Non Canon Review: A Nightmare On Elm St 5: The Dream Child (1989)

APRIL 5, 2010


I honestly think this is only the 3rd, MAYBE 4th time I have watched A Nightmare On Elm St 5: The Dream Child (the 5 only appears on the cover/poster, for the record; the film leaves it out). I can’t remember if I only saw it a single time as a kid, prior to the DVD release in 1999 (which would have been my 2nd or 3rd viewing). I just never liked it - it was confusing, lacking kills (only 3 in the entire movie! Even the original had more if you count Nancy’s mother. And those had blood/scares), and simply not as fun as the others.

But in my eyes, it’s moved a notch above The Dream Master with this most recent viewing, because while I stand by all of the previous claims, it’s at least TRYING to be interesting, unlike Renny Harlin’s entry. It’s got some good ideas, such as the concept of Freddy using the dreams of the unborn baby to get at the others while they were awake (according to Fangoria articles, he was actually trying to be REBORN through the baby, but if this concept made it into the finished film, it doesn’t come across). And even though they don’t really do anything with it, I liked that all of the kids had “overbearing parent” issues, which was nice after the last film, where most of them didn’t even seem to HAVE parents. And the cynic in me enjoys the irony in this, since the “kids” here are all obviously in their 20s, with Danny Hassel being the youngest at 22 (the dude playing Mark was 29!). Move out and get a job if you don’t like your parents! You’re almost old enough to be President!

And the humor has been toned down ever so slightly; had they kept this pace Freddy would have been scary again by part 8 or so. Granted, the fact that there are only three kills in the entire movie (seriously, who the hell greenlit this body count? Of all the producers and writers on this thing, no one ever said “Hey, we need more than one kill per act, please”?) keeps Freddy and his quips to a minimum by design, but he’s largely joke-less during the finale. Of course, this means he has to double up during the kills; during the scene where he kills Dan, he just begins shouting things at random: “Fuel injection! Power drive! Fast lane!” What? And the less said about “Super Freddy!”, the better.

Actually I take that back, because I want to know who added this into the movie. It doesn’t seem to be Leslie Bohem, who was writing a script based on a general outline by New Line (as were John Skipp and Craig Spector, who weren’t aware of Bohem’s script (and vice versa) until much later). The (88 page!) novelization by Joseph Locke says “based on the script by Leslie Bohem” without mentioning anyone else. It’s pretty much the same, but some of the character dynamics are changed (Greta seems to be into Mark in the book) and the dialogue is largely different than the film. But Mark’s kill is missing both SuperFreddy and Mark’s idiotic “Phantom Prowler” or whatever the hell he was called, and thus it’s a far better scene. The kill is essentially the same - Freddy slashes a paper version of Mark - but it doesn’t have the goofy visual of a guy dressed like a combo Iron Fist and Punisher shooting at a musclebound Freddy, who is shouting things like “More powerful than a local madman”. In the book, Freddy mocks Mark’s dead friends, saying “Deader than your friend Greta”, which is not only funnier but also cruel, thus more fitting to the original character. Remember when this guy molested kids? So obviously, all this stupid crap was added to the script draft later than the one Locke was working from.

Note - I might be persuaded to think he was merely toning it down and trying to improve on the script, but he’s either a lousy writer or doing the half-assedly half-assed job in half-assed history. Example: “Last year, after the deaths of her brother and friends, Alice thought nothing good would happen to her again. But that had changed.” - that isn’t from the synopsis, it’s on the 2nd page of the 1st chapter. Granted, I would be tried for war crimes in grammar court because of my reviews, but my shit’s free. I paid 2 bucks for this rubbish.

Bohem might be the one to blame for the fact that Alice only has about two lines in the movie, repeated over and over with minimal variation. Every time she opens her mouth its either “It was Krueger, he’s back!” or “How can he be getting to me when I’m awake?”. Her acquired skills from being the Dream Master have seemingly vanished (though the novel has her turning into a motorcycle thanks to Dan - I’m not making this up), which adds some weight to my theory that making someone the lead protagonist for two horror movies in a row is probably not a good idea (all due respect to Ms. Wilcox, and Jamie Lee, and Neve Campbell, etc).

See, it’s one thing to bring someone back years later, like Nancy in Nightmare 3 - but they had to have grown/changed as a character in a positive way, and they also need a surrogate in their former position, such as head Dream Warrior Kristen Parker. Here, we get Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter), Alice’s new best friend, who like Alice only has a few lines in the movie, mostly variations on “It’s impossible for someone to attack you in your dream!”. Alice doesn’t really pass the torch to Yvonne as much as awkwardly hold it with her. Also, Yvonne really only becomes more significant to the story due to a lack of options - it’s not until the others are all dead that she begins to have any scenes to herself.

