Lisa Wilcox - Alice Johnson
Robert Englund - Freddy Krueger
Dan Hassel - Dan
Joel Seely - Mark
Kelly Jo Minter - Yvonne
Erika Anderson - Greta Gibson
Whitby Hertford - Jacob
Year - 1989
Score - 2 Howls Outta 4
Fame and recognition.
Most of us want it. Some of us are even obsessed with it. Shows like TMZ, EXTRA, and ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT showcase the famous, even when they don't deserve to hold that title. Everyone wants to be known for something. But when someone garners that "household name" status, that's when you know you've made it. Such was the case in 1987 for one Robert Englund a.k.a. Freddy Krueger.
After the success of DREAM WARRIORS in 1987, Freddy Krueger was THE horror icon. Jason got passe. Michael was preparing for a comeback. Freddy was on top of the mountain, ready to slice and dice anyone in his path. It got even better when in 1988 when THE DREAM MASTER became the best box office showing for the NIGHTMARE franchise, making Freddy a mainstream pop culture attraction and making New Line Cinema a major studio [or as they called it, "The House That Freddy Built"].
Freddy was so popular that he was everywhere. He was on lunch boxes, notebooks, posters, comics, and music. Freddy even got his own show in syndication called FREDDY'S NIGHTMARES, an anthology-type program in vein to TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE and THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Freddy was the hottest thing on the planet at the time. His star was bright.
But then with every star, it begins to burn out. The cause of this burn out was overexposure.
People were getting tired of Freddy. He was no longer scary anymore. His effectiveness from being only in films was erased for good. No longer was Freddy a horror icon. He was everyone's icon. That "special" feeling was gone. Before, we wanted to see more Freddy. In 1989, we didn't want to see him at all. That's no more evident than the box office disappointment of THE DREAM CHILD. Only grossing less than half of what THE DREAM MASTER made, it proved that fans were just sick of Freddy at this point. But was the film a victim of Freddy's overexposure? Or is THE DREAM CHILD just a poor sequel?
Alice (Lisa Wilcox) and Dan (Danny Hassel) return from THE DREAM MASTER officially as a couple in love, having sex at the start of the film. Alice goes to take a shower, but it completely floods her inside like a child in a mother's womb. Suddenly, Alice finds herself at the asylum where Amanda Krueger was sexually assaulted by 100 maniacs, witnessing the attack. Alice wakes up from her dream, worried since she hadn't dreamt about anything Freddy for over a year.
Alice graduates high school with Dan, Greta (Erika Anderson), Mark (Joel Seely), and Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter). The occasion should be a happy one, but suddenly Alice is travelling between reality and the dream world while still being awake. Apparently, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is getting strong enough to come back to life. Alice warns Dan of Freddy's return, but Dan succumbs to sleep and ends up being Freddy's first victim back. The trauma takes its toll on Alice, who finds out not only is Dan dead, but she's also with child.
Alice begins to realize that Freddy is using her baby to feed on more teenage souls, which explains her mysterious travels from reality to dream land and back. Alice tries to convince her friends in vain, but has an ally in the spirit of Amanda Krueger, who wants Freddy back in hell where he rightfully belongs. Alice begins seeing her unborn son, Jacob (Whitby Hertford), in her dreams as well. Freddy has taken a liking to Jacob, trying to make Jacob his own son in his image. Alice must save her friends and her son to defeat Freddy once again.
I hadn't watched THE DREAM CHILD since 1989 when I saw it at the theater with my mom. It's probably the only NIGHTMARE I've seen only once [until this review] and barely remembered any of it but certain moments. Even as an 8-year-old, it didn't really impress me. As a 26-year-old, I understand the film a bit more and realize it's not as bad as I remember it to be. However, the film is far from a masterpiece and does as many things right as it does wrong. That's right folks, THE DREAM CHILD is merely a mediocre sequel.
Let me start with what's good in this film. I love the gothic atmosphere infused in the film. After the very upbeat and poppy THE DREAM MASTER, THE DREAM CHILD is a refreshing change of pace as it is much darker and disturbing than its predecessor. Nothing about this film is upbeat at all and it is closer to the original film in tone. I give credit to director Stephen Hopkins, who was truly inspired to make a good horror film here. The visuals of the film are very dreamlike, especially the final act with the staircases that just seem to curl while defying gravity. Sometimes you wonder what's a dream and what's not, which is pretty impressive for the fourth sequel in a horror franchise. I mean, Alice is always in trouble because she can't control her baby's dreams. It gives the film a nice creepy tone that was missing in the last sequel. Definitely a great step in the right direction. Too bad the script couldn't complete the journey. Hopkins, who would later direct PREDATOR 2 and THE REAPING, tries and really does a great job with alot of energy. But not even he can save this ship from almost sinking.
I also enjoy Lisa Wilcox alot in this film. Her protrayal as Alice in THE DREAM MASTER was awkward for the most part. Here, she's totally confident as an actress and it helps the film greatly. Wilcox is the glue that holds this film together and she's just a delight to watch. You really care about her and sympathize with her situation. She's very natural as she never forces herself to make us feel for her. A great performance for a film that would have been a whole lot worse without.
