Skip to main content

Is that why you’re here? To see if your baby’s having nightmares?

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

(SPOILERS) The main takeaway from A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, found in post-mortems and general hindsight, was that its box office was so poor (less than half that of its predecessor) because it failed to offer the fans what they wanted. I’ll be the first to admit the premise isn’t a great one, or a very original one (hearkening back to the demon offspring cycle, spanning Rosemary’s Baby to The Omen), but it’s at least attempting to stretch itself, for all that director Stephen Hopkins’ approach is decidedly scrappy and the dream sequences are less than elegant.

A lack of elegance when comparing the oeuvre of The Dream Master’s Renny Harlin to that of Hopkins might seem like an incredibly damning observation, particularly with both of them conspicuously head-hunted by Joel Silver for 1990 franchise sequels, but Hopkins’ “ramp-up-the-gore” response to material in both this and Predator 2 wasn’t really what either series needed, nor was it any great loss when both movies fell foul of the MPAA and cuts ensued. Hopkins cited the original as scary and gory when discussing The Dream Child, but it isn’t really much of either. Whereas the motorbike sequence here, Tetsuo by way of Darkman, is unnecessary, both in terms of cheesiness and grisly gross out.

Nevertheless, Hopkins, in his rudimentary way, succeeds in making his Nightmare more nightmarish than Harlin’s; there is a sense of danger here, and combined with a surprisingly effective (since it’s usually obvious in the series, and therefore ineffective) unclear dividing line between reality’s ends and dreams’ beginnings. This is partly down to the script’s conceit, and a muddled one at that, such as the scene of Greta (Erika Anderson) with her grotesque mother and spoiled guests. It appears as an absurdist dream upfront; it’s only as it continues that we realise it isn’t, until it is (and again, it’s no loss that the scene’s excesses were excised).

It seems there were numerous script wrangles en route to screen, with Leslie Bohem’s originally storyline nixed by then-pregnant producer Sara Rischer back in 1986; Bohem (his name can be found adorning such gems as Daylight, Dante’s Peak and The Alamo) takes the final credit, with story contributions going to John Skipp and Craig Spector (at WAG’s insistence). Uncredited are William Wisher (T2), David J Schow (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, Critters 3 and 4) and Michael De Luca. And yet, despite this over-egged soup of contributing scripters, there’s more actual story making it into this one than the oft-praised The Dream Master. 

Reintroducing the spectre of Amanda Kreuger, complete with “flashback” to the scene of the asylum crime (featuring an unadorned Englund), is an effective place to begin. If this is hampered somewhat by repetition (Amanda’s bones feature this time, as opposed to Freddy’s in The Dream Warriors), incoherence (exactly what Amanda is doing is never very clear) and performance (Beatrice Boepple simply isn’t very good), it scores points for leading us away from the “nightmare kill after nightmare kill” formula. Add to that an effectively unnerving subplot in which the parents of Dan (Danny Hassel) appear, attempting to take custody of the as yet unborn Jacob, and the picture has more than enough going on between sequences.

Kim Newman gave more credit to Hopkins in The Film Yearbook Volume 9 than I perhaps would (“his overdrive style is constantly undercut by the terrible, much rewritten screenplay”). Newman praised the production but damned the plot, whereby the series’ “scripts make less and less sense” and “the story advances through disorientating lapses and leaps as another uninteresting selection of teenagers are brought on and killed off”.

True, the teenagers are never much cop, but they are noteworthy, give or take Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter), identifiable mainly as the requisite Freddy denier (in this context, though, she represents the masses, because she is deceived). Anderson, later of Zandalee, wins the most grotesque sequence, suffering from her parent’s aspirations for her modelling career. Mark (Joe Seely) is, appropriately in the summer of Batman, a comics fan (“Told ya comic books was bad for ya”), although the a-Ha video-esque rotoscoping isn’t as effectively used as it might have been, suggesting, like so much here, a lack of funds or time; you can see evidence of this in the iffy greenscreen as the diner kitchen rips away behind Alice (the returning Lisa Wilcox) to reveal Dan’s death throes, and in the noble attempt to emulate Escher during the finale (Hopkins namechecks Labyrinth and The Name of the Rose; I wonder if he saw Castrovalva).

Talalay felt for Hopkins, given the least amount of time of any sequel and what she saw as the worst concept. But the concept is only actually lousy when it comes to the need – and by the nature of the series’ emphasis on prosthetic nightmares, it is a need – to show baby Freddy. If he’d been kept as a fear, the results might not have been in line with Elm Street expectations, but it would surely have been more resonant. It certainly couldn’t have been less. Scurrying around the place, baby Freddy looks like old David Tennant from Last of the Time Lords, and none of these warped versions of foetal form add anything to the picture, conceptually or visually. The general view was that associations with pregnancy just weren’t what teenagers trying to have a good time wanted from a Freddy frightmare, and this is probably true, since The Dream Child opened softly rather than landing large and taking a nose dive.

The most telling sign of how different this one is to The Dream Master, and so undermining expectations, is that you can no longer bask in Freddy’s kill-happy quips. Instead, they seem gratuitous, unfunny and in bad taste. On balance, I think that’s a good thing, even if it’s directly pulling back from what was tickling the series’ fans. There’s even a frightened Freddy in this movie. Not just one stunned that someone is fighting back, but fearful in response to his son’s/nun mum’s mojo.

