NOVEMBER 2 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5 (1989)
Having just examined the Friday the 13th series’s contribution to 1989: The Year of the New Low, let’s have a look now at what Paramount’s rivals at New Line Cinema were doing to their flagship horror franchise at the same time. While it doesn’t equal the insulting awfulness of Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child actually represents a much steeper qualitative nosedive in the context of its predecessors; at their best, the Nightmare films reached heights the Friday the 13th producers didn’t even realize existed, so the comedown represented by The Dream Child is all the harsher.
High school is just about over for Springwood High’s class of 1989. Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox, returning from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master) and Dan Jordan (Danny Hassel, also reprising his role from the preceding film) seem to have been brought much closer together by their run-in with Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, whose contract for The Dream Master stipulated that he would appear in The Dream Child as well— otherwise it seems likely that he’d have had nothing to do with this movie) a year or so ago. The two of them have been dating for some time, and have begun planning their futures expressly with reference to each other. The post-Freddy upturn in Alice’s life is so extreme, in fact, that her cranky old drunk of a father (Nicholas Mele— man this is unprecedented! Four actors coming back for the sequel to a slasher flick!) has gone and joined AA. The only spot of trouble on the horizon concerns Alice’s dreams. She’s started having nightmares again, almost like the ones she had right after Fred Krueger killed her friend, Kristen, last year. There’s no sign of Freddy himself, but if Alice knew as much about the killer’s history as we do, she’d know immediately what was up when she begins dreaming about a young nun (Beatrice Boepple) getting locked up by accident in a Bedlam-like insane asylum and coming out knocked up with an unknown loony’s bastard. Even so, the nightmares have her worried. They’re the first dreams she’s had that she couldn’t control since she became the Dream Master as a side-effect of her unwilling symbiosis with Krueger.
She’s right to be concerned. On the very night of her graduation, Alice dreams of the nun— whose name tag she now notices identifies her as Amanda Krueger— giving birth to a deformed, precociously mobile baby. (This is where the first red flag marked “Beware of Suck” pops up. Good or not, no previous installment in the series ever ripped off another movie as blatantly as this scene steals from It’s Alive.) Alice follows the mutant infant from the delivery room, through what can only be part of the asylum from her earlier dreams, and into the same church that served as her battleground against Freddy at the end of the last movie. (It’s a dream, so they’re all part of the same building.) That’s when Alice notices that the little monster is headed straight for Krueger’s clothes, which still lie discarded in front of the altar, and makes the obvious deduction. Alice can’t figure out how it’s possible that Krueger could be returning once again, but that’s okay— if the rest of the movie is any indication, screenwriter Leslie Bohem doesn’t know either. Be that as it may, Freddy’s first act after reconstituting himself is to declare a rematch with Alice, but the duel is cut short when Amanda storms into the room. Krueger flees at his mother’s approach, and Alice is left to wake up in safety.
Her nap has been rather longer than she intended, and Alice is now four hours late for work. Her first action after rushing to the diner is to call Dan at the high school’s pool complex, where their mutual friend (and swim team star) Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter, of Popcorn and The Lost Boys) has snuck most of the graduating class in for an after-hours party. After hearing his girlfriend’s terrified description of Freddy’s fifth resurrection, Dan immediately hops into his truck and drives off to see Alice at work. He falls asleep at the wheel on the way, however, and contrary to everything that was established in the preceding film, Krueger comes for him. Just as Dan’s dream turns maximally sour, he has a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer in the real world, and dies almost instantly in the fiery wreck. This happens right outside the diner, meaning that Alice is the first on the scene to witness the aftermath.
Having passed out from the shock of seeing her boyfriend’s charred and twisted body in the wreckage of the two trucks, Alice winds up being taken to the hospital right along with Dan. While checking her for injuries, the doctors make a discovery that sheds some light on Krueger’s newfound ability to enter dreams without Alice’s assistance— she’s pregnant with Dan’s child. Since fetuses are pretty much always asleep, Freddy must be using the unborn child as a dream conduit— Alice having passed on her borrowed psychic abilities to her offspring. The thing is, it’ll take any reasonably intelligent viewer about two seconds to figure that out after the doctor drops his baby bombshell. The characters, on the other hand, won’t arrive at the same conclusion until the movie is more than halfway over. The other connection which you and I will make instantly, but which will elude our hapless heroes for much of the running time, concerns a boy named Jacob (Whitby Hertford), who pops in to visit Alice in her hospital room. She takes him for a fellow patient, but we in the audience know better. The instant Alice comments that she’s always liked the name “Jacob,” it is obvious that the kid is none other than the spirit of her unborn son, communicating with her via some kind of psychic link because the filmmakers couldn’t think of anything better to do with our time.
