A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 – The Dream Child (1989)
Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
Starring: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter, Danny Hassel, Erika Anderson, Nicholas Mele, Joe Seely, Beatrice Boepple, Whit Hertford, Valorie Armstrong, Burr DeBenning
1/2 (out of 4)
Somebody feed and change me!
Warning: Some spoilers ahead.
A step down in the Nightmare series, but still showing off some inventiveness that makes the films stand out from the slasher pack, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 – The Dream Child keeps continuity by bringing back dream master Alice (Lisa Wilcox) from Part 4 along with her dad (Nicholas Mele) and boyfriend Danny (Danny Hassel). It also chooses to explore the mythology introduced in Dream Warriors related to Sister Amanda (Beatrice Boepple), the poor girl locked inside an asylum with “100 maniacs” who eventually gives birth to everybody’s favorite child killer/hellspawn Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). This time around, in the tradition of directors cutting their teeth on horror (Renny Harlin and Chuck Russell for the previous films) Stephen Hopkins (Judgment Night, Predator 2) comes aboard for the thankless task of overseeing a movie villain so overexposed as to not be even slightly scary anymore. What we end up with is a film that tries to be many things at once – exploitative, dark, and even an exploration of serious teen issues at the same time it’s trying to be funny by having Freddy (Robert Englund) throw out more one-liners while he’s killing people. Ambitious, but when you try to satisfy more than one type of audience you end up satisfying none of them.
Freddy wasn’t a bus driver for very long…
The film opens with Alice and Danny having sex, leading to a dream/shower scene where Alice watches Amanda Krueger attacked in the local asylum by the crazed inmates, one of which looks like Robert Englund. At the school graduation ceremony, we are again introduced to Dan (star quarterback who “feels the need for speed!), and a new group of meatbags… um, I mean “friends” – model-in-training Greta (Erika Anderson), star swimmer Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter), and comic book nerd Mark (Joe Seely). The number of characters this time around are considerably lower than in previous installments, but they still get minimal screen time due to being crowded out by additional plot threads. Freddy manages to come back by using his dead mother to be “reborn” in a manner of speaking, but there’s also the matter of Alice’s pregnancy. Freddy is able to use Alice’s unborn son’s dreams to kill off her friends, even though there’s no explanation how her baby even knows who Dan, Greta, Yvonne, or Mark even are. Another unanswered question is why Freddy needs his mother to come back, and why Alice’s unborn son appears in her dreams as a 10 year old (played by Whit Hertford) who has already named himself Jacob. While you are working on these problems, you might also wonder why Alice has waking nightmares or why Freddy would need to “hide inside her”, other than the fact that it makes for a cool special effect when Alice forces him out (think the Good Ash/Bad Ash sequence from Army of Darkness or Jesse’s transformation scene from Freddy’s Revenge).
Freddy wines and dines the ladies!
Take… on…. me….. (Take on me)
Not just Freddy’s Revenge, though, but A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 – The Dream Child likes to recycle from the third film in the climax where Alice is fighting Freddy in the dreamworld while her friend is off in the real world tracking down a corpse to help change the tide of battle, and there’s recycling from The Dream Master too – at the conclusion, Freddy’s captured souls are shown escaping his body. I suppose it’s inevitable that after 5 movies in, the Nightmare series eventually must resort to cannibalizing itself, but the creators try to spice up the proceedings by throwing in references to weighty issues like drunk driving, the stress of trying to live up to parental expectations (witness poor Greta’s abuse by her bug-eyed, perfectionist mother), alcoholism (Alice’s dad goes to AA meetings), and, of course, the abortion debate. Actually, the pro-choice/pro-life thing is settled quickly – when Mark tells her that one way to solve the Freddy problem is to abort the child, Alice rejects the idea. Then she has to deal with Dan’s parents, who think her Freddy-talk makes her unfit to be a mother and threaten to take Jacob away from her. So yeah – there’s much more serious stuff going on under the hood in this installment, but nobody has forgotten that this is still a Freddy picture, which means we have to sit through cheesy one-liners (“It’s a boy!”) and a goofy scene where we meet “Super Freddy”, Krueger’s jab at superhero-wannabe Mark (who wasn’t told that Will Stanton already tried the wizard master thing and failed utterly). You’ll also get a kick out of Whit Hertford in Freddy makeup doing his best to approximate Robert Englund, which comes off as pretty silly.
I see dead people.
It’s still better than Batman and Robin.
I still liked a bunch of stuff in The Dream Child anyway. There’s some inventive camerawork and neat production design, much if it in the Gothic style (there’s a nice ending sequence right out of an Escher painting, too). The lead-up to Freddy’s birth is done well (the asylum scenes); the special effects also impress (I liked Dan’s motorcycle death and the effect of Mark being turned into a comic book panel and then being sliced up like paper while colored ink drains out of him). I also didn’t mind the idea of Freddy corrupting Alice’s baby, suggested by an interesting ultrasound sequence; in a sense, this makes The Dream Child a cousin of Rosemary’s Baby. Lisa Wilcox does a decent job in reprising her role as Alice, even if she has to resort to some histrionics in spots. Englund is still good, but the less said about the rest of the supporting actors, the better. The Dream Child suffers in the way that many umpteenth sequels in a series suffer – we are too familiar with Krueger’s antics to be afraid of him (and other than a brief historical overview of his past crimes, you would never even know he was a child molester). It also lacks the penchant for the utterly fantastical that was noticeable in the third and fourth pictures. Despite all this (and recognizing that the producers at New Line seem to have scaled back on budget), I can still recommend it. If Elm Street 5 tends towards overreach, at least it tries to be about something more than dead teenagers, which puts the series on a level above the Friday the 13th and Halloween franchises.
– Bill Gordon
Buy A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 – The Dream Child on DVD
Robert Englund was just thinking of his upcoming paycheck from New Line.