On the Hazards of Tooth Picking

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If you knew your life depended on your sitting on a toilet-seat cover and keeping the awful thing inside from bursting out, would you get up to reach for a toothpick? The answer is yes if a) you're in a horror movie; b) it's time for the first big blast-o-gore; and (c) you are played by Jason Lee, whose attempts at acting constitute their own special horror.

Virtually every horror film could be subtitled When Smart People Do Stupid Things. In a haunted house, they run up into the attic. In Dreamcatcher, Lee gets off the damn seat. Ka-bloom! Out pops a big, toothy worm with a bigger appetite. It's part of an outer-space colony bent on making all humans food for worms.

This being a Stephen King story, there must be psychics: four kids touched with a gift that's a curse — think Carrie plus Stand by Me. Twenty years on, the four (Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant and Lee), with the help of their strange pal Duddits (Donnie Wahlberg), are battling the leechy invaders. "Be a good boy," Duddits' mom tells him. "Now, go save the world."

Kasdan has been a serious filmmaker, so he gives the goofiness a smart look and some pertinent metaphors about Americans wrongfully detained. But the aim is no higher than the impulse of old schlockmeisters like Roger Corman and Ed Wood: to get the audience to scream.