Dreamland is a neo-noir jazz assassin movie with a vampire in it. Is that enough to draw you in?
We start with a montage of overlapping lives, including the trumpet-playing precognitive junkie Maestro (Stephen McHattie), who is trying to escape the forced hospitality of the Countess (Juliette Lewis), and an as-yet unnamed assassin (Also Stephen McHattie) whose latest assignment ends a child sex trafficking operation.
McHattie plays two characters. No effort is made to make them look different save grooming and wardrobe, but this is not a plot point and nobody ever mentions it.
The assassin returns to his boss, Hercules (Henry Rollins), and is horrified to discover that his assignment wasn’t to eliminate child trafficking in the city of Dreamland, but to eliminate the competition for Hercules, whose operation now includes a trade in child brides.
One of the abducted girls is Olivia (Thémis Powels), a neighbor of the assassin. When he confronts Hercules, he discovers she’s been promised to be the bride of the Countess’s brother, a literal vampire (Tómas Lemarquis).
This movie has a vampire in it, yes, but it is not about vampires. There’s no vampire hunting, no turning, none of the hoopla of a vampire film. It’s just that one of the supporting characters is a manic, grinning vampire.
Hercules will let the assassin take Olivia away if he brings him the severed finger of the trumpet player. Thus, paths cross and recross, and the assassin hatches a plan to rescue the girl and end the trafficking ring without having to maim anyone.
Let’s just come out with it: this was made by the same people that made Pontypool, and I loved Pontypool. I think it’s one of the best horror films ever. There. That’s what was on my mind when I went into this film by the same director, Bruce McDonald, and the same writer, Tony Burgess, who also wrote Pontypool Changes Everything, on which Pontypool was based. Dreamland is not a story from the book, but it certainly could be in the same weird, surreal yet strangely light universe, though you’d be hard-pressed to find much in common between the two movies, except McHattie starring, and a wry, humorous undercurrent to horrific elements and violence.
Dreamland lived up to my hopes. As I say, it’s not very Pontypool-esque, but it is very good. The acting is stylized and sometimes a little silly, the soundtrack is an amazing noir-jazz environment throughout (and McHattie even sings during the action-packed climax!), and the whole is something new and refreshing.
I couldn’t help making comparisons in my mind as I watched this. And as unfair as that is, how could I not? It has a little dystopian neo-noir that reminds me of Blade Runner and Disco Elysium. Some of the stylized elements remind me of a Terry Gilliam film. The full embracing of weirdness as a fact of life gives me a bit of a David Lynch vibe. There’s some Dusk til Dawn in there. There were some Stephen King moments, both the Dark Tower and The Shining. The Gunslinger in the Overlook Hotel, can ya but dig it.
And a word about the location: according to the credits, this is a Luxembourg-Canada-Belgium production, but shot on location in Dreamland.
Rating: 9 out of 10 severed pinkies