Dreamland

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Dreamland Movie Poster Image
Eccentric, violent vampire crime tale has drugs, language.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 92 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No clear messages here, though it does seem as though everything could be a metaphor.

Positive Role Models & Representations

An assassin seeks redemption by trying to save his 14-year-old neighbor, and other adults put their lives on the line to help him.

Violence

Graphic, gory violence, including multiple shootings (most resulting in death), a stabbing, and several close-ups of fingers being chopped off. A gang of children shoot adults with intent to kill. Children are splattered in blood. A vampire bites and drinks a avictim's blood. Young girls are kidnapped for the purpose of sex trafficking.

Sex

Brief female nudity (breasts and bottom). Frequent scenes in a strip club, where women move in a "sexy" way but are clothed. 

Language

Strong language includes "c--ksucker," "p---y," "s--t," and multiple uses of "f--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent smoking, including by children. Close-ups of a primary character shooting up. A young teen is given pills to subdue her. After an injury, a villain is shown swallowing a bunch of pills. A background character is shown snorting a substance. Alcohol, wine, and champagne are consumed.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dreamland is a graphically violent neo-noir genre mash-up. It deliberately doesn't want viewers to be able to pin it down: It's a crime drama, a comedy, and a monster movie all at once. The mature plot revolves around a human trafficker (Henry Rollins) who kidnaps and sells young girls, and his henchman (Stephen McHattie), who tries for redemption by working to save his abducted 14-year-old neighbor. Kids definitely need saving in this film, but some are also Bugsy Malone-style gangsters who wear business suits, smoke cigarettes, and fire guns. Frequent, explicit violence includes blood-splattering bullets, gory wounds, fingers being sliced off, and stabbings. And while that's deadly serious, a massive shoot-out is played for comedy, intending to provoke the "we'd be safer if everyone carried a gun" crowd. The trafficker runs his operation out of a house of ill repute -- a quick flash of breasts and exposed rear end are seen there -- and the one kind character is, of course, a hooker with a heart of gold. A junkie shoots up often and, in a scene that's meant to show how terrible people of influence can be, someone is seen snorting drugs off a table. Drinking is also prevalent, as is strong language ("f--k," "c--ksucker," etc.). 

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What's the story?

In DREAMLAND, a crime lord's henchman (Stephen McHattie) realizes the error of his ways when his human trafficker boss (Henry Rollins) abducts his teenage neighbor (Themis Pauwels) to sell to a vampire. He hatches a plan to save her, even if it kills him.

Is it any good?

As this eccentric neo-noir vampire crime story's title indicates, it unfolds similarly to a dream: unpredictable, confusing, and frustrating. More like a fever dream, considering that gangsters are children, a countess is hosting a lavish wedding for her vampire brother, and the dreamer can be injured but never die. It's an intense experience that you're desperate to interpret as soon as it's over -- what does it all mean? -- but with so much nonsense, most viewers likely won't care enough to think it through. Still, there's always the chance that Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald's film is destined to be a cult classic.

The movie's unreliable tone shocks the system as it switches from dead-serious drama to off-kilter comedy. McHattie is a hard-boiled henchman whose crime lord boss ordered him to cut the pinkie off of a legendary trumpeter (also McHattie), a cool customer who's also a junkie. The actions of these characters are always serious, and should be -- especially given that the henchman realizes he's doing the bidding of a deplorable criminal who profits by sex-trafficking children. But that boss, gleefully played by Rollins, is maniacal, ridiculous, and, at times, hilarious. The lizard-looking vampire (Tómas Lemarquis) is creepy yet also feels straight out of What We Do in the Shadows. Juliette Lewis supplies the film's energy as an over-the-top countess who delivers her dialogue so crisply and comically that it makes you rethink the entire film. Care clearly went into the color-saturated production design, which is paired so elegantly with moody cinematography that many shots are works of art. None of it makes any sense ... unless it does. Figuring out what this film is trying to say seems possible, yet elusive. Just like a dream. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Dreamland plays with genre, tone, and cliché. What genres can you identify? Do you think it's creative or confusing?

  • What do you think the film's intent is? What's the takeaway message -- or is there one?

  • Do you think this film could turn into a cult classic? What are the hallmarks of those films? 

  • Discuss the use of drugs/drinking/smoking, violence, profanity, and even the limited nudity in the film. Is any of it glamorized? Does it serve the story?

  • Do you think Johnny is demonstrating compassion or courage to save Olivia? Would you qualify it as a character strength if those traits only come out at the end of an otherwise immoral life?

Movie details

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