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Literature / Dreamcatcher (Stephen King)
aka: Dreamcatcher

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Dreamcatcher is a 2001 novel written by Stephen King.

Gary Ambrose "Jonesy" Jones, Pete Moore, Joe "Beaver" Clarendon and Henry Devlin are four lifelong friends. As kids, they saved Douglas "Duddits" Cavell, a boy with Down syndrome, from a group of bullies. Upon doing so, Duddits bestows the boys with telepathic powers.

As adults, they go on an annual hunting trip where they come across a delirious stranger talking about lights in the sky. It becomes revealed that he's infected by an alien parasite. The army arrives led by the psychotic Colonel Abraham Kurtz who puts the area under quarantine. As the infection develops, the plot thickens.

Was made into a film directed by Lawrence Kasdan and starring Thomas Jane, Timothy Olyphant, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, Morgan Freeman, Donnie Wahlberg, and Tom Sizemore in 2003.

The novel provide examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Although he attempts to deny it, Pete is definitely one.
  • Alien Invasion: The Byrus, a species of alien parasites, invade Earth after hijacking some spaceships from another alien race.
  • Anti-Villain: Owen Underhill is one of Kurtz's top men, but is horrified by Kurtz's actions and willingness to murder innocent civilians. Kurtz views this as a weakness, and decides to kill him once he outlives his usefulness. Eventually, he pulls a Heel–Face Turn and teams up with Henry.
  • Anyone Can Die: Beaver and Pete both die in the first half of the story. By the end of the book, Jonesy, Henry and Mrs. Cavell are the only surviving characters to appear in more than a couple of scenes.
  • Ax-Crazy: Kurtz is, to put it simply, utterly batshit insane.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Between Mr. Gray and Jonesy.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Archie Perlmutter has the thankless task of being Kurtz's assistant, and has to suffer being on the receiving end of Kurtz's insanity.
  • Berserk Button: Don't call Kurtz “sir”. Ever.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Mac Cavanaugh and Frank Bellson decide to take their own lives after being infected with severe cases of the Byrus. Underhill is Forced to Watch their suicides psychically, unable to do anything about it. Several other infected soldiers follow suit.
  • Big Bad: Mr. Gray, the leader of the aliens invading who possessed and took control of Jonesy because of his near death experience at the beginning of the novel. He plots to put his alien fungus into the water supply so he can spread throughout the world and take it over.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Duddits, Pete, Beaver, Underhill and many others die, but Henry and Jonesy survive the experience, the Byrus invasion is thwarted and both Mr. Gray and Colonel Kurtz are killed. The epilogue also shows that Henry is now actively working to cope with his suicidal thoughts rather than simply letting them overwhelm him, suggesting that he's in a better place mentally and emotionally after his nightmarish experience with the aliens. Also, while Mrs. Cavell is devastated by the loss of her son, she is still able to live her life, and it's mentioned that she now plans to open a craft store to occupy her time.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Underhill after being mortally wounded by Kurtz.
  • Body Horror:
    • The aliens are referred to as "shit-weasels". Guess where they come out of infected people.
    • Kurtz is infected by the Byrum, and it grows on his face like a mold infestation that's squeezing and cracking his skull.
    • Pete is infected by Mr. Gray with a severe case of the Byrum, which roots its way into his brain and covers his entire body. Mr. Gray uses this to force him into helping him.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How Gene Cambry, Kurtz, and the shit-weasel that burst from McCarthy die.
  • Breaking Speech: Mr. Grey tries to give several of these to Jonesy, but his lack of knowledge about humanity means they're all completely nonsensical and fail to do anything but confuse him.
  • Butt-Monkey: Perlmutter.
  • Canon Welding: Takes place in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, the site of previous King novels IT and Insomnia. At one point a character comes across a memorial written by the Loser's Club from IT. Scrawled on in graffiti is "PENNYWISE LIVES''.
