Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Dreamkatcher Movie Poster Image
Irritating dud of a horror movie has violence, language.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 86 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No real messages here other than suggestions about how people perhaps shouldn't behave. (First of all, don't move people to a remote house with no cellphone coverage and then leave them there.)

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are poorly drawn and make little sense, much less offer anything to admire.


A person's head splits in half during a nightmare; blood shown. Nightmare person with gory, decomposing face. Women and children fighting, hitting, etc. A child wields an ax, swinging it at a person off-screen -- blood spatters on face. Ghost/monster attacks a child. Fishhook caught in hand; it's pulled out, with some blood. Shard of glass in character's mouth. Severed fingers. Woman tied up. Dialogue about someone drowning in lake. Dialogue about a dead baby. Creepy child's drawings. Character bangs head on cabinet door. Scary figures, jump scares. Scary music, sounds.


A woman and a shirtless man lie in bed together. They kiss and initiate sex but are interrupted. Woman bathing in bathtub; nothing graphic shown.


Language isn't frequent but includes a few uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "damn," "hell," "goddamn," and "for God's sake."


Mention of iPad.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Woman drinks a glass of whiskey. Glasses of wine shown. Bottle of whiskey shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dreamkatcher is a horror movie about a boy who has nightmares about his dead mother and tries an evil "dreamkatcher" (thinking it's a good "dreamcatcher") to help -- but it only brings about more trouble. Expect graphic violence, including death; nightmare sequences (a person's face splits in half, with blood shown; there's a decomposing face; etc.); a child and women fighting and hitting each other; a child wielding an ax; a fishhook caught in a hand; severed fingers; scary figures, sounds, and music; jump scares; and more. Language isn't frequent but includes several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." A couple kiss and initiate sex, but they're interrupted. A character drinks a glass of whiskey, and glasses of wine and a bottle of whiskey are shown. With inexplicable, frustrating characters and lots of clichés, this one is only for horror completists.

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What's the story?

In DREAMKATCHER, musician/widower Luke (Henry Thomas) decides to move with his young son, Josh (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong), and his child psychologist girlfriend, Gail (Radha Mitchell), to the remote house where Luke's wife drowned in a nearby lake. Soon, Luke is called away to the city for work, leaving Gail behind with the troubled Josh, who's suffering terrible nightmares in which he's visited by evil visions of his dead mother. On a hike, Gail and Josh run into a strange shop, run by the unusual Ruth (Lin Shaye), that sells "dreamcatchers." Josh asks for one, but Gail doesn't believe in them and refuses. So Josh steals one from a barn. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a "dreamkatcher" -- an evil, twisted version of the more familiar kind. Soon, Josh's nightmares grow worse, and a real-life threat looms.

Is it any good?

The majority of what's wrong with this awful horror movie lies with the constantly frustrating characters, who make inexplicably poor decisions and behave in ways that have nothing to do with reality. While Mitchell and Thomas at least appear to be trying, it makes no sense that Luke would move his family back to a death house, and it's never explained. And why would he leave his girlfriend and son behind in a remote place with no car and no cellphone service? That's bad enough, but Gail never once acts like a proper child psychologist, frequently losing her temper and snapping at Josh and otherwise refusing to do things that might make sense.

But Dreamkatcher doesn't stop there. Despite being played by legendary horror character actor Shaye, Ruth is unnecessarily weird, and she also seemingly has the power to abruptly teleport into scenes. And for a scary movie, Dreamkatcher isn't actually scary, relying exclusively on creaky old genre staples: predictable sound effects, creepy child's drawings, dreams-within-dreams, and fake-looking digital blood. Still, all of that is secondary to the fact that the characters are impossible to care about: There's nobody to be scared for. Tack on the irritating non-ending, and this one is a true dud. The only saving grace is another good, creepy music score by composer Joseph Bishara (The Conjuring), who also briefly appears as a monster.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Dreamkatcher's violence. Does it feel more shocking with a young boy involved? Why or why not?

  • What's the appeal of scary movies? Why is it sometimes fun to be scared?

  • What's the relationship like between Josh and Gail? Why do you think it might be hard for kids to accept their parent having a new partner?

  • Why do you think the psychologist character doesn't believe in the idea of dreamcatchers?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scares

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