Nightmare on Elm St. 5: The Dream Child

Having survived Freddy Krueger’s (Robert Englund) assault in A Nightmare on Elm St. 4: The Dream Master (1988) , Alice (Lisa Wilcox) and Dan (Dan Hassel) are graduating with their new friends (read: cannon fodder) and have put all of that unpleasantness behind them.  Unfortunately, Freddy has other plans and has figured out a way to return through Alice and Dan’s unborn child!

Yeah.

You’ll have to watch the film to learn whether or not love, goodness and the weakest Deus Ex Machina since A Nightmare on Elm St 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) will prevail.

In interviews, director Stephen Hopkins explained that by number 4, the powers that be at New Line Cinema decided that Freddy Krueger had become too comical and that this installment should be a return to the darker tone of the original film.  I only bring this up to point out how miserably Hopkins and Co. failed in that endeavor.

This is the weakest film of the series, which is not a surprise considering that Freddy is at his weakest.  His facial make-up design makes him look bad, even for him.  Combine that with the odd, over-long limbs, a random wetsuit sweater, and “Super Freddy” - you have a recipe for disaster.

Hopkins bucks quite a few trends in 80s horror from starting the film with a sex scene to having “Art-House-y” chalk opening credits and not making his film scary.  Though there is some truly bizarre, memorable imagery to be found such as the recreation of the circumstances surrounding Freddy’s conception and Alice willing Freddy out of her body.  Trust me, it looks just as weird as it sounds.

This installment “boasts” one of the lower bodycounts of the entire series.  However, though the quantity is low, the quality is quite high.  Hopkins makes full use of the reality or lack there of in the series creating some of the most bizarre death scenes.  Take Dan’s death.  After being thrown out of his truck, Dan gets on a motorcycle to race to Alice’s rescue.  However, along the way, Freddy merges Dan’s body with his motorcycle a la David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983) .  Alice’s comic book reading friend, Mark (Joe Seeley) finds himself the only thing in color in an entirely black and white world and bravely tries to kill “Super Freddy” before being turned into a two-dimensional drawing and shredded.  Meanwhile, hopeful model Greta (Erika Anderson) is force-fed her own innards in a binge gone horribly wrong.

These sequences are immensely creative, which feel wasted amidst such a lackluster story.  For all of Hopkins’ efforts, it's a goofy, scareless affair which has no real identify other than being “the boring one.”

Nightmare on Elm St. 4: The Dream Master

After the large critical and commercial success of A Nightmare on Elm St. 3: The Dream Warriors (1987), New Line Cinemas did what every creative and innovative movie studio does: they tried to make the same exact movie all over again!

The Dream Master is the second in a three part movie set within the overall series.  This review will have spoilers from The Dream Warriors, so fair warning.  The film opens with the three remaining Dream Warriors having transferred back to sane living at Springwood High School.  Kristen Parker (Tuesday Knight, taking over for Patricia Arquette ) has the sneaking suspicion that Freddy (Robert Englund) is coming back.  Surprising no one, he does, and proceeds to kill all three of our returning characters.

Wait, what?

That’s right, director Renny Harlin pulls a Psycho (1960) and kills the heroine halfway through the film.  Enter Alice (Lisa Wilcox), stage left.  Alice daydreams entirely too much, accidentally pulling her friends into her nightmares, making them convenient fodder for Freddy.  As Freddy kills his way through Alice friends, she gains their dream powers, thereby becoming strong enough to stop Freddy once and for all.  We hope.

NoES 4 was the most commercially successful of the original six NoES films.  Harlin stripped down the story and characters to the barest of essentials, added lighting effects the likes of which would make Joel Schumacher envious, and injected more goofy humor in Freddy.  Though Freddy is still performing terrible acts, he’s not particularly scary in this film.  And how could he be?  He’s wearing Wayfarers, dressing in drag, eating pizza made of people, appearing on postcards, and being resurrected by flammable dog piss (has to be seen to be believed).  Worse still, upon rewatching the film for this review, I noticed that the majority of Freddy’s scenes are not only brightly lit, more often than not he’s in direct sunlight!

And yet this installment is genuinely not one of the “bad” NoES films even though it does feature the third silliest method of dispatch Freddy.  Mirrors!  Who knew?  There is a high body count, well-paced murder scenes, grotesque imagery like the souls pulling themselves out of Freddy’s body (the only thing worse than seeing the sequence is seeing the behind the scenes explanation) and Freddy does the worst. Thing. Ever.

Debbie (Brooke Theiss) is the last of Alice’s friends to die in the film.  Debbie’s identifying character traits are a love of body-building and a hatred of insects.  As a result, Freddy breaks both of her arms, replaces them with cockroach legs, rips off her skin, revealing a full cockroach body underneath and then crushes her.  I’ve only gone into such detail because the sequence is still astonishingly cruel and graphic.  And Debbie was barely a main character!  (Incidentally, Mezco ‘s Cinema of Fear action figure line features a toy based on Half-Roach Debbie.

What saves the film is that it’s genuinely entertaining.  The Dream Master is essentially the Summer Action Romp version of an Elm St. picture that features solid performances from Englund and Wilcox, and some truly terrifying imagery.