  • Character Tic: Beaver chewing on toothpicks when nervous.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Beaver is torn apart by a shit-weasel, being reduced to a pile of bloody mush. Freddy Johnson meets a similar fate at the hands of another shit-weasel.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Underhill.
  • Defiant to the End: Beaver.
  • Deconstruction: Of Alien Invasion fiction in general. King set out to rationalize a species being advanced enough to travel the cosmos while still desiring to invade and conquer pre-spaceflight planets. He came up with the Byrus; (semi)-intelligent parasites spreading throughout the universe using whatever tools available. The ones in the book were just lucky enough to have stolen interstellar craft from a far less belligerent species.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Kurtz tends to view harmless annoyances and minor insults as massive slights and reacts accordingly. For instance, his distrust and resentment of Underhill began with Underhill's decision not to execute two children who happened to glance him and his men from a distance with no context of what they were doing on a previous mission.
  • The Dragon: Freddy Johnson is Kurtz's loyal right-hand man, staying by his side for almost the entire book.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The animals are seen fleeing in mass migration.
  • Expy: Beaver more than slightly resembles fellow former Derry citizen Richie Tozier.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Kurtz, to an extent. Doesn't make him any more likable, though, especially when he goes too far in treating all people infected with the Ripley as though they're doomed when infection is only occasionally fatal.
  • Eye Scream: Andy Janas is forced by Mr. Gray to stab himself in the eye with a pencil when Mr. Gray is finished picking his mind for information.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Underhill and Duddits.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: Mr. Gray's head explodes, infecting Jonesy with hundreds of alien spores and transferring Mr. Gray's consciousness into him.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Mr. Gray is at least initially polite in most interactions.
  • Fingore: Beaver gets three of his fingers bitten off by a shit-weasel. Later, Mac Cavanaugh has two of his fingers blown off by the Byrus's shockwave.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: While just starting their hunting trip, the men witness entire fauna of the forest fleeing from something. They instantly realise something very, very weird is going on.
  • General Ripper: Kurtz. In one scene of the book he makes an emphasis that the Army is going to kill all of the aliens, but if he ever hears any of his men being racist about it he will shoot them (and he already shot one to boot!) while the film version gets a Rousing Speech before leading a Death from Above charge at the aliens in which he admits he is not a nice man, and he has absolutely no problem treating fellow humans as people he is gonna kill eventually.
  • Going Native: Jonesy tempts Mr. Gray with this several times after seeing how much he enjoys human senses and emotions. Mr. Gray, for his part, seriously considers it several times, but cannot bring himself to go against his species' Hive Mind. Just before he is killed by Jonesy, Mr. Gray laments that he should have accepted Jonesy's offer.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Richard McCarthy, mainly because of him being strictly religious.
  • The Grays: In the book, this is how the adult aliens disguise themselves, and it's likely to look non-threatening. It's mentioned they've been trying to invade the Earth multiple times, and one of the most prominent being that thing that happened at Roswell back in '47.
  • Groin Attack: A shit-weasel tears off and eats one of Beaver's testicles.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Kurtz has a nasty one.
  • The Heart: Duddits to the rest of the childhood friends.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Freddy Johnson, Kurtz's dragon ultimately turns on him both out of fear and a sense of understanding about wheat's going on, but is attacked and killed by one of the last monsters just a few pages later.
  • Hero of Another Story: The escaped prisoners from Kurtz's camp and the Byrus-infected soldiers that join them are only briefly seen after the escape, but clearly have a very interesting story going on complete with a villain, Kurtz's protege Kate Gallagher, who they eventually kill in an ambush.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: Mr. Gray quickly realizes this, as he is tempted several times (and nearly accepts) by Jonesy to abandon his mission to infect the world and simply enjoy experiencing all the human senses and emotions. While he refuses, by the end of the novel he gradually grows, speaks and acts more human.
  • Humans Are Special: Mr. Gray mentions several times how Humans have put up more resistance against them than any of race they have assimilated. In the end, it is revealed that over half of the human population is naturally immune to the Byrus.
