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In Dreams is a 1999 American psychological horror film directed by Neil Jordan. It stars Annette Bening as a New England illustrator who begins experiencing visions of a missing child, and psychic connections to a serial killer responsible for the murders of several local children. The film features supporting performances from Robert Downey Jr., Aidan Quinn, and Stephen Rea. It is an adaptation of the novel Doll's Eyes (1993) by Bari Wood.

In Dreams
In dreams.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNeil Jordan
Produced byCharles Burke
Redmond Morris
Stephen Woolley
Screenplay byBruce Robinson
Neil Jordan
Based onDoll's Eyes
by Bari Wood
Music byElliot Goldenthal
CinematographyDarius Khondji
Edited byTony Lawson
Distributed byDreamWorks Pictures
Release date
January 15, 1999
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[2]
Box office$12 million[3]

The screenplay for In Dreams was co-written by Jordan and screenwriter Bruce Robinson. Filming took place various locations throughout New England as well as on the Baja California Peninsula. Released theatrically in the United States in January 1999, the film grossed $12 million at the box office, and received varied reviews from critics, with several praising its visuals and Bening's performance, while others criticizing its lack of narrative coherence.



Claire Cooper is a suburban housewife and mother in rural Massachusetts who illustrates children's stories. Her husband, Paul, is an airline pilot, and is frequently away from home due to work, leaving Claire in the care of their daughter, Rebecca. Claire begins experiencing bizarre, vague dreams involving an underwater city and the murder of a young girl. Shortly after, Rebecca goes missing during an outdoor school play, and is later found dead at the bottom of a lake.

Believing her dreams are premonitory, she attempts to involve herself in the police investigation, but is met with resistance. Her dreams and visions increase, and she believes she is witnessing the movements of her daughter's killer, a disturbed serial murderer named Vivian Thompson. She uncovers that the underwater city she has experienced in her dreams is a former town, Northfield, that was flooded when a reservoir was formed.

The visions drive Claire to the brink of insanity, and she seeks help from a psychologist, Dr. Silverman, who diagnoses her as psychotic. She is subsequently committed to a psychiatric institution after slitting her wrists, but remains plagued by visions, including one of Paul's murder by Vivian. When she experiences another vision of Vivian kidnapping another girl, Claire manages to escape from the institution, hoping to stop him from claiming another victim. She steals the vehicle of a security guard, and tracks Vivian to an abandoned fruit factory situated along the lake.

Upon arriving at the factory, she is met by Vivian and the young girl, Ruby. Vivian, driven mad by his own severe childhood abuses, holds Claire hostage at the factory. Police manage to track Claire to the factory, where they have a face-off with Vivian, holding a gun to Claire's head. While a SWAT team attempts to snipe Vivian from a helicopter, he chases Claire along a bridge crossing a tributary waterfall, knocking both her and himself over the guardrail. Claire and Vivian plunge below the falls. In the water, Claire has a vision of being reunited with her daughter before drowning.

Later, Vivian, who survived the fall, is committed to the same psychiatric institute where Claire had been incarcerated. While lying in his bed, he has a horrific vision of the phrase "Sweet dreams, Vivian" scrawled in blood on the ceiling. The phrase emerges across the walls of his cell, and he screams in horror.



Film scholar Maria Pramaggiore notes In Dreams as one example in Jordan's cinematography in which popular songs are employed to "disestablish time and place to convey the notion of time as a cyclical process."[4] Pramaggiore also stresses the importance of the uncanny in the film, citing it as one of several in Jordan's filmography—along with The Miracle (1991) and The Butcher Boy (1997)—in which "dreams assume the status of reality."[5]



In Dreams was adapted from the novel Doll's Eyes by Bari Wood, by writer-director Neil Jordan and screenwriter Bruce Robinson.[6] Commenting on what the film's overarching theme was, Jordan stated: "I don't think the world behaves in a rational manner, but we all write about it and talk about it as if it does. I think that's what a lot of stories I've told have been about. How people try and make sense of their own lives with the tools available like logic and a sense of consequence, and these forces erupt into lives that make no sense."[7]


Filming took place in multiple locations in New England, including several Massachusetts cities: Northampton (at the Northampton State Hospital and Smith College), Southampton, Northfield, and Florence.[8] Additional photography took place in New Castle, New Hampshire.[9] The underwater sets were created and filmed at 20th Century Fox studios on the Baja California Peninsula, in the same water tank used for the underwater portions of James Cameron's Titanic (1997).[10] The film's production budget was approximately $30 million.[3]

Cinematographer Darius Khondji applied filters on the camera lenses to achieve lush accents on the film's autumnal imagery, noted by critic Nick Pinkerton as "hysterical and hyper-real."[11]


Box officeEdit

In Dreams was released in the United States on January 15, 1999,[12] across 1,670 theaters.[3] During its opening weekend, it grossed $3,992,449, ranking at number 11 in the U.S. box office.[3] It remained in theaters through the weekend of March 5, 1999, with a final gross of $11,927,682.[3]

