January 25, 1999 12:00 PM

Annette Bening, Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea, Robert Downey Jr.

With the release of In Dreams, an ambitious but botched mess of a supernatural horror film, Hollywood’s dumping season has begun. Every January and February, after the Christmastime crush of Oscar contenders, the big studios dump the stinkers for which they hold few hopes. Maybe they figure that if the weather’s icy enough, folks will sit through anything so long as it’s playing in a warm theater. Bad bet.

In Dreams is directed and cowritten by Neil Jordan, who, when he’s good (The Crying Game, Butcher Boy), is very, very good, but when he’s dealing with the paranormal (High Spirits, Interview with the Vampire) he can lose his way. Add Dreams to the lost list. It has a baffling plot, characters who are barely there and repeatedly abuses apples, a perfectly decent fruit that deserves better. Bening plays an artist tormented by nasty dreams filled with images of apples and a murdering maniac. Soon, Bening’s dreams start coming true as both her daughter and husband (Quinn) are threatened by the psychopath and her kitchen sink begins belching apple juice. When the sexually confused maniac (Downey, in a long, matted wig and waving painted fingernails) finally shows up in person crooning “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” Dreams goes from bad to rotten to the core. (R)

Bottom Line: Skip this dream date

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