If you thought Pontypool was weird, Bruce McDonald just responded with “Hold my beer, eh?” His latest film, Dreamland, pits a hitman (Stephen McHattie) against a trumpet player (also played by Stephen McHattie) at the request of a drug dealing, pedophiliac pimp (Henry Rollins) on the eve of a vampire’s wedding. And, believe me, that sentence doesn’t even cover half of the weirdness in store in this apparent sequel to a coda from Pontypool‘s post-credits scene.
Ultimately, Dreamland is aptly named. McDonald intersperses bizarre, otherworldly elements amidst an otherwise simple narrative that plunges past the deep-end of insanity, landing squarely in ‘dream world’ territory. Straightforward moments transition seamlessly into a nightmarish dreamscape and back again. The result of these efforts lands the film more squarely in fantasy territory, than horror, despite the dismemberment and skeezy story elements with both figurative and literal monsters.
McDonald’s film also features a fun, animated performance from Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers) as she obsesses over wedding details, and an over-the-top villainous turn from Rollins (He Never Died, Feast). Meanwhile, Tómas Lemarquis provides a cartoonish turn as the vampire. However, it’s McHattie (Come To Daddy, Pontypool) who steals the show with not one, but two, distinct performances and multiple scenes playing opposite himself. If you ever wanted to watch McHattie as a morally grounded assassin acting opposite McHattie as a strung-out musician, this movie was tailor-made for you.
Veteran DP Richard van Oosterhout expertly shoots every scene, bathing it in brilliant lighting and capturing the essence of this insane world. McDonald impressively wrangles a story set in a fantastical, yet believable, world with characters, costume design, and sets to match. Viewers are immersed in this neon-soaked hyper subdued reality for the full 90 minutes, right up until a gratuitous climax and a resolution as ambiguous as everything leading up to it. Ultimately, Oosterhout and McDonald provide a visual backdrop worthy of the performances that grace it.
Granted, the dark fantasy aspects of the film won’t appeal to all horror fans. However, the story by Tony Burgess (Pontypool, The Hoard) and Patrick Whistler (Creeped Out) is just so strange that it really doesn’t belong anywhere else. McDonald himself has said he wanted to “keep a hatch always open to the subconscious” and “have instincts rule over logic.” Mission accomplished, as the efforts of all involved result in a gritty fairy tale the likes of which David Lynch might write in his dreams. Unfortunately, this works as much to the film’s disadvantage as its success, as any attempts to firmly grasp a narrative are in vain. Thus, each viewer’s mileage will vary, but fans of nonsense, violence, and stylistic filmmaking will find much to enjoy.
Dreamland will be released on Digital and VOD on Friday June 5, 2020.