Thursday, June 27, 2013

#1,046. The Dreaming (1988)

Directed By: Mario Andreacchio

Starring: Arthur Dignam, Penny Cook, Gary Sweet

Tag line: "Are they dreams or nightmares...Nightmares or premonitions?"

Trivia: This film was originally meant to be directed by Craig Lahiff but he dropped out before filming and was replaced by Mario Andreacchio

The Dreaming, a 1988 horror film from Australia, opens in much the same way that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining does, with a camera, mounted on front of a helicopter, flying over an island as an ominous score (composed by Frank Strangio, who also did the music for such ozploitation classics as BMX Bandits and Dead End Drive In) fills the soundtrack. Yet while the movie shares some similarities with Kubrick’s masterpiece (nightmarish visions, characters dealing with the ghosts of the past, etc), The Dreaming ultimately loses its way, resulting in a second half that drags terribly.

While digging on a remote island off the coast of Australia, archaeologist Bernard Thornton (Arthur Digham) and his crew find a secret chamber behind a cave wall, one that contains both ancient artifacts and human remains. Several months later, a group of Aborigine teens breaks into a museum to retrieve these artifacts, and one of them (Kristina Nehm) is captured and beaten by the police. She’s rushed to the hospital, where Dr. Cathy Thornton (Penny Cook), the daughter of the archaeologist who made the discovery, attempts to save her life. The girl dies from her injuries, but the story doesn’t end there, because shortly after this incident, Cathy starts experiencing visions of both the dead teen and an ancient Aborigine tribe, which was apparently attacked by Australian whalers over 100 years earlier. Intent of learning what these hallucinations mean, Cathy tries to track down her estranged father, hoping he can shed some light on the situation. But as it turns out, dear old dad has been having visions of his own.

Right off the bat, I was impressed by how well The Dreaming was shot; along with the helicopter ride at the beginning, director Mario Andreacchio moves his camera around to great effect, which adds to the otherworldly feel of the opening sequences. As for the thrills, they kick in shortly before the death of the Aborigine girl, at which point Cathy’s troubling visions begin. In one of the movie’s coolest scenes, Cathy is looking at an X-Ray of the injured girl, trying to determine what happened to her. All of a sudden, the X-Ray springs to life, as if calling out in agony (It’s at this exact moment that the girl, lying on a table in the next room, dies). There are other tense moments as well (a particularly unsettling one occurs when Cathy is sitting alone in her bedroom), all of which draw us into the story.

Unfortunately, the tension established at the outset fades by the time Cathy tries to locate her father. She eventually follows him back to the island, and once there, the pace slows to a crawl as Cathy experiences even more flashbacks, while her father deals with demons of his own. This, coupled with the fact that most audience members will have figured out what the visions mean in the film’s first 20 minutes, results in a disappointing climax to what was otherwise a sharp, entertaining movie.

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