Dreamcatcher, directed by four-time Oscar-nominee Lawrence Kasdan, who shares screenplay credit with Oscar winner William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men), is a case of all genres, all the time, and all watered down to utter silliness. There's horror (something menaces four guys in a cabin), sci-fi (it's hideous, slimy aliens), war (a secret Army unit with helicopters does battle with the beasts), western (a posse of buddies unites to crush the outlaws), comedy (the four young pals are also good for some laughs), buddy pic, fantasy (the pals are bonded by a paranormal gift that allows them to read minds), drama (it's a retarded kid they save from bullies who bestows the gift, although, as an adult, he's stricken with cancer), and suspense (will the pals stop the aliens?). Not surprisingly, Dreamcatcher shamelessly careens among multiple tones as it tries to accommodate the smidgens of narrative threads that have been rolled up into this cinematic ball of baloney.

Perhaps the scariest thing about this thriller is that, while Kasdan did the final shooting script, Goldman reportedly 'distilled the essence' of the book. "Distill" and "essence" suggest what Goldman does best: fashion a script with a clean narrative arc stripped down to essentials. But Dreamcatcher catches many more story elements than even its considerable length could handle.

So we have a plot that thickens with details as the story thins. The four childhood pals, now hovering around 30 and all telepathically blessed, reunite at the snowbound Maine cabin near the hometown where they grew up. Early on, we learn that Henry (Thomas Jane) is a suicidal shrink, carpenter Beaver (Jason Lee) is the group goofball, college professor Jonsey (British actor Damian Lewis) has survived a terrible car accident and keeps a vast memory bank in the form of floors of files in a library, and car salesman Peter (Timothy Olyphant) has a supernatural gift for finding things. Flashbacks introduce Duddits (Donnie Wahlberg), the retarded kid the four pals as teens saved from town bullies.

As adults, the four return frequently to the cabin in Maine. The first sign that monstrous aliens have infected the area comes with the arrival to the cabin of a hunter afflicted with terrible gas. While toilet humor has long been a mainstay of teen-skewed comedies, Dreamcatcher invents toilet horror. As the man develops graver fits of flatulation, ultimately dying on the toilet after leaving an amazingly bloody mess, we learn that the monsters are anally delivered to planet Earth. Later, several of the pals discover in the snow a female victim with the same gas problems. Laudably, in the highly anticipated end-credit roll, the film does acknowledge an individual for "Special Bodily Sounds."

The alien monsters, resembling large, slimy worms, are incredibly deadly and flash very scary teeth. On the scene to fight these beasts is Abraham Curtis (Morgan Freeman), chief of the government's secret Blue Unit Group, who has questionable ways of disciplining his men. Fortunately, his number two, Owen Underhill (Tom Sizemore), is an equally formidable warrior but of better character. A denouement that has a villain (Jonesy, who is transmuted into an evil Brit) about to unleash a wormy monster organism into the reservoir serving Boston deserves mention.

Dreamcatcher does boast over 400 visual-effects shots created by a huge team at Industrial Light & Magic. And Signs did prove that there is a real audience appetite for sci-fi hokum. And surely the promise of a supernatural thriller by way of Stephen King also packs need-to-see punch. But let the buyer beware.

--Doris Toumarkine