Actually, Alice isn’t the only one Jacob’s been talking to. Freddy has already gotten a head-start in setting himself up as the boy’s imaginary playmate, and it is to Jacob that Krueger feeds the energy he derives from the souls of Alice’s friends, who start dropping like flies in much the same way as her junior-year social circle had. I’m not really sure what this is supposed to be about. The obvious answer would be that Freddy hopes to get himself reincarnated, but that doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense if the child growing inside Alice already has a soul of his own. Another thing that doesn’t make much sense is the strategy that Alice and her friends eventually arrive at for foiling whatever Krueger’s plan is supposed to be. Some research down at the library convinces her comic book geek buddy, Mark (Joe Seely), that the answer lies with Amanda Krueger. If they can find where her body was hidden (nevermind that there’s no reason in the world why it ought to have been hidden in the first place), they’ll be able to free her soul to battle Krueger in the spirit world. So while Alice drops into dreamland to keep Krueger busy, leaving Mark to stand guard over her in the world of the wakeful, Yvonne goes poking around in the ruins of the hospital where Amanda was accidentally imprisoned (and where she apparently hanged herself after her son was arrested for serial murder) for any sign of the old nun’s bones.
The surest sign of how little effort went into writing and developing A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child is how many of its details are recycled from previous films in the series. Sure the central conceit that Krueger is somehow using Alice’s unborn child to effect his return is a new twist on the story, but there is very little else here that we haven’t seen in one of the other four movies. The quest for Amanda Krueger’s remains is essentially a straight-up rehash of the search for Freddy’s in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. When Alice goes hunting for Krueger and charges Mark with watching her while she sleeps, it plays out very much like the analogous scene between Nancy and Glenn in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. The “poetic justice” of the killings is repeated from The Dream Master, and if Krueger’s ultimate aim is his own rebirth on the material plane, then his scheme has more than a little in common with his efforts to use Jesse Walsh as a vehicle in Freddy’s Revenge. Hell, even the “evil” baby carriage that periodically shows up in Alice’s dreams has its antecedent in the “evil” wheelchair that Freddy used to attack Philip in Dream Warriors! What makes this so depressing is that even at their worst, the Nightmare on Elm Street movies had always eschewed the reflexive repetition that was the stock in trade of most slasher sequels. Each of the preceding films had taken the series in its own unique direction, and for better or for worse, none was interchangeable with any other. The closest approach The Dream Child makes to establishing its own personality is in completing the ruination of the Freddy Krueger character as a figure of horror. I swear, no matter how thoroughly you think a recurring character has been screwed up, a sufficiently incompetent writer can always make things worse. In the hands of Leslie Bohem and director Stephen Hopkins, Krueger is reduced here to a self-parodying cartoon, stripped completely of any power he had to inspire fear in an audience. And Robert Englund, for his part, plays him as if he realized what a sorry spectacle The Dream Child was going to be, delivering the one-liners that account for most of his dialogue without a hint of actual wit or feeling. If he indeed cared as little about his performance as he appears to have, it would be entirely understandable, for this movie’s creators clearly didn’t care about it either. What did have their interest and attention, you ask? Well perhaps the fact that no fewer than nine special effects houses saw employment on A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 is some indication. The final kick in the ass is that even with all the effort and resources being devoted to them, most of the effects look crude and amateurish, the ones attendant upon the death of would-be fashion model Greta (Erika Anderson) most of all. But since everybody else’s effort was wasted on A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, why not the effects crews’, too?
NOVEMBER 2 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5 (1989)
Oh, The Dream Child. Such memories. I had slept over for a party at a friend of mine’s thirteenth birthday. He and I were both into the two must-see horror series of the 80s. We had watched the original Friday the 13th and Jason Goes to Hell together. For the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, we had conquered Part One, Two, Three, Four, and Seven (aka, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare). It was obvious that Part Five was to come next, and what a better way to show our appreciation of the Freddy Krueger films than to showcase a sequel for all of our friends to see. This entry picked up where A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master left off. Survivor Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox) is in bed with other survivor Dan (Danny Hassel). A truly odd way to start off a formulaic sequel. Ah! But there’s the twist. This isn’t just any old nightmare; it’s the day Freddy returns to Elm Street. This demon may be dead, but he’s found another way to get to Alice. And it’s all her fault!
Alice is having nightmares again. She dreams that she is a nun being attacked by one hundred maniacs, with no one to help her. Has Freddy returned? No, it’s simply a regular bad dream. With relief, Alice heads over to Springwood High School, where friends Greta (Erika Anderson), Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter), Mark (Joe Seely), and boyfriend Dan are waiting for her. They’re all graduating. It’s time for a new chapter in their life, starting with summer and a little fun at the swimming pool later that night. Alice, however, finds herself in dreamland again, only this time, it’s not like the last one. A woman by the name of Amanda gives birth in her dream to a monster. It’s a miniature Freddy who runs off into a church. Alice chases it, knowing the baby is actually Freddy, but she can do nothing. The scarred-face man Freddy Krueger himself is resurrected. Alice’s worst fears have come to life. Suddenly, a nun appears out of nowhere. It’s Amanda! She holds off Freddy for a few moments, allowing Alice to escape. The nun tells Alice to release her from her earthly prison; to look for her in the tower. How did Freddy find to key to returning? And what will that mean for Alice’s friends?
The Nightmare on Elm Street series isn’t the perfect staple for horror fans expecting depth in plot. Sure, it has some, but there’s always loop holes or conflicting images of what the films are about. I personally find Part One, Part Two, and Part Three to be the best in the franchise. The original is...well, original. The sequel is dark, colorful, totally 80s, and graphic. Part Three has fun with the slasher cookie cutter, previous characters, and creative death sequences. I’d go as far as to say Part Four, while not amazing and lacking in the acting department, is a truly fun movie. With Part 5: The Dream Child, we leave the creepy aroma of what made the series, and focus mainly on Freddy himself. He’s not a scary villain anymore, though he’s really been missing his dark side since Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge. The lame one-liners from this washed-up creeper were probably eye-rollers even back in 1989. “It’s a boooooy!”, “Better buckle up, dear.”, “This boy feels the need for speed.”, “You are what you eat!”, “Soul food for my boy.”, and the worst, “It’s Super-Freddy!”. On the bright side, we receive the classic: “Bon appetit...bitch!”
If you’ve ever wondered what Freddy Krueger would look like on a skateboard, well, here’s your ultimate wish. Now, why is this entry called The Dream Child? Well, I guess I’ll have to tell you. Dan gets Alice pregnant, presumably at the beginning of the film, since there is a long, drawn-out cut sex scene between opening credits. You see, fetus-babies do indeed dream, and although Freddy can’t enter the nightmares of Alice, he can certainly go through her baby’s. The baby has a special link to its parents, Alice and Dan, which will allow Freddy to get to them, and finally, get to Alice and Dan’s friends. Original this is, although the execution is laughable. Alice starts to see a boy around in her dreams named Jacob, which the audience can easily tell is her child in its dream state. The actor, Whit Hertford, is somehow disturbing in appearance. He’s around the age of ten by the filming of this entry because that’s how the baby thinks of itself as. However, the vocabulary he picks up is unthinkable considering the baby hasn’t been around people enough to even pick-up ‘Dada’. Aside from that, you don’t find yourself interested in anything the story has to offer.
If there’s one thing I really enjoyed about The Dream Child, it is the teenagers. They all seem to have some unique story behind them, something that Part 3: Dream Warriors and Part 4: The Dream Master used as well. Greta is a nice young girl with an over controlling mother who wants her to be a model. Greta just wants to be a kid, but with mommy always prowling around, making sure her image, health, and status are up to model par, there’s no way to ever let loose. Oh, the life of a photographee. Yvonne is a swimming champion, always diving and hanging out in the hot tub. She’s also the non-believer in the group. Even though none of Alice’s friends believe in the Freddy legend until they face Krueger himself, she comes across as the most down-to-earth member of the clan. And finally, we have Mark, an artsy, comic book dork who gets ill at the sight of blood. How strange, since his comics are filled with violence. He’s also madly in love with Greta. What a twist! It’s nice to know that this time around, time was taken to develop each character, even if it resulted in less of them.