There’d be a two-year gap before the then-intended series capper, with Talalay ascending to the director’s chair; it would be the most roundly drubbed entry to that point, despite a box office boost off the back of gimmicky 3D. Freddy was also stepping into a new decade, and it would be accurate to suggest he was beginning to seem passé; from this point on, the series would be mixed with nostalgic impulses (Depp cameos, post-modernism, a vs, and then a remake). In The Dream Child, we were still getting rap songs over the end credits, and Iron Maiden scoring a Number One single from one of the tracks.

Popular posts from this blog

Your Mickey Mouse is one big stupid dope!

Enemy Mine (1985) (SPOILERS) The essential dynamic of Enemy Mine – sworn enemies overcome their differences to become firm friends – was a well-ploughed one when it was made, such that it led to TV Tropes assuming, since edited, that it took its title from an existing phrase (Barry Longyear, author of the 1979 novella, made it up, inspired by the 1961 David Niven film The Best of Enemies ). The Film Yearbook Volume 5 opined that that Wolfgang Petersen’s picture “ lacks the gritty sauciness of Hell in the Pacific”; John Boorman’s WWII film stranded Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune on a desert island and had them first duking it out before becoming reluctant bedfellows. Perhaps germanely, both movies were box office flops.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

If I do nothing else, I will convince them that Herbert Stempel knows what won the goddam Academy Award for Best goddam Picture of 1955. That’s what I’m going to accomplish.

Quiz Show (1994) (SPOILERS) Quiz Show perfectly encapsulates a certain brand of Best Picture nominee: the staid, respectable, diligent historical episode, a morality tale in response to which the Academy can nod their heads approvingly and discerningly, feeding as it does their own vainglorious self-image about how times and attitudes have changed, in part thanks to their own virtuousness. Robert Redford’s film about the 1950s Twenty-One quiz show scandals is immaculately made, boasts a notable cast and is guided by a strong screenplay from Paul Attanasio (who, on television, had just created the seminal Homicide: Life on the Streets ), but it lacks that something extra that pushes it into truly memorable territory.

Say hello to the Scream Extractor.

Monsters, Inc. (2001) (SPOILERS) I was never the greatest fan of Monsters, Inc. , even before charges began to be levelled regarding its “true” subtext. I didn’t much care for the characters, and I particularly didn’t like the way Pixar’s directors injected their own parenting/ childhood nostalgia into their plots. Something that just seems to go on with their fare ad infinitum. Which means the Pixars I preferred tended to be the Brad Bird ones. You know, the alleged objectivist. Now, though, we learn Pixar has always been about the adrenochrome, so there’s no going back…

All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies.

Watership Down (1978) (SPOILERS) I only read Watership Down recently, despite having loved the film from the first, and I was immediately impressed with how faithful, albeit inevitably compacted, Martin Rosen’s adaptation is. It manages to translate the lyrical, mythic and metaphysical qualities of Richard Adams’ novel without succumbing to dumbing down or the urge to cater for a broader or younger audience. It may be true that parents are the ones who get most concerned over the more disturbing elements of the picture but, given the maturity of the content, it remains a surprise that, as with 2001: A Space Odyssey (which may on the face of it seem like an odd bedfellow), this doesn’t garner a PG certificate. As the makers noted, Watership Down is at least in part an Exodus story, but the biblical implications extend beyond Hazel merely leading his fluffle to the titular promised land. There is a prevalent spiritual dimension to this rabbit universe, one very much

Piece by piece, the camel enters the couscous.

The Forgiven (2021) (SPOILERS) By this point, the differences between filmmaker John Michael McDonagh and his younger brother, filmmaker and playwright Martin McDonagh, are fairly clearly established. Both wear badges of irreverence and provocation in their writing, and a willingness to tackle – or take pot-shots – at bigger issues, ones that may find them dangling their toes in hot water. But Martin receives the lion’s share of the critical attention, while John is generally recognised as the slightly lesser light. Sure, some might mistake Seven Psychopaths for a John movie, and Calvary for a Martin one, but there’s a more flagrant sense of attention seeking in John’s work, and concomitantly less substance. The Forgiven is clearly aiming more in the expressly substantial vein of John’s earlier Calvary, but it ultimately bears the same kind of issues in delivery.

Other monks will meet their deaths here. And they too will have blackened fingers. And blackened tongues.

The Name of the Rose (1986) (SPOILERS) Umberto Eco wasn’t awfully impressed by Jean Jacques-Annaud’s adaptation of his novel – or “ palimpsest of Umberto Eco’s novel ” as the opening titles announce – to the extent that he nixed further movie versions of his work. Later, he amended that view, calling it “ a nice movie ”. He also, for balance, labelled The Name of the Rose his worst novel – “ I hate this book and I hope you hate it too ”. Essentially, he was begrudging its renown at the expense of his later “ superior ” novels. I didn’t hate the novel, although I do prefer the movie, probably because I saw it first and it was everything I wanted from a medieval Sherlock Holmes movie set in a monastery and devoted to forbidden books, knowledge and opinions.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) (SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek , but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan . That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

You ever heard the saying, “Don’t rob the bank across from the diner that has the best donuts in three counties”?

2 Guns (2013) (SPOILERS) Denzel Washington is such a reliable performer, that it can get a bit boring. You end up knowing every gesture or inflection in advance, whether he’s playing a good guy or a bad guy. And his films are generally at least half decent, so you end up seeing them. Even in Flight (or perhaps especially in Flight ; just watch him chugging down that vodka) where he’s giving it his Oscar-nominatable best, he seems too familiar. I think it may be because he’s an actor who is more effective the less he does. In 2 Guns he’s not doing less, but sometimes it seems like it. That’s because the last person I’d ever expect blows him off the screen; Mark Wahlberg.

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.