A college professor randomly begins appearing in people's dreams in Dream Scenario. Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) is a mild-mannered biology professor, who discovers that random people have begun dreaming about him, ranging from his students to total strangers. Despite some concerns about the unwanted attention by his wife Janet (Julianne Nicholson) and daughters Hannah (Jessica Clement) and Sophie (Lily Bird), Paul decides to use these 15 minutes of fame to get his long-gestating book idea off the ground, with the help of a PR agency run by Trent (Michael Cera). However, when the dreams begin to turn into nightmares, Paul begins to find himself the target of scorn from those around him.
Dream Scenario Synopsis
Dream Scenario is a horror-comedy written and directed by Norwegian filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli and co-produced by Ari Aster (Hereditary, Midsommar, Beau is Afraid). The plot is a darkly humourous take on the concept of A Nightmare on Elm Street, as hapless college professor Paul Matthews becomes a viral celebrity when he starts randomly popping up in people's dreams, where he ends up not doing anything other than observing what's going on. However, things take a dark turn when the dream avatar of Paul begins to commit horrific acts, resulting in the real man being ostracized by those around him.
My Thoughts on Dream Scenario
After establishing himself with three incredibly uncomfortable horror films, Ari Aster switches to mentor mode, producing this English-language debut from Kristoffer Borgli (Sick of Myself). Not unlike Aster's films, Dream Scenario ends up being a surprisingly uncomfortable watch, even before the dreams begin turning into nightmares. The audience ends up feeling the same frustrations as Nicolas Cage's Paul, as he is personally blamed for the horrible things people dream of him doing.
In many ways, Dream Scenario is a satire about how fast someone or something can go viral and how equally fast that same person can get “cancelled.” While the film doesn't dig too deeply into the reasons why Paul is appearing in people's dreams, the film does drop hints that he is burying subconscious anger, as shown by his frustration about an old colleague stealing his theories about ants. Theoretically, this could be what triggers Paul's dream appearances to go from mundane to violent.
Nicolas Cage is almost playing against character as the straight man of Dream Scenario, with him sporting a very mundane appearance as a balding man with a grey beard. Paul chooses to play along with his infamy, and his wife Janet, played by Julieanne Nicholson (Blonde, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story), progresses from mildly concerned to being outright embarrassed by Paul's response to the backlash. Then there's a supporting role by Michael Cera as the stereotypical millennial viral marketing guru and brief appearances by Tim Meadows and Dylan Baker as friends of Paul.
Despite how uncomfortable Dream Scenario gets, the film is ultimately a very poignant satire. The film offers social commentary about meme and cancel culture and how they often go hand in hand.