Pontypool is one of my favourite movies, even though I really dislike its post-credit sequence. It’s a random bit that looks like a deleted scene from Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City series, featuring obscure characters that we haven’t seen before exchanging hard-boiled dialogue – it’s moody nonsense. It makes as much sense as the entirety of Dreamland, a pseudo-fantasy-noir that has the gall to ride the coattails of Pontypool; squandering the reunion of its filmmakers and their star Stephen McHattie.
In their own projects, director Bruce McDonald and screenwriter Tony Burgess have been guilty of failing to organzine ideas into a concrete concept, but they really make fools out of themselves in Dreamland. And because the film is a mess, the usually dependable McHattie suffers. Despite playing two very different characters (a conflicted hitman and a smack-addicted musician), McHattie flexes a limited range of mumbling and spacing out. He’s stuck within a tired “save the child” plot as his hitman fights to save the fate of a young girl being married off to a vampire (Tómas Lemarquis) under the discretion of a malicious crime boss named Hercules (Henry Rollins).
Dreamland is the type of movie that makes you second guess what you believe. For instance, I used to think McHattie was a good actor – I’m not so sure anymore. Granted, in Dreamland, half of his screen time is spent on his own or with an imaginary screen partner. Performing alone is always a difficult task, especially when your on-screen partner will be added afterwards in post-production. Yet, I’m still disappointed with how McHattie has chosen to carry himself. As a hitman, he isn’t intimidating or menacing, and he doesn’t convince the audience of his experience as a killer. As the addict, McHattie resorts to a lot of clichéd mannerisms like rubbing his face and appearing as if he stood up too fast.
The same sad epiphany applies to McDonald and Burgess. I used to admire McDonald for his eclectic filmography. Ditto for Burgess, but in relation to his audacity to swing for the fences. What Dreamland exhibits is that these men aren’t courageous after all – they have an inability to reign in their indulgences. Their art is a lark where they’re having fun, but the audience has to mull through hoping they find something unique to remember. Many have described Dreamland as a comedy, but a treasure hunt in the dark has the tendency to drive people into hysterical madness.
Dreamland is wickedly bad, and has the power to sour careers and drive away loyal movie goers. If only it was a dream…
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie