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Dreamcatcher by James Newton Howard

"Catching Ambience"
Review by Matt Peterson


Dreamcatcher (Soundtrack) by James Newton Howard


Dreamcatcher (Soundtrack) by James Newton Howard  from

Category    Score

Originality 5
Music Selection 6
Composition 6
CD Length 6
Track Order 7
Performance 7
Final Score 6/10

 Dreamcatcher - Movie Poster - DS 1 Sheet - Style B Available at
Movie Poster


Real Audio Clips



James Newton Howard


Quick Quotes

"A highly effective score, Howard's work translates onto album much like others in its genre have done before; if you can appreciate the delicate care taken in the use of the electronics, and tolerate the usual orchestral blasting during ten minutes of the score, then Dreamcatcher will be an album of interest."

Christian Clemmensen - Filmtracks reviews Dreamcatchers




Music composed and produced by James Newton Howard
Co-producer: Jim Weidman
Conducted by Pete Anthony
Released by Varese Sarabande - April 1st, 2003

Lawrence Kasdan’s Dreamcatcher faded from the box office barely after it was spooled in projectors around the nation. Critical response was quite negative, dubbing the film as yet another deplorable Alien spinoff, with a deceptive, disjointed plot, and weak screenplay. Based on a novel by Stephen King, Dreamcatcher featured some A-list actors, and a successful director/screenwriter, whose past writing projects have included Raiders of the Lost Ark and the best Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back. Everything seemed to come together for this film. Nevertheless, things went horribly wrong. It simply proves what Akira Kurosawa stated in his autobiography: “With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece...But with a bad script, even a good director can’t possibly make a good film.”

Dreamcatcher also had one of today’s leading film composers in its talent pool. James Newton Howard has become today’s neo-Bernard Herrmann, composing successful horror and suspense scores, most notably for the films of M. Night Shayamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs). Howard’s Signs, with its amazingly complex string orchestrations, was one of the highlights of 2002. Despite Howard’s raw talent and successful history with this film genre, his score to Dreamcatcher fails to reach the level of his previous work.

Seemingly hampered by the film itself, or a simple lack of inspiration (which can easily go hand in hand), Howard’s score is quite thin. It is mainly comprised of dark, ambient textures via a sparse orchestra, and an interesting variety of electronic elements. There are really no themes here, just motifs that crop up from time to time. The score generally falls into the trap of cliched horror music, relying on dissonant whining of the strings, thunderous clashes, crescendos, and repetitive, driving motifs that build musical tension. Nevertheless, the unique use of electronics, and Howard's orchestral touch prevents the score from becoming too standard. This is simply a prime example of a score that may certainly work well in the film (it certainly sounds as if it would), but translates poorly to album. In summation, functionality supersedes.

The album from Varese Sarabande (who continues to impress with their support of film music) runs just under 40 minutes, beginning with the bleak “Main Title.” This simple motif (quite undeveloped), coupled with some interesting electronic rumblings, sets up the dismal, dark tone of the score. The three note motif from Signs returns at various points in the score, including “Finding Rick.” “Animal Exodus” ends with an engaging militaristic, repetitive string motif, with electronic underscore. However, it simply repeats, with little variation. Shrill flutes and thunderous clashes abound in “Becky Bleeds.” An interesting, mechanical motif begins “What Are You Up To?” featuring some brass clusters, rhythmic strings, and powerful percussion. There are a couple of tracks that stand out, including “Henry Returns to the Cabin,” which features some well orchestrated, driving string work that gives us a glimpse into what this score could have been. The track ends with some brief, gentle, lyrical phrases that evoke cues from the end of Signs. “The Weasel” also gives us a brief taste of some engaging action music, which intertwines various orchestral elements to great effect. However, it simply ends without reprise. The score continues in a similar fashion: Moments of orchestral virtuosity, then monotonous ambience. It teases us with its potential, then fails to deliver.

Somewhat of an answer to Mark Snow’s overlooked work for The X-Files: Fight the Future, Howard’s Dreamcatcher abounds in ambience, but lacks in overall depth. In the end, this is not necessarily a bad score. There is some solid material to be found, especially toward the end. There are short moments of sheer orchestral brilliance, showcasing the true potential of Howard’s talents. Nevertheless, It simply does not feature enough depth and variety to fully engage the listener on album. I must conclude that Howard simply found the material uninspiring. It’s certainly understandable. Perhaps he sensed how awful the film was, and decided to save his finest work for another day.

Track Listing and Ratings


Title Time


1 Main Title 2:46  ***
2 Finding Rick 1:48  **
3 Animal ExodusTrack 3 - Animal Exodus 3:45  ***
4 Becky Bleeds 1:15  **
5 The Weasel 5:43  ***
6 The Debate 4:11  **
7 Henry Returns to the Cabin 4:22  ****
8 What are You Up To? 2:09  ***
9 Henry Meets Owen 2:51  ***
10 1-800-HenryTrack 10 - 1-800-Henry 2:08  **
11 Curtis and Owen BattleTrack 11 - Curtis and Owen Battle 2:55  ****
12 Duddits Warns Henry 3:27  **
13  Pete and Trish 2:14  ***

Total Running Time



Dreamcatcher by James Newton Howard

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.


Referenced Reviews
Star Wars:  The Phantom Menace



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