The opening sequence of this film (based the novel by best- selling author Dean R. Koontz) is beautifully structured. Moving smoothly from one point to the next like a piece of visual music, it succeeds in maintaining suspense by never becoming too clear about exactly what is going on.

Film freaks will start clocking all sorts of images like Nostalgia, The Dead Zone, Deliverance, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Don't Look Now, Poltergeist, Brainstorm, Chiller, etc., during the first ten minutes; this in an attempt to gain footing. Never mind, it all feels fine, if you just let it pull you along. By the time you're in the river with them, your head should be swimming too. And that seems to be a good way to start this kind of film. From that point onward, you take it as it comes.

Jeff Goldblum is Hatch Harrison, a man beset by problems and tormented by dreams which he eventually discovers to be the side-effect of a psychic link to a psychotic killer named Vassago; he sees what the killer sees and shares the experience of his murderous deeds.

Recurrent among his visions is the stalking of his only living daughter, Regina; this proves to be especially distressing when we realize that his other daughter, Samantha, has been run over by an automobile. (What a lot for an actor to suffer through, not to mention enduring the brain-scan following resuscitation from death and the cyber-scan for integration into special effects.)

Christine Lahti, in the role of Hatch's wife Lindsey, develops from the loving housewife, overjoyed with her husband's resuscitation, to the worried housewife, fearful that her husband hasn't returned from the dead with all his marbles, to the submissive housewife, constantly seeking reassurance from her husband and waiting for him to tell her what the next move is.

In short, she plays the various stages in a housewife's life that can occur when the Dark Spirit has transcended the boundaries of life and death and is having an adverse affect upon one's household. All this, of course, until the end when she finally explodes and gives Vassago a good kick in the balls. "For me, the film's about a family being reunited and ending up much stronger because of some terrible things that happen to them," Lahti says.

Both script and direction inspire the entire cast to be convincing in their performances (despite the territory we're in) and still leave enough room for humor when the situation allows. For example, the further Hatch goes off the deep end, the funnier it becomes to watch the reactions of his wife. After all, it's not every husband who's concerned enough about his family's well- being to place guns all around the house.

Alfred Molina, in the role of Dr. Jonas Nyebern, isn't given a chance this time around to produce a character as striking as his Kenneth Halliwell or Tony Hancock, but deserves a mention for carrying off what I found to be the most enjoyable and funny line in the film: "Even as a child, Jeremy was psychotic".

Director Brett Leonard many will recall as the man who gave us so much fun with The Lawnmower Man. This time around there are lots of nice computer generated FX too. And, once again, a very attractive psychopath.

Superb points for Visual Effects Supervisor Tim McGovern, at the helm of the Sony Picture Imageworks team, who treats us to a rollercoaster ride through the underworld of Wonderland (and I mean throughout the film). Superb points for the music, both that composed by Trevor Jones as well as the hot and heavy hellish numbers performed by various rock groups.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett