Rated R - Running time: 1:40 - Released 1/15/99

We are all aware of the power our mind has over us when we are asleep and dreaming. Though we are physically unable to move, our nervous system is in full working order; what's more, it can be fooled into thinking that the surrealistic drama unfolding behind our eyes is actually happening to us. But what if it were actually happening, to someone else? That is the premise of In Dreams, a psychological thriller directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) and written by Jordan and Bruce Robinson (Return To Paradise). It is an eerie story about a disturbed little boy who grew into a killer capable of invading a woman's dreams. But uneven directing made it into a film that is only part scary — and part laughable.

Annette Bening is Claire Cooper, a woman troubled by incessant nightmares and visions. Her husband Paul (Aidan Quinn) is a 747 pilot, and their daughter Rebecca (Katie Sagona) is the love of their lives. Claire does her best not to trouble her family with her disturbing visions, which usually focus on a little girl and a mysterious adult figure. But Paul feels she should notify the police, since there is a young girl missing and maybe Claire's psychic powers could be of some help. Then the unthinkable happens: Rebecca is abducted. Now Claire knows her dreams are not visions of the past, but of the future. Not only that, she senses that the abductor is communicating with her. She figures this out when her computer starts printing out what she's saying, and she doesn't even own a copy of IBM ViaVoice.

Now, with everyone thinking she's gone crazy from the loss of her child, Claire must try to find the psycho by coaxing more information out of him via her dreams. In other words, she must force herself to endure the nightmares so she can stop his reign of terror.

It turns out the subject of Claire's dreams is the unnamed man played by Robert Downey Jr. As a boy, he was left chained to his bed by his abusive mother while the town was being flooded to make a reservoir. After being saved and institutionalized, and then escaping, he has become a full-blown nutcase with one wish: a family to love him. And he wants Claire as his surrogate wife.

This film could be really scary, and in some parts it is. Downey's crazed killer, though he only appears in the last third of the film, is seriously demented, and his Oedipal relationship with Claire as his wife/mother is definitely disturbing. Bening is no slouch herself when it comes to looney behavior, but it appears that she had good days and bad days during filming. Some of her scenes are genuinely chilling; others are overacted to the point of silliness. The same goes for Downey, and this implies a directing problem. Perhaps Jordan was so concerned with his images of apples and the color red that he wasn't watching the actors. Overall, a mediocre film with a few adequately chilling moments. ***

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

See Current Reviews

See FilmQuips Archive