Film / Dreamscape

Dreamscape is a Science Fiction film directed by Joseph Rubin (The Forgotten, Sleeping with the Enemy), starring Dennis Quaid (Vantage Point). The film was released in the United States in 1984 by 20th Century Fox. The plot is loosely based on the novel The Dream Master by Roger Zelazny.

Alex Gardner (Quaid) is a man with special talents psychic talents, to be exact. While participating in ground-breaking studies on the powers of the mind at the age of 19, he suddenly quit and attempted to disappear, from then on only using his abilities for petty personal gain. Years later, his extraordinary "good luck" both at the race track and with the ladies has drawn the attention of unsavory eyes... and now he and his talents are in high demand by everyone from local gangsters to shady government agents.

When Alex is contacted by the college professor that performed the studies on him years ago, Alex agrees to hear him out, both for old times sake and to have a place to momentarily hide from everyone who wants a piece of him. When the professor explains what he's working on — a project that will allow those with psychic abilities to enter the dreams of others — Alex is intrigued, and with a little "convincing" agrees to help out. With the professor's assistance, Alex is quickly able to master the ability of entering, observing, and even modifying people's dreams. At first he feels exhilarated, intoxicated by the freedom and power that come along with his new-found ability. However, things are not quite what they seem... inside the Dreamscape, Alex finds that he is facing progressively more dangerous nightmares, and outside he must deal with the schemes of not only a rival psychic, but also of the shadowy machinations of the people who are truly behind the Dreamscape project.

Not to be confused with the web series of the same name

This film provides examples of the following:

  • Dream Weaver: Alex and Tommy.
  • Erotic Dream: Inverted/Invoked. Dream Weaver Alex uses his powers to enter Jane's dream to make out with her, without telling her it's not just a random dream she's having about him. She quickly forgives him when she finds out, but this seems strange since it could easily be construed as rape by fraud (he deluded her on purpose and she didn't give consent).
  • A God Am I: Tommy Ray makes this boast:
    Tommy Ray: In this world, Alex, you're nothing. And me, I'm God.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Snake Man.
  • I Know You're Watching Me: It becomes clear to the scientists secretly observing Alex through a two-way mirror that he knows what's going on when he writes "Let's get on with it" on his side of the mirror in pen... especially since he writes the letters backwards so that those on the other side can read it.
  • Infant Immortality: Played straight with Buddy; in the President's dream, the kids trapped in the ruins aren't just dead, but mutilated to Body Horror levels.
  • Mind over Matter: Minor telekinesis is among the range of Psychic Powers Alex displays over the course of the film, and we see a still movie slide of him levitating a small metal, ball bearing. If viewers were expecting him to use this at any point in the film to save himself from a dangerous situation, they will be disappointed because the movie focuses on his ability to enter dream instead. It never becomes the Chekhov's Gun, and stays an Informed Ability.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: When a subject is killed in the real world by dying in the Dreamscape, Alex starts to realize he's in over his head... what he doesn't know is that the government is training his rival, Glatman, to assassinate people in their sleep.
  • Monumental Damage Resistance: During a recurring nightmare the President of the United States is experiencing, a partially destroyed Capitol building is seen in the ruins of Washington, D.C., after it was ravaged by nuclear war.
  • Never Sleep Again: Tommy Ray Glatman assassinates people by using his psychic abilities to enter their dreams and kill their dream selves.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Alex's rationalization for covertly inserting himself into Jane's dreams to make her think she was having a sex fantasy about him, rather than making out with the real life person. The fact that she enjoyed herself doesn't negate the fact that he just basically raped her (Mind Rape?), as she was in no position to give informed consent.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: The train conductor that appeared in Jane's dream later appears in the real world.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: President Target, at least where dreams are concerned; in the real world he's more President Iron.
  • Partial Transformation: Tommy Ray scales back his snake transformation when he is confronted by the image of his dead father.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Alex pistol whips a federal agent while re-infiltrating the project facility.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Savage Wolves chasing Alex and the President in the final dream sequence have red Glowing Eyes.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The nightmares of a young boy Alex is trying to help take the shape of a half-man/half-snake creature. One of the villains also later assumes this form while in the dream world.
  • Savage Wolves: Alex and President must outrun couple of wolves with red Glowing Eyes along with Scaled Up Tommy Ray.
  • Shapeshifter Guilt Trip: Alex turns himself into Tommy Ray's dead father to distract him from killing the President.
  • Villain Ball: Tommy had ample opportunity to kill the President in his dream, but he just had to take the time to mess with his and Alex's heads.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Not only is Alex capable of causing himself severe mental damage while in the Dreamscape, but both the subjects and the psychics helping them can be killed in real life if they die while dreaming.
  • Your Worst Nightmare: What Alex tries to help his subjects overcome.