Critical receptionEdit

Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the film's cinematography and Bening's performance, summarizing: "At heart In Dreams is just a campfire story, and a pretty loony one at that. But Neil Jordan has directed it furiously, with a lush, insinuating visual style that gets right under the skin."[10] Some critics, such as Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, commented on the film's dubious plot, deeming it "the silliest thriller in many a moon, and the only one in which the heroine is endangered by apples. She also survives three falls from very high places (two into a lake, one onto apples), escapes from a hospital and a madhouse, has the most clever dog since Lassie and causes a traffic pileup involving a truck and a dozen cars."[13]

Jack Mathews of the Los Angeles Times likened the film to A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), but criticized it for its lack of realism.[6] However, Mathews praised the film's underwater visual sequences, noting that they "have the haunting atmosphere typical of Jordan's past horror films," and wrote that "Bening works this role like a sore muscle, or a tooth that needs pulling. It's a courageous, anti-glamour effort, one of those sweat-and-drool "Snake Pit" performances that drives hair and makeup crazy, not to mention mental-health-care providers."[6] The Washington Post's Desson Howe similarly praised Bening for "an exhausting, breakout performance," as well as the film's "surrealistic" visuals.[14] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly awarded the film a C-minus rating, deeming it a "dismayingly schlocky and literal-minded thriller."[15] Emanuel Levy of Variety characterized the film as "dark, scary and uncompromising," and surmised that criticisms would result from the film's "convoluted narrative with a downbeat tone and shockingly unconventional ending, which doesn’t provide the genre’s customary pay-off."[16]

The film holds a 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 51 reviews. Co-writer Robinson criticized the film the year after its release, stating: "It was a complete and utter mess from top to bottom. I thought Jennifer Eight was a low point, but Christ almighty, this hit the floor and dug."[17] In a retrospective review, critic Nick Pinkerton referred to the film as "a fundamentally miscalibrated movie of rather piquant badness, the work of a preternaturally talented hack, if such a thing can exist."[11] Given that critics are pack animals, we might well expect this movie to get better as time passes. That is the suggestion, in 2014, of Ken Hanke, who writes, "It is also incredibly stylish, incredibly creepy and rich in Jordan's usual Catholic symbolism. It is also seriously due for reappraisal." [18]


The soundtrack to In Dreams was released on January 12, 1999.[19]

1."Agitato Dolorosa"Elliot Goldenthal featuring London Metropolitan Orchestra4:59
2."Claire's Nocturne"Elliot Goldenthal featuring London Metropolitan Orchestra2:38
3."Pull of Red"Elliot Goldenthal featuring London Metropolitan Orchestra2:07
4."Appellatron"Elliot Goldenthal featuring London Metropolitan Orchestra3:33
5."Wraith Loops"Elliot Goldenthal featuring London Metropolitan Orchestra3:27
6."Rubber Room Stomp"Elliot Goldenthal featuring London Metropolitan Orchestra2:00
7."Pulled by Red"Elliot Goldenthal featuring London Metropolitan Orchestra1:11
8."Scytheoplicity"Elliot Goldenthal featuring London Metropolitan Orchestra2:26
9."In Dreams"Roy Orbison2:50
10."Rebecca's Abduction"Elliot Goldenthal featuring London Metropolitan Orchestra4:32
11."Premonition Lento"Elliot Goldenthal featuring London Metropolitan Orchestra1:42
12."While We Sleep"Elliot Goldenthal featuring London Metropolitan Orchestra2:36
13."Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else but Me)"The Andrews Sisters2:17
14."Andante"Elliot Goldenthal featuring London Metropolitan Orchestra3:38
15."Elegy Ostinato"Elliot Goldenthal featuring London Metropolitan Orchestra4:11
16."Dream Baby"Elizabeth Fraser4:30
Total length:49:27[19]


  1. ^ Copyright Application for In Dreams (January 27, 1999). United States Copyright Office. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  2. ^ "In Dreams - Budget". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e "In Dreams - Total Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  4. ^ Pramaggiore 2008, p. 96.
  5. ^ Pramaggiore 2008, p. 22.
  6. ^ a b c Mathews, Jack (January 15, 1999). "Silly Psycho-Thriller 'In Dreams' Offers More Laughs Than Gasps". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 30, 2018.  
  7. ^ Pramaggiore 2008, p. 71.
  8. ^ "Made in Massachusetts". Massachusetts Film Office. Archived from the original on July 1, 2016. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  9. ^ Ocker 2010, p. 300.
  10. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (January 15, 1999). "FILM REVIEW; Want to Share Dreams? Be Careful; It's Murder". The New York Times. Retrieved August 28, 2018.  
  11. ^ a b "In Dreams". Museum of the Moving Image. Symposiums. November 7, 2005. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  12. ^ "In Dreams". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 15, 1999). "In Dreams". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  14. ^ Howe, Desson (January 15, 1999). "Nightmarishly Good 'Dreams'". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  15. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (January 22, 1999). "In Dreams". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  16. ^ Levy, Emanuel (January 14, 1999). "In Dreams". Variety. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  17. ^ Lezard, Nicholas (November 25, 2000). "Studio knives and FBI plots". The Guardian. London. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b "In Dreams Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved August 30, 2018.

Works citedEdit

  • Ocker, J.W. (2010). The New England Grimpendium. Woodstock, Vermont: The Countryman Press. ISBN 978-1-581-57862-1.
  • Pramaggiore, Maria (2008). Neil Jordan. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-07530-8.

External linksEdit