  • I Lied: A minor example: Pete convinces a woman to agree to go out with him if he can find her keys. But when he does, using his telepathic abilities, she's clearly weirded out and gets away from Pete as quickly as possible, promising all the while that she'll totally show up at the restaurant that night. She doesn't, just as Pete knew (from the moment he actually found her keys and saw her reaction) that she wouldn't.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Duddits is of the Type C variety.
  • Jerk Jock: Richie Grenedeau, a bully of Duddits, was homecoming king and an athlete.
  • Large Ham: Kurtz and Henry after he goes insane. Mr. Gray gets in on the ham himself on occasion.
  • Mauve Shirt: Gene Cambry, one of Kurtz's men whose role could be fulfilled by any random Red Shirt, and ends up infected and used as one of his guides to follow the fleeing main characters with the psychic link.
  • Meat Moss: A component of the aliens' invasion, spreading gradually across whatever surfaces it can. It's likelier to be fungal in nature, but still has a visceral, fleshy look.
  • Memory Palace: Jonesy keeps his memories in a messy warehouse. It becomes a plot point when his body is hijacked by an alien entity, trapping his mind inside it.
  • Mind Rape: Mr. Gray, while possesing Jonesy, uses Jonesy's psychic powers to do this to several people, usually to gain information.
  • Mook–Face Turn: First with Owen Underhill, who decides to free Henry and help him take down Mr. Gray, and then with Freddy Johnson, who realizes that Kurtz is crazy and subsequently shoots him.
  • Neurodiversity Is Supernatural: Duddits' psychic powers are the reason he is Inspirationally Disadvantaged (as if having Down Syndrome and four men treating him like a human being wasn't enough) and the movie ups this by showing Duddits is an alien similar to Mr. Gray and his fellow invaders (or maybe one of his powers is an ability to shapeshift and copy Gray's abilities, it's not 100% certain).
  • Nobody Poops: Subverted horribly. There is a reason the aliens get the nickname "shit weasels", as outrageously dumb as it sounds.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Jonesy is frightened when he notices McCarthy, who previously seemed to consider gosh and jeepers hardcore swears, begins screaming profanity. This is a sign that the shit-weasel is about to burst from his body.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Mr. Gray plans on infecting the entire world.
  • Only Sane by Comparison: Underhill is a Reluctant Psycho Sociopathic Soldier who takes sexual pleasure in violence and death, but he's utterly horrified by it, and he's the only member of the main cast questioning the insanity going on around him, like people taking psychic phone calls through guns, parasitic aliens that burst out of people's butts, and Kurtz's absolute insanity.
  • Orgasmically Delicious:
    ...he opened the jar of mayonnaise, and, using his finger as a knife, began to slather the slices of bread with mayo. After finishing each slice, he licked his finger clean. Each time he did, his eyes slipped closed, his head tipped back, and an expression of ecstasy filled his features, radiating out from the mouth. When he had finished with the bread, he picked up one of the packages of meat and tore off the paper covering. He opened the plastic inner envelope with his teeth and shook out the pound of sliced bacon. He folded it and put it on a piece of bread, then put another piece on top. He tore into the sandwich as ravenously as a wolf. That expression of divine enjoyment never left his face; it was the look of a man enjoying the greatest gourmet meal of his life. His throat knotted as each huge bite went down. Three such bites and the sandwich was gone.
  • Politically Correct Villain: Upon hearing that one of his soldiers has referred to The Grays as "space niggers," Kurtz promptly shoots him in the leg and delivers a pious lecture on how that sort of language is against the army's standards of racial sensitivity. Oh, they're going to exterminate the aliens and anyone who might be infected, absolutely, but they're going to do it without using that sort of language!
