Full disclosure, I’ve never been to a single rave in my life. It’s not like the opportunity never came up, I just wasn’t interested in EDM or the designer drugs, at least not when raves were all the rage about ten years ago. But I have heard plenty of stories from friends who partied into the wee hours of the morning in some subterranean tunnel. So I can only assume the setting of Dreamcatcher is 100% accurate. Not to be confused with the Stephen King novel and movie of the same name, the party slasher was written and directed by Jacob Johnston, his very first feature, though he has worked in the visual development department of numerous Marvel projects, and has written for TV shows like Sunny Family Cult and The Look-See.
Pierce (Niki Koss, Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse) is settling in for a night of horror movies and chilling with Jake (Zachary Gordon, Diary of a Wimpy Kid), her best friend who’s secretly in love with her. But Pierce’s plans for the night change when her sister Ivy (Elizabeth Posey, Euphoria), who she hasn’t seen for three years, unexpectedly shows up with tickets to Cataclysm, an underground electronic music festival. At the rave, Pierce meets one of the headliners, Dylan (Travis Burns, The Wrong Boy Next Door), also known as DJ Dreamcatcher, a name he chose because he claims to be one eighth Ojibwe– even though he’s clearly a pure-bred Aussie. Dylan is on the brink of superstardom. Like Deadmau5 or the recently broken-up Daft Punk, he wears a mask when he performs to protect his identity, yet Pierce still recognizes him unmasked when he’s mingling with the common folk at the bar.
“Slasher fans won’t be the least bit thrilled. The kills aren’t particularly creative, and the special effects are pretty tame.”
Dylan invites Pierce backstage, and she eagerly complies, despite warnings from her sister and Jake. In the greenroom, Pierce is pulled into a drug-fueled nightmare. Her friends show up to witness the tail-end of the traumatic event, yet they are told by Dylan’s agent Josephine (Adrienne Wilkinson) not to tell a soul, in exchange for a big cash settlement. The experience leaves them haunted, questioning their own sanity. As this is all happening, a masked killer is on the loose, wearing the same get-up as Dylan. But it couldn’t possibly be Dylan, because he’s onstage behind the turntable. Who is this mysterious stranger slashing ravers one by one?
As you can probably tell, the story gets unnecessarily confusing, full of twists and turns, and the occasional plot hole. I had several “Wait, what?” moments, and at times had to rewind to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. It’s all part of its design to keep the viewer guessing, making them wonder whether the characters are collectively losing their minds or if the supernatural is penetrating reality. It adds elements of a psychological thriller on top of the slasher tropes.
The main appeal of Dreamcatcher is its visual aspect. A lot of the action is interspersed with scenes from the dancefloor. Ravers are bathed neon lights as they dance and jump in slow motion, completely unaware of the bloodbath happening in the other room. Flashing red and blue lights come in even stronger during the dreamy drug trip sequences, as the nightmarish images are layered over each other. It’s all very pleasing to the eye. As I mentioned, I’m not a big fan of electronic music, but in this case, the high-pitched glitchiness and booming bass set the mood, with the drum machine speeding up in tandem with the victims’ heartbeats as they run and try to fight off the masked killer.
The strongest character in my opinion is Josephine, who claims to have “ruined more lives than Mitch McConnell.” Adrienne Wilkinson’s credits are mostly from voice acting in dozens of video games. Although she embodies a corporate stiff in an expensive suit, Wilkinson is able to convey a multitude of emotions in the tone of her voice while maintaining the same condescending smile. She represents the heartless, corporate aspect of the music industry, and is of the mindset that anyone can be bought off with cold hard cash. But her professional facade crumbles when she can no longer negotiate with the evil forces that follow Dylan.
The original purpose of dreamcatchers has nothing to do with plot. Dylan makes a reference in passing to the dreamcatcher hanging in his greenroom at the beginning, but beyond that, I fail to see its relevance to the story. If anything, his cultural appropriation of the Native American item is indicative of white mysticism, thinking he’s spiritually evolved because of all the drugs he’s taken. Any other DJ name would have been better. Many of the characters we meet are all very shallow and vain, and are only interested in doing anything if it means they can take a selfie for their instagram to boost their popularity.
Overall, Dreamcatcher is decent, though there’s not a lot in it that sets it apart from what’s been done before. Slasher fans won’t be the least bit thrilled. The kills aren’t particularly creative, and the special effects are pretty tame. But if you’re looking for an aesthetically-pleasing whodunnit mystery that will keep you on your toes, with a bumping electronic score, then crack those glow sticks and get ready to party.
“[…] But if you’re looking for an aesthetically-pleasing whodunnit mystery that will keep you on your toes, with a bumping electronic score, then crack those glow sticks and get ready to party.”
Dreamcatcher is available On Digital and VOD March 5, 2021. Let us know what you thought of the new slasher over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.