and, above all, unusual pairings and psychological ambiguity.

Opening credits reveal a watery ghost town entirely buried by floods decades ago. The underwater motif enhances the yarn’s dimension of a hideous, seemingly forgotten past that comes to haunt the present residents of a now-idyllic pastoral town. Claire (Bening), a children’s books illustrator, is married to a loving pilot (Aidan Quinn), and they have a young daughter, Rebecca (Katie Sagona). But Claire’s modern marriage is strained by incessant dreams; even their lovemaking is interrupted by haunting images and sudden outbursts of violence.

Claire’s recurrent dreams reveal themselves in snippets and fragments: a little boy chained to a bed, a girl kidnapped by a faceless adult in an orchard of red apples. During one of her hubby’s business trips, Claire dreams of her daughter’s disappearance, and, sure enough, hours later, Rebecca’s body is lifted out of the lake by cops. In a manner of self-fulfilling prophecies, every single nightmare of Claire’s materializes. Driven to find out the true nature of her dreams — and those who annoyingly feed them — she becomes increasingly obsessed, eventually descending into madness and asylum institutionalization.

It may not be a coincidence that Jordan, a subversive filmmaker, constructs all the characters that stand for rationality as male authority figures: husband Cooper, detective Jack Kay (Paul Guilfoyle), hospital doctor Stevens (Dennis Boutsikaris) and Dr. Silverman (Stephen Rea), a specialist brought in to work intimately with Claire. And like other Jordan pictures, this one can be seen as a critique of the nuclear, bourgeois family.

A blend of psychological drama and supernatural horror, “In Dreams” is a movie in which nothing is what it appears to be. Through eerily dark destiny, the paths of Claire and a serial killer on the loose crisscross and their fates intertwine, underscoring their duality as two sides of the human psyche, with Claire representing the good and right, and he the evil and wrong.

Final reel, which is the weakest and most overheated visually, is confined to a cider factory, where Claire confronts her torturer. Echoing elements of “The Silence of the Lambs,” and far more respectful of generic conventions than earlier segments, finale is directed in an amusingly self-conscious and reflexive manner, allowing horror aficionados to have a smile or two while watching some of the most frightening moments, a result of the excessively quirky dialogue and some over-the-top acting.

Taken seriously, “In Dreams” provides a wry commentary on the medical and psychiatric professions, both quick to label Claire’s conduct as delusional if not paranoid. The film also refutes such established notions as scientific progress and rational pragmatism. Viewers skeptical of the film’s more metaphysical themes should still be able to appreciate the sense of dread that permeates the entire yarn. From the start, in a shrewdly Hitchcockian manner, Jordan implicates the viewers, placing them in Claire’s subjective mind, as they are the only ones to see the terrifying validity of her dreams.

In what’s arguably her most commanding role since “The Grifters,” Bening is perfectly cast as a recognizably contempo woman whose mind and life disintegrate to a point of no return. With limited screen time, mostly in the last reel, Robert Downey Jr. reps the underbelly of the dream world, an adult who has never really grown up, still childlike, misinformed, desperate to connect.

Rea, a Jordan regular, renders a low-key, understated performance as the doctor who initially symbolizes the rational element of culture, until his value system utterly collapses under the crushing evidence. Rest of the supporting ensemble is equally impressive.

Reversing Hollywood’s depiction of dream sequences — usually in black-and-white — lenser Khondji goes wild with colors, objects and textures. Color separation is achieved with filters that distort images, giving them a richly saturated, almost surreal feel. Though red dominates, each dream is staged and filmed in a radically different style, some with hand-held camera, others like still tableaux.

Shot in the fall in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee (for its dams) and Rosarito, Mexico (for the ghost town covered in water), pic represents one of DreamWorks most elaborately produced efforts, with superb technical values across the board.