  • The Power of Friendship: Childhood friends who have long since gone their separate ways must now come together to defeat the Big Bad.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: Mr. Gray takes over Jonesy's body and the two of them spend a large part of the plot fighting over it.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Henry delivered a pretty harsh one to a patient whose mind he read, one which seriously shook up the guy and left him guilty afterwards.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Threatened by Kurtz:
    "Get your ass out of there now, or I guarantee that by next week you'll be shovelling camel-shit in a hot climate where booze is illegal."
  • Reluctant Psycho: Underhill gets sexual pleasure out of violence and death, but he's absolutely horrified by his own sadism. In spite of this, he proves to be far more moral than Kurtz and eventually turns on him when he realizes that his overly brutal methods aren't working.
  • Roswell That Ends Well: The aliens have tried to invade multiple times, starting with Roswell.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Beaver.
  • Sad Clown: Beaver turns out to be this, when he tells Jonesy that "he has to be happy for the rest of them".
  • Sanity Slippage: Henry loses his mind after discovering the Hole-In-The-Wall infested by the Byrus, the shit-weasel that burst from McCarthy, and Beaver's corpse.
  • Sense Freak: Mr. Gray, in Jonsey's body becomes this, his race of "sentient mushrooms" having never experienced human emotions and senses like taste and anger. It takes a dark turn when Mr. Gray realizes how much he enjoys killing people.
  • Shoot the Fuel Tank: How Henry blows up one of the two Hummers to kill the final shit-weasel. Double-subverted, since at first nothing happens and Henry even laments that in real life this kind of thing apparently doesn't work the way it does in Hollywood movies, but then fuel tank explodes after all.
  • Shout-Out:
    Perlmutter had read Heart of Darkness, had seen Apocalypse Now, and had on many occasions thought that the name Kurtz was simply a little too convenient. He would have bet a hundred dollars (a great sum for a non-wagering artistic fellow such as himself) that it wasn’t the boss’s real name-that the boss’s real name was Arthur Holsapple or Dagwood Elgart, maybe even Paddy Maloney. Kurtz? Unlikely. It was almost surely an affectation, as much a prop as George Patton’s pearl-handled .45.
    • The government nickname for the alien fungus is "The Ripley" after Sigourney Weaver's character from the Alien movies.
      • Jonesy is also the name of Ripley's cat from Alien.
    • And Duddits's love for Scooby-Doo (despite not being able to pronounce the theme song's lyrics).
    • "Sympathy for the Devil" is Kurtz's anthem.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: After Mr. Gray gives a Hannibal Lecture to Jonesy about how Humans Are Bastards and how being absorbed by his species will benefit them, Jonesy just points out that he had literally just made a guy stab himself in the eye with a pen.
  • Sixth Ranger: Underhill becomes this to the main group.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Subverted by Underhill, who explicitly gets sexual pleasure out of death and violence, but is horrified by this and is rather self-loathing, not to mention far more moral than Kurtz.
  • Spock Speak: Mr. Gray at first. He loses it and speaks more naturally as time goes by and he experiences more of Jonesy's emotions.
  • Supporting Leader: Kate Gallagher, one of Kurtz's chief lieutenants, and the one who is left in charge of the soldiers while Kurtz and Freddy chase after Jonesy and the others, only actually appears in one scene, and is mostly just mentioned.
  • Telepathy: The childhood friends have it, and the Byrus somehow spread a low-grade version of it to the people nearby.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Mr. Gray loves BACON.
  • True Companions: Jonesy, Henry, Pete, and Beaver are this, along with Duddits.
  • Vorpal Pillow: How Mr. Gray is killed.
  • Water Source Tampering: Mr. Gray's plan of spreading the alien infection.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Many of the infected (although not to fatal degrees) soldiers and captive hunters, motorists and townspeople last seen trying to escape (Ray Parsons, Bill, Marsha, Old Man Gossellin etc.) have their final fates unrevealed.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Perlmutter believes himself to be in an Independence Day-esque Hollywood blockbuster. In reality, he's in a Stephen King novel about an Alien Invasion. It’s Lampshaded by Kurtz, who uses it as another reason to bully him.