I thought some of the dream sequences were pretty good as well. The Dan "turns into a motorcycle" sequence is still one of the coolest deaths in any horror film. It's very inventive and shot with a lot of style. I also enjoy the final part of the comic book drean as well. I'm talking about when Freddy slashs Mark, who's nothing but paper at this point, into pieces. The color on his body drains and creates a rainbow puddle on the floor to represent blood. I got a kick out of that one. Too bad everything leading to that was just ridiculous. And the final act with the spiral staircases is very cool visually. And Freddy feeding the souls to the baby - creepy. It kind of sucks that the dreams weren't as memorable or exciting as the dreams in the other sequels before THE DREAM CHILD. They seem thrown together here for some reason but most of them still work.
I wish I could say the same about the script. It's not totally horrible but there was an obvious idea that was dying to be expressed, yet it was treated like it didn't matter much at the end. Obviously, the film was trying to express the hardships of being a teenage mother, but it didn't go further than that. Mentions of abortion and giving the baby up for adoption were tossed aside as if they were never brought up in the first place. What's the point? The images of Alice drowning in her shower and banging on the glass door like a baby in a womb, and experiencing the torment of Amanda Krueger, should have been explored more. The baby seemed like a tool just to create another sequel, and it should have been the other way around. THE DREAM CHILD is one of those films that has a great concept that could make a really well-made film but doesn't execute it to its full potential for whatever reason. Shame.
I also found the characters in this film, other than Alice, to be pretty annoying or just plain uninteresting. The Greta character, played by Erika Anderson, had a story to tell with her snobbish mother and her issues with dolls and an eating disorder. Yet none of this is fleshed out. Greta's just there to be killed in one of the dumbest dream sequences in the franchise. Freddy just feeds her to death, which causes her to choke and die. Really? That's the best death you can come up with for Greta? It was just so...blah! No wonder I didn't remember that death. And Kelly Jo Minter's protrayal of Yvonne - there is no way the scriptwriters created such an annoying character. Minter is a good actress but she just pissed me off whenever she was on screen. How many weird things have to happen to your friends to make you a believer? What was up with 1989 and annoying female horror characters? We had that annoying rocker chick in JASON TAKES MANHATTAN. We had the horrible Tina from HALLOWEEN 5 [she's the worst horror film character EVER!]. And then we have Yvonne in THE DREAM CHILD. Really...why do horror film writers want to torture me? Mark, who I had a relation with because I used to draw comics myself back in the day, was a cool character but Joe Seely's acting was on the borderline for me. So Mark was ruined for me. These supporting characters were nothing but cannon-fodder. That works in a FRIDAY THE 13TH film but in the more personal NIGHTMARE franchise. It's funny how THE DREAM CHILD, JASON TAKES MANHATTAN, and HALLOWEEN 5 were all released within one year. I guess bad things do come in threes.
The worst part of the film for me, and I hate to say it because I love Robert Englund, is Freddy Krueger himself. First off, the make-up job by Chris Biggs, Todd Masters, and Greg Nicotero was just horrible. Freddy looked tired and worn. The face was all wrong in my opinion. I really don't know what happened there but I thought Freddy looked like shit personally. As for the Freddy character himself, he would pop up and ruin every chance of a creepy and gothic undertone this film tried to build. You have such a good beginning that's very dark and moody, but goes away once Freddy comes back and says, "It's a boooooy!" The dark and the funny don't work together here well, especially when Freddy isn't even funny at all in this film. He's a clown. He's a parody - a spoof - of himself. This could have been a serious horror film, yet the writers give Englund these lines that turn the film into a bad comedy. I mean, Freddy on a skateboard? Super Freddy vs. Phantom Prowler? Where's that Wizard Kid from DREAM WARRIORS when you need him? And he almost ruins the motorcycle death for me when he tells Dan that he has "the need...the need for speed." Ugh. Even Englund looks embarrassed to say these lines and even don the Freddy makeup and costume. I don't blame him. I don't understand how the writers could come up with a really good idea for a serious film and have the main villain just crack jokes that deserve tomatoes being thrown? And it obviously gets worse in the next sequel, FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE. Gee, I can't wait to watch that one again. Thanks for ruining a great horror character.
THE FINAL HOWL
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD is a much darker and creepier film than THE DREAM MASTER ever was, yet the film is still worse than its predecessor. It's well paced, excellently directed, well acted by Lisa Wilcox, and has some decent dream sequences. Yet Freddy Krueger is more of a prop than an actual character at this point and that wouldn't change until NEW NIGHTMARE. There's a great idea in this film that's visibly obvious as you watch this film, yet the screenplay doesn't allow it to blossom in the manner that it should. Out of all the sequels, this is the most disappointing one of them all. Yet it's still watchable and it gets credit for being ambitious. But THE DREAM CHILD proves that ambition only gets one so far until you're stuck in a realm of mediocrity.