Unable to overpower the Dream Master who vanquished him in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 4’, Freddy (Robert Englund) haunts the innocent dreams of her unborn child and preys upon her friends with sheer horror. Will the child be saved from becoming Freddy’s newest weapon or will the maniac again resurrect his legacy of evil?
For this eye-popping installment, director Stephen Hopkins (‘Lost in Space’, ‘Predator 2’) enlisted make-up wizard David Miller (‘The Terminator’), original creator of Freddy’s hideous visage. The result: a face not even a mother could love, and terror beyond your wildest nightmares!
eyelights: Robert Englund. its set design. the Escher-like sequence.
eyesores: its teen cast. Jacob. its Freddy baby. its corniness.
“Kids… always a disappointment.”
When you’re bereft of fresh ideas, what do you do to draw an audience in? Throw a little sex at it. Then copy from more successful films, including your peers and predecessors. That’s what the filmmakers of the fourth (fourth!) sequel to ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street‘ did with “The Dream Child”.
Released in 1989, it was rushed into production immediately after “The Dream Master“, despite having such a sketchy concept that the movie poster that was released had little to do with the film’s content. Completed in a mere two months, it was released less than a year after its predecessor.
It’s a direct sequel to “The Dream Child”: it follows Alice as she graduates and discovers that, despite her best efforts, Freddy has found a way to return and stalk her new friends. Soon she discovers that the secret lies with a child named Jacob, whom Freddy is using as a channel into reality.
But who is this Jacob, and how does he relate to Alice?
Frankly, “The Dream Child” is boring. It’s not terrible, per se, but it lacks any of the spark that had made the original so captivating. The series has become a caricature of its former self, trying to make its set pieces exciting and forgetting that, as horror, they should primarily be scary.
Case-in-point the scene in which Dan, now Alice’s boyfriend, drives over to see her and falls asleep at the wheel: First he survives driving against oncoming traffic and crashing his truck. Then he steals a motorbike (the keys await!) and he turns into a cyberbiker as Freddy blends the two.
It serves no purpose other than to (hopefully) impress the audience.
But it’s just silly.
The same goes for the sequence in which Greta falls asleep at a dinner party her mother holds for her and she’s force-fed by Freddy, dressed up as a chef, stuffing her until her cheeks bulge out like balloons. Not her stomach, her cheeks. Her poorly-designed, plastic cheeks. It’s a horrible sight.
It’s a camp nightmare.
And don’t even get me started on the one when Mark, an aspiring comic book artist, turns into his creation, the Phantom Prowler, to fend Freddy off, blasting him with guns and a Sylvester Stallone-like tagline. I mean, it’s grating enough to start with, but Freddy comes back as a super villain.
The ones that revolve around Alice are a little bit better, as they’re more atmospheric, frequently taking her to the asylum where Amanda Krueger was accidentally locked in, and showing what happened to Freddy’s mom. Granted, they’re just tools for exposition, but at least they’re more nightmarish.
Sadly, though Lisa Wilcox is worthy as the lead, her Alice is less compelling this time, more generic. Whereas she was a timid daydreamer, now she’s just a cookie-cutter teenager, down to the blonde locks. The only thing that’d make her special would be her “Dream Master” abilities – if she used them.
Which she doesn’t.
The only thing of interest in this picture are the discussions of parental expectations of their children, as Alice’s friends struggle with choosing the life they want versus the ones that their parents want for them. It’s typical teen angst stuff, but at least makes the characters somewhat relatable.
There’s also the discussions around teen pregnancy, which involve a parent’s acceptance of their child, the responsibility for the newborn and even the option of abortion – which here is brought up as a way to prevent Freddy from returning. It’s not done in any deep way, but it’s still considered.
And there’s the notion that an unborn infant could be a vessel for Freddy, given that it’s in a permanent dream state. That’s an interesting concept. Unfortunately, the filmmakers assumed that the baby would have a pre-formed personality and that Freddy could interact with it, manipulate it.
Hmmm… not sure about that.
To make matters worse, they gave it a physical form in Whit Hertford, who was all googly-eyed, numb-faced and high-pitched. You want to slap the little !@#$. Oh, and also beat the !@#$ Freddy-baby to a pulp: it’s a plastic turd with creepy features suggesting that Freddy was born a nasty !@#$.
Sadly, they both get so much screentime that they’re unavoidable.
The performances don’t help much. Robert Englund manages well despite the crummy script (at least he gets a few fun cameos to make up for it) and Lisa Wilcox is decent as Alice. But all of the teenagers in the cast are incapable of delivering a line worth their lives. It was nearly cringe-worthy stuff.
At least the picture looks good, from the opening credits with his clawed title and chalk text, to the steamy sex scene (and subsequent gratuitous nudity) and the set designs. There’s even an Escher-like sequence that’s quite an eye-pleaser. Forget the fact that it was likely lifted from ‘Labyrinth‘.
This leads to a finale that involves Jacob vs Freddy. Yes, because it’s come down to this: Freddy has to fight a pre-teen child with bad ghoul make-up. And Alice’s role consists of getting her friend to release Amanda so that Amanda call tell Jacob to use his powers. Seriously, it’s as pathetic as that.
Whoever would have imagined that ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, one of the most original horror films of its era, could spawn a series of utterly unsatisfying sequels – and be rewarded with growing box office success? It’s baffling. “The Dream Child” is one of the least inspired ones thus far; it suffered for it.
But at least it’s not “Freddy’s Revenge”.
Date of viewing: August 13, 2017