Perhaps this part can glorify with its awesome special effects? But then we remember that this is twenty years ago, and the MPAA was a crouching tiger, ready to pounce on any meaty victim coming its way forth. Two of the three death scenes (yes, a disappointment) were cut for gore and disgust. They weren’t your regular slashings though. One victim is torn apart by wires running through his body, while another female is fed her own guts! The ideas are genius, and they can be seen fully intact on a Media VHS tape. Way back when, Media released many tapes of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, most of which included the cut version that the New Line Cinema DVD has today, but some sneaky devils actually contained the entire uncut version. This also happened to another Media Video title, 1984's Silent Madness, which for the most part is the same cut, but a scene involving a head being drilled is snipped out of one tape. These tapes, just like Part 5's, are identical to each other.
Aside from containing what I believe is one of the worst death scenes in terror history, where a boy is turned into paper (what?) and cut apart, The Dream Child also has a ridiculous late 80s score job. Though I admit, that can be fun, and the opening music is perfect for setting the mood. There’s the story involving Amanda Krueger, who hanged herself years before, but her body was never found. Somehow, someone found out that she hanged herself, we just don’t know how they did. The scene with baby Krueger running up to church, crying for its resurrection, is beyond hilarious. I know it’s a dream, and it’s not supposed to be taken as literal, but the implication that Freddy was born burnt is too nutty to handle. This sequel was basically a showcase for dated special effects, where frightening the viewer is near to impossible, unless they are toddlers. Whether this movie was meant to be taken seriously or not, Super-Freddy, a new jaw-dropping form of Freddy as a super-villain, is one of the dumbest additions to the series ever created. Nightmare 5 can be found on a widescreen New Line DVD with a good treatment for viewing experiences in both audio and visual. However, the picture is not as crisp as the other Nightmare's, if only by a little. As a standalone flick, The Dream Child fails just as much as a Nightmare addition. With Freddy or not, garbage is still garbage, and I’m sorry to say that the unentertaining wackiness of Part 5 actually doesn’t warrant a viewing. For lovers of the classics, this is a must-see. For everybody else, you know the drill. “School’s out Krueger.” I couldn’t have said it any better little Jacob. Trash it!
NOVEMBER 2 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5 (1989)
Director Stephen Hopkins (PREDATOR 2, THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS) takes the reins in this fifth effort to resurrect Freddy, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: The Dream Child. The script written by Leslie Bohem (THE HORROR SHOW), from a story by Bohem and novelists John Skipp and Craig Spector (credited with starting the splatterpunk movement of the 1980s), utilizes the survivors of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER, with concepts taken from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS.
Alice (Lisa Wilcox) and Dan (Danny Hassel) have lived to complete high school and consummate their love. Their plan to spend the summer in Europe is interrupted by Freddy Kruger’s (Robert Englund: DEAD & BURIED) timely return to Alice’s dreams. But this time she finds herself in the role of Freddy’s mother, Amanda - a nun left alone in an asylum and raped by dozens of deranged lunatics in one of the film’s more disturbing scenes. She soon discovers that Amanda's spirit (Beatrice Boepple) is trying to establish contact with her in an effort to stop Freddy once and for all (uh-huh, sure).
She also finds herself dreaming of a little boy named Jacob (a creepy performance by Whitby Hertford: ADDAMS FAMILY, JURASSIC PARK), who turns out to be Alice and Dan’s unborn baby. Freddy is using the dreams of Alice’s fetus to attack her and her friends even while she’s awake. He plans to replace the boy’s soul with his own so he can live again.
The usual teenage friends are on hand to provide yet another body count, including super model Greta (Erika Anderson), comic book geek Mark (Joe Seely), and champion swimmer Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter). How Alice and Dan manage to have any friends at all after losing six to brutal murders in the last film remains a mystery.
Once again, Krueger torments his prey in a series of vignettes, cackling to the wit of his own puns, striking our would-be heroes through their identifying traits: Greta is stuffed with food until she is obese; Mark becomes a living comic strip; and Yvonne suffers drowning.
Special effects crew Adam Jones (TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY) and Alan Munro (ADDAMS FAMILY, ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES) handle the gore chores admirably. The most inventive scenes involve a truck and motorcycle attacking Dan with such automotive parts as seat belts and gas hoses.
Other effective moments include a shower scene (which owes homage to both Hitchcock’s PSYCHO and Wes Craven’s bathtub sequence in the original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), and the asylum lunatics behaving like the zombies of George A. Romero's Dead trilogy (not really surprising considering Skipp and Spector's love for Romero's films). But THE DREAM CHILD contains Freddy's most embarrassing moment in the series when he uses a skateboard in pursuit of a victim - echoing the 1960s Batman TV show when the Caped Crusader surfed against the Joker.
