Directed by Lawrence Kasdan starring Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Sizemore and Donnie Wahlberg.

With the exception of possibly Elmore Leonard, the writer whose work has been mucked up the most by directors is Stephen King. Sure, there have been great adaptations like 'Carrie', 'The Shining', 'The Dead Zone', 'Stand By Me', 'Misery' and 'The Shawshank Redemption' and in-betweeners like 'Christine', 'The Running Man', 'Apt Pupil' and 'The Green Mile'. But then there's the 'classics' like 'Cujo', 'Firestarter', 'Children of the Corn', 'Pet Cemetery', 'Graveyard Shift', 'Thinner' and a near six-hour miniseries mauling of 'The Stand', whose running time must count as three duff films. Now comes 'Dreamcatcher', a movie that, for all the wrong reasons, will give King's fans some of their worst nightmares.

Four friends (Jane, Lee, Lewis and Olyphant) gather at a cabin hideaway in Maine to hunt some deer, get drunk and remember their childhood friend Douglas 'Duddits' Cavell, who taught them many valuable lessons about living and gave them a gift bigger than life itself. So far, so 'Stand By Me', but then a frost-bitten stranger gatecrashes their log fire bonhomie and 'Dreamcatcher' never recovers.

Whatever King's ability to balance the plot strands of friendship, aliens and government cover-ups on paper, it never works on screen - looking like two films thrown together with Morgan Freeman disgracing himself by getting stuck in the middle.

An early 'X-Files' episode did everything 20 times better than 'Dreamcatcher'. It's neither scary nor exciting and the prospect of the four friends sitting around telling jokes for two hours would've made a much better film. The letdown would be easier to deal with if some rent-a-hack or rookie director was to blame - but it's Lawrence Kasdan. He wrote 'The Empire Strikes Back' and 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and 'Return of the Jedi'. If that doesn't make you depressed enough, he also directed one of the best modern noirs, 'Body Heat', and 'The Big Chill'.

Between Kasdan and Oscar-winning scriptwriter William Goldman - who also adapted last year's weak take on King's 'Hearts in Atlantis' - surely they could've cobbled together something that at least added up. Instead, the greatest thrill 'Dreamcatcher' offers is the closing credits - little wonder that the 'Matrix' short 'Final Flight of the Osiris' is being shown before it to dilute the bad taste.

Please let this be the worst film this year.

Harry Guerin