New England housewife Claire Cooper (Bening) is tormented by nightmarish premonitions of murder, yet unable to convince either her husband (Quinn) or the police that it is the child-murderer they seek who is infiltrating her dreams. When her own daughter is abducted, the stakes are raised even higher, and Claire does her best to track the killer on her own.
No one could accuse Neil Jordan of consistency. And somewhat inevitably, In Dreams brings the good run he enjoyed with Michael Collins and The Butcher Boy to an abrupt halt. It starts well enough with haunting, hallucinatory images of police divers searching a sunken town for the latest victim of a child killer, but it all goes swiftly downhill after that.
It's a whiskery premise, but Jordan almost persuades us it has legs by skilfully shading Claire's disturbing visions into some effectively surreal sequences - the schoolchildren's re-enactment of Snow White in the woods at dusk is particularly unsettling, and it's here that Cooper's own daughter is abducted. But surprisingly, given his affinity for dark fables, it's a tone that Jordan cannot sustain. And as the plot moves into ever more familiar territory, the film descends into a morass of serial killer cliches and hammy acting. Bening does her best (as always), but Quinn is wasted (as always) and when Downey Jr. finally makes his appearance as the homicidal loony any remaining interest is obliterated by his ludicrous boggle-eyed mugging. When he's bad (and he's seldom been worse than here) he sucks like an Aquavac.
Still, it would be unfair to burden him with all the blame, and although In Dreams is less of an aberration than High Spirits or We're No Angels, it remains another unsightly and unwelcome blot on the Jordan copybook.
It starts off well enough, and features some excellent cinematography from Darius Khondji (of Seven fame), but like its protagonist, begins to lose its grip and struggles thereafter.