All in all, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5 has better material and potential than its predecessor, but continues the trend of emphasizing humor over horror resulting in a rating of two Shriek Girls.
NOVEMBER 2 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5 (1989)
I'm not even going to try and bullshit you: I love everything Freddy. EVERYTHING. Perhaps it's because he encompasses everything I am - evil & sadistic with a dark sense of humor. Or maybe it's because I like my villains with personality. I also grew up (I use that term loosely) on the Nightmare on Elm Street Series and I hold them close to my heart. So when it was suggested I tackle this movie for one of my first reviews, and for the continuation of Horror- Extreme's look at the series, I thought there was no way in hell I could give this a fair review.
So I went back and watched it for the umpteenth time, trying to give an unbiased look at it. Really, I did try. And while I did find many things about this movie that I found wrong, shouldn't have been done, or just plain sucked, I still come away with things I DO like. Keep in mind, however, I'm completely unqualified to be a critic or reviewer of any kind. I have no training what so ever in this field (or writing in general), & most of the things I enjoy are lumped into the Beavis & Butthead school of thought (Read: I like stuff that doesn't suck). I don't try too hard to find underlying meanings or themes, and I enjoy things from the view of Jane Half Wit. Just fucking entertain me, that's all I ask.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child - Freddy is back to slash through a few Elm street teens once again. The meaning of horror is reborn when he invades the dreams of his nemesis' unborn child.
I really thought more could have been done with the themes in this film. Freddy invading the dreams of an unborn child has HUGE potential - the inability to stop being pulled into the dream world even when you're awake adds a terrifying twist, but other than the first Alice scene where she witnesses Freddy's "rebirth" & her ultrasound, its really doesn't affect the story line much.
And speaking of themes, this movie could have been a hotbed of abortion issues: a nun raped by 100 lunatics, and giving birth to a madman, a teenage pregnancy that threatens the life of not only the mother, but her friends? That really could have been explored, but obviously the filmmakers choose to take the safe route and completely ignored it all together. Had they remotely touched on the issue, I bet this film would have drummed up a lot more interest.
It's a shame, really. It's obvious more time were spent on special effects in this movie (which are quite good for the 80's) than on the story, which is pretty ho hum and essentially the same as the previous entries: Freddy kills teens, teens try to stop Freddy, Teen finally succeeds in "killing" Freddy. Nothing new to see here. It actually would be pretty easy to forgive if I could give a damn about the characters, but aside from Robert Enlgund's usual enthusiastic portray of Freddy, there is nothing about these people that makes you want to give a shit if they live or die. Alice is the most unenthusiastic heroine I've even seen. Even her panic is boring. And the character of Mark, the group goofball and the one you would THINK would have the MOST personality, had the acting skills of a rock.
Another shame is the continuation of turning of Freddy into a wise cracking side show instead of a dark antihero. Don't get me wrong, I love his puns and dark comments, but there IS such a thing as "too much of a good thing". He doesn't have to have a quip for EVERYthing. Does he REALLY have to yell "Let's Rock And Roll!!!" as he rolls Alice into the boiler room? Did we really need more puns like "Fuel Injection!!" during the motorcycle scene when the simple "Don't dream and Drive" would have been enough?
That being said, I think the kills in this movie were pretty well done. I think that's why I love this series so much - kills in the dreamword can be ANYTHING. They can be warped manipulations of a person's darkest fears, or you can bend it to your own will ala Dream Warrior style. It's so much more interesting than "Bad guy pops around the corner with a machete". The fact it's a dream world and doesn't have to submit to real world physics or logistics makes the entire concept an open ended play ground, and it's a shame they were saddled with a weak script and poor acting. The Motorcycle absorption of Dan was pretty damn cool, and still holds up pretty well today, and the Comic World of Mark was different as well. Where can I get a Super Freddy toy?
There's really not much more to say about this. So much more could have been done with this story, but it seems it was lost between the hurry to cash in on Freddy's popularity and trying to hide it's weaknesses under special effects. I consider this a "good time" horror movie - something you pop in when you have friends over, drinking and cheering on Freddy. But it certainly isn't the best in the series, not by a long shot. But hey - at least it's not as bad as part six.