Dream Lover (1994) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Because this is a fairly interesting thriller, I have to limit my spoilers. Unfortunately, because the plot is dragged out so long and unraveled so slowly, I have to partially spoil some of the developments which occur about a third of the way into the film. The last several twists, however, remain unspoiled.

The idea behind the film is interesting, if improbable. You probably think that most of the femme fatale schemes shown in the movies are plots nobody could really fall for. After all, who puts all that much trust in a woman they hardly know? And how many guys would commit a murder for a woman, no matter how sexy? If you're normal, you could never find yourself in the same predicament as Ned Racine, right?

But suppose for a minute that a woman pulled you in the same way that the femme fatale hooked her mark in this film. She spots you, learns about you, carefully schemes to meet you "accidentally", makes you think that you are doing all the chasing. She keeps telling you to stay away, because she's no good, but you think she is an angel, and don't know why her self-image is so bad. Then you fall in love, have great sex and great sharing, get married and have two children, and she makes the first few years of your marriage complete heaven.

Only THEN does she begin to hatch her evil plan.

Know what? That could work on you, or me, or just about anyone.

Of course, it's hard to believe that your basic psychopath is willing to hatch a scheme that requires acting out a role for six years, but it would work. By that time, you would trust her so thoroughly that you'd ignore all the signs of trouble until it was too late to do anything about them.

Although I liked that concept in principle, there are some real gaps in the logic of this film. The femme fatale spends all that time entrapping an architect in his mid-30s so she can con him out of his money. What defies all common sense is that the basic value of a genius architect is his own brilliance. If you kill him or prevent him from working,  you lose all the future value of that brilliance. What he will make in the years from age 35-65 is WAY better than what he has accumulated so far in his salad days. Maybe she can get complete control of his business and his finances, but his ongoing business has no value without his mind. In this case, the femme fatale would have been far better off simply playing her role forever than double-crossing her husband. Because that is true, her duplicity is irritating - what does she have to gain? The moviegoer just has to assume she is an incurable psychopath, and that she operates in a special deranged world where logic does not apply. That is not an easy commitment for an audience to make to a pure entertainment film. Maybe for Bunuel or Bergman, I am willing to suspend my disbelief to see what kind of psychological truths the auteur can find in that kind of deranged world, but not for an erotic thriller. If it is a junk movie which is supposed to entertain me with the plot, I prefer things a bit more rational.

I did get completely hooked into this mystery for about an hour, first while it was being set up and then when the mystery first started to unravel. It had my complete attention. When the scheming woman finally played her trump card, however, I found the film very audience-unfriendly. It was crushing to have to watch the husband get his entire life taken away from him, even though he was a great guy. Compare that to the more successful plotting strategies used in the best thrillers. When you are watching Body Heat, for example, you might like Ned Racine and might have a beer with him now and then, but you know that he deserves what he got. After all, he's incurably lazy and horny. He'd fuck your wife or daughter if he got a chance, and he participated in a murder! Hell, that still would have been murder, even if he had been correct about the unsavory character of the murdered man . In Dream Lover, however, you have to sit back and watch a great guy get destroyed by a woman who gave him many ideal years of love and marriage. He didn't even do anything morally questionable, although the script faults him for having a superficial view of womanhood. His only real failing was that he was just stupid enough to fall for her scheme, and marry her. But any of us would have done the same. Madchen Amick was not only a total megababe, but she genuinely seemed to love him completely for years and years. She got completely naked in the film, so we can also see how magnificent she was in his eyes. Her face ... her body ... everything ... magnificent! We can understand exactly how fell into this abyss. If I met a woman who looked like this and seemed to love me completely for five years, while bearing my children, I'd probably get suckered into any scheme she pulled on me in year six, no doubt about it. That has a touch of motivational realism but, once again, the destruction of the innocent husband is pretty heavy-duty stuff for an entertainment picture.

Oh, yeah, speaking of stuff too heavy for an entertainment film, I don't think I mentioned that there is a framing device in which the husband has recurring dreams about his life in which scary clowns and wicked ringmasters tell him what is going on in his life, by using an "evil circus" motif. Oh, brother!

Then finally, when the husband seemed to figure out a plan to reverse his fortunes, the film ended, and I thought "What? That's it? That's the ending? Wait a minute ... that's a gimmick!"

Reading this review back to myself, it seems like I really didn't like it. That isn't true. I am glad I watched it. I thought it had some great concepts and some good moments, and the fact that it manipulated my emotions so well indicates that the filmmaking was effective in a way. In addition, the lead actors did a good job with their roles. If you like a slow-burn mystery, you'll probably get a kick out of it.

It's just that it irritated the hell out of me.

It is very obvious from the trailer that this film was once quite different from the existing version. I think about half of the scenes in the trailer aren't even in the film!  (There are no deleted scenes on the DVD, and there is no commentary, so I can't tell really you why there are different plot elements shown in the trailer.)


Madchen Amick shows the full frontal and rear monty. Additional body parts can be seen in the full frame version.

DVD info from Amazon

  • no major features, but there is a widescreen anamorphic version, as well as a full frame version.

Maybe they should have restored some more of the scenes from the trailer - apparently some plot-driven stuff about safe deposit boxes - and removed some of the evil clowns ...

 ... maybe even - and I know I'm out on a limb here - but maybe even ALL of the evil clowns.

Of course, I'm just thinking of you guys. Personally, I feel there's no such thing as too many evil clowns or dwarves.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: slightly less than three stars. James Berardinelli 2.5/4, Roger Ebert 3/4.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 5.5/10. That seems  a bit low to me. Despite my quibbling, the film is good enough to be in the sixes.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. A good femme-fatale thriller. Not a masterpiece of the genre, but a good, solid watch for people who enjoy this kind of film.

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