  • Your Head A-Splode: Mr. Gray's head explodes early on to infect Jonesy with his spores. Later on, Kurtz's head is blown off with a gun.

The film version has examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In the book the minor character Trish had brown hair; in the film she has blonde hair.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The film changes Kurtz to Curtis because of the Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness reference. King asked them to change it to a name that still sounded similar to Kurtz.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Well, not heroism per se, but Henry was kind of a jerk in the book (of the intellectual persuasion), but not so much in the film.
  • Affably Evil: Despite the horrible things he's trying to do, Mr. Gray always seems to be quite a delightful fellow when he's talking to the characters, speaking pleasantly to Jonesy like one would a close friend even when he's being insulted. It's only when Jonesy accidentally calls out for Duddits towards the end of the movie and reveals to Mr. Gray his presence that some of the facade begins to drop.
  • Badass Adorable: Sure he may have Downs Syndrome, but Duddits is adorable as a character, both as a kid and a very childlike adult even. He's also psychic, grants the four friends their own psychic powers, is an alien himself, and knew about Mr. Gray's invasion LONG before he even did so.
  • Casting Gag: The second time Morgan Freeman has starred in a Stephen King adaptation, portraying a character who was Irish in the source material.
  • Evil Brit: Mr. Gray speaks with a British accent, despite possessing an American.
  • Foreshadowing: It's a Stephen King movie, so there's a LOT...
    • During the flashback when the kids are trying to have Duddits help them find Josie, Duddits, trying to understand, repeats what sounds like "save the world" and "Mr. Gray", to which the boys say they mean save a girl and it's a mystery. However, the things Duddits says become MUCH more relevant later in the story, which Henry realizes.
    • During the same flashback, when Duddits uses his powers to try and help the boys with finding Josie, the group is somewhat rattled and shaken, even having commented that it was rough on them the first time Duddits did whatever it was he did. Of them, Beaver falls to the side, seeming like he felt the effects the most and is grounded as a result. Guess which one of the friends is the first to die in the present day...
    • When Henry and Jonesy discuss the accident that cost Jonesy a large amount of his mobility in his leg, he comments that the night of the accident, he saw Duddits beckoning him into the road, which led to him getting hit. Given how Duddits adored and loved his friends dearly, the two question why he'd urge Jonesy into what could have been a fatal accident. It's only shown later that this was to help protect Jonesy against Mr. Gray's possession, as well as slowing him down long enough at the aqueducts in order for Henry to make it in time to stop him.
  • Groin Attack: This is how one character dies in the film.
  • I Am a Monster: Colonel Curtis' pre-asskicking speech during the Apache gunship attack.
    "Now if anyone's thinking: Why those poor, helpless little folk, all naked and unarmed outside their crashed intergalatica winnebago. What kind of monster, could hear that heartbreak and go in just the same? I'm that dog! I'm that monster! These little mothers are as harmless as a fox in a henhouse! And I'm here to kick some ass!"
  • I Never Told You My Name: A woman who lost her keys meets Pete and he says her name without her telling him. He then helps her find her keys, demonstrating knowledge of her car, her prior movements and the exact place she lost her keys. He then asks her on a date at a restaurant which he says is located "right on [her] way back". She is understandably creeped out.
  • Large Ham: Mr. Gray, most definitely.
  • One-Winged Angel: Both Mr. Gray and Duddits are able to transform into monstrous creatures as their 'final form'.
  • Race Lift: The white Kurtz from the novel is played by Morgan Freeman.
  • Telepathy: Weaponised, as the gunship crews hear the aliens pleading for them not to. Curtis responds with a Rousing Speech.
    • Sometimes seems to be a part of the psychic powers between the four friends
  • Unexplained Accent: Jonesy speaks with a British accent whenever Mr. Gray is controlling him, for some strange reason.
  • Vagina Dentata: The mouths of the "shit-weasels" give this impression; as a whole they look something like a lamprey from hell.

Alternative Title(s): Dreamcatcher