In Dreams

Production: A DreamWorks Pictures release. Produced by Stephen Woolley. Co-producer, Redmond Morris. Directed by Neil Jordan. Screenplay, Bruce Robinson, Jordan, based on the novel, "Doll's Eyes," by Bari Wood.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor, widescreen), Darius Khondji; editor, Tony Lawson; music, Elliot Goldenthal; production designer, Nigel Phelps; art director, Martin Laing; set decorator, Gretchen Rau; costume designer, Jeffrey Kurland; sound (Dolby/SDDS), James J. Sabat; special effects supervisor, Yves De Bono; underwater photography, Peter Romano; assistant director, Patrick Clayton; casting, Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins. Reviewed at Century Plaza, L.A., Jan. 11, 1999. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: Claire Cooper - Annette Bening Paul Cooper - Aidan Quinn Vivian Thompson - Robert Downey Jr. Detective Jack Kay - Paul Guilfoyle Dr. Stevens - Dennis Boutsikaris Dr. Silverman - Stephen Rea Mary - Prudence Wright Holmes Rebecca Cooper - Katie Sagona Ruby - Krystal Benn Ethel - Pamela Payton-Wright Nurse Floyd - Margo Martindale

More Film

  • 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Weaves Inclusive

    The Secret Power of 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Is Inclusion

    In a year that gave us films like “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” this weekend’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” delivers one more home run for underrepresented groups in media in 2018. An animated film that takes advantage of Sony’s piece of the Marvel pie, “Spider-Verse” not only puts a mixed-race, middle-class teenager in the [...]

  • Jeff BridgesJeff Bridges, who stars in

    Jeff Bridges to Receive Cecil B. DeMille Award at 2019 Golden Globes

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced that Jeff Bridges will receive the Cecil B. DeMille award at the 76th Golden Globes on Jan. 6, 2019. Bridges has starred in films like “The Big Lebowski,” “Crazy Heart,” “True Grit,” and “The Fabulous Baker Boys.” More Reviews Film Review: 'Nona' Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night' “The [...]

  • Charlotte Rampling Euphoria

    Berlin Film Festival: Charlotte Rampling to Receive Honorary Golden Bear

    Oscar-nominated actress Charlotte Rampling, whose career has spanned more than 100 film and television roles, will be honored with a special Golden Bear at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. The fest will also pay homage to Rampling by screening a selection of her work, including Sidney Lumet’s “The Verdict” (1982), Francois Ozon’s “Swimming Pool” (2003) [...]

  • The Sisters Brothers

    France's Lumieres Awards Unveil Nominations

    Jacques Audiard’s “The Sisters Brothers” has been nominated for best film and director at the 24th Lumieres Awards, France’s equivalent of the Golden Globes. The Western starring Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly and Jake Gyllenhaal world-premiered at Venice Film Festival, where it earned Audiard a best director award. More Reviews Film Review: 'Nona' Tallinn Film [...]

  • CAA to Represent Peter Chan's We

    CAA to Represent Peter Chan's We Pictures

    Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has signed with We Pictures, the production and distribution company founded by Hong Kong-born director and producer Peter Chan Ho-sun. It aims to boost the company’s footprint both in China and abroad. Within China, CAA China will help We Pictures to develop new business partnerships and find new sources of investment [...]

  • Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley to Receive

    'Carol' Producers Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley to Be Honored by BAFTA

    Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley, the producers of such films as “Carol,” “Their Finest” and the recent “Colette” starring Keira Knightley, will receive the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema Award at the BAFTA Film Awards. The prolific pair run Number 9 Films and have a long list of credits. They will pick up their accolade at [...]

  • BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

    Korea Box Office: 'Rhapsody' Reclaims Top Spot, Beats ‘Spider-Verse’

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” reclaimed top place at the South Korean box office, overtaking “Default,” after spending two weekends in second place. The Fox release earned $4.38 million from 554,000 admissions for a total of $61.0 million from 7.94 million admissions. In its seventh weekend of release “Rhapsody” accounted for 27% of the weekend box office. CJ [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content