And in a really odd move, Yvonne not only survives Freddy (in the film’s best nightmare sequence no less - when her diving board becomes his razor fingers), but spends the climax in the real world. While Alice battles Freddy in the dream world, Yvonne goes to the sanitarium and finds Amanda Krueger’s body inside one of the rooms, and once she touches it the body disappears, putting Amanda’s soul at rest and allowing her to help Alice defeat Freddy. Or at least, that’s what I THINK is happening; the movie is so damn convoluted I had to draw a lot of my own conclusions just so my brain didn’t explode. If I’m right, this causes a pretty big logic/plot hole, since Dream Warriors clearly showed that she was buried.

Speaking of plot holes, the book thankfully removes (or never had access to the script pages for) the scene where Mark and Alice research Freddy. I don’t buy this for either character. Mark is a big nerd who is into fantastical fiction - the fact that there was a guy killing people in their dreams IN HIS OWN TOWN never got back to him? And for Alice it’s even stupider - granted things were a bit hectic when it was happening, but in the year after the guy killed her brother and her friends (and thinking nothing good would ever happen to her again), she never bothered to look into this guy? Come on. This also means we once again have to hear the story about who he was and how he died, which is counter productive for this movie since it just re-establishes the fact that Freddy no longer has any reason to go after her.

And since when does he need Alice to “bring” him victims? One could argue that if Mark and the others really had never heard of Freddy that he couldn’t appear in their dreams, but it didn’t stop him from bothering Nancy and Tina in the original film. Is he just too weak now to appear to those who aren’t yet aware of him? If that’s the case, then it should be the main focus of the film, and Alice should kill herself in order to put him down for good and spare Springwood any more deaths (and seriously, where the hell are the cops? None of them are suspicious that a year later, the same girl who survived a bloodbath is losing all of her friends again?).

In a visual sense, this one is improved over Harlin’s bright and shiny entry. Stephen Hopkins (lifetime pass from Judgment Night) uses a lot of blues and blacks, and stages some great visual setpieces, particularly the Escher-esque climax. He also tosses in a lot of animation; in addition to Mark’s comic book death, there are some oddly animated insects to enjoy, and the claws in the pool scene seem to have a stop-motion quality to them. And whoever designed the tree-pants is obviously a genius:

Freddy’s makeup (by original artist David Miller) is less successful though. It’s not a bad appliance or anything, but you can see too much of Robert Englund in it, which makes it look a little goofy (Dream Warriors still has the best look, I think). And once again, the kills are pretty tame with the red stuff, though this time it’s definitely the fault of the MPAA. In fact, the film’s VHS release was unrated, but New Line opted to put the theatrical cut on the DVD (you know, now that I’m thinking about it, this set is just as lackluster as Paramount’s Jason box, if not even more so - New Line actually HAS an unrated version of this film put together and chose to put the theatrical cut on the DVD. And NONE of the sequels have any commentary tracks, whereas 3, 6, 7 and 8 did on the Friday box).

I also dug the score, which sort of had a Harold Faltermeyer feel to it at times. The main Freddy theme doesn’t appear much, but I’ll take ANY score over wall to wall rock/pop songs. The end credits have a truly awful rap song playing over them though, so I guess it evens out.

My notes say “Top before > one creator”. I haven’t the slightest fucking clue what that is supposed to mean. Fitting with most of this movie’s plot elements.

So it’s a mess, but a seemingly well-meaning one. It’s the least successful film of the series, financially, but that doesn’t mean anything to me - the two highest grossing ones (Freddy vs Jason and Nightmare 4) are lousy too. Had the film’s writers been given time to solidify their concepts (the script was still being written while the movie was already being shot), and if Englund had exercised some of the clout he had to have built up by this point and kept them from ruining his character (it’s funny reading the Fango articles, even then he’s clearly unhappy with the direction the series took), it might have been one of the better ones, and maybe it wouldn’t have taken me twenty years (and its accrued general understanding/appreciation of film on a technical level) to realize it’s actually a slight improvement over its predecessor, albeit not nearly enough to save the series.

Now, will I like Freddy’s Dead more than I did last time around? Tune in next week!

What say you?

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  1. I just rewatched this one too for the first time since just about the time it came out. I agree, it's kind of a mess. Not nearly enough kills, the explanation for how Freddy was using Jacob was way too convoluted, and I'm tired of the arbitrary means the series is inventing to kill Freddy. But I did like it a little more than I used to, even though I still prefer 4 slightly.

    Freddy's Dead, however, did NOT benefit from a second look. If anything it was worse than before. Prepare yourself.

  2. On first viewings, I preferred Freddy's Dead to Dream Master. Dream Master for me was just awful, a mess of a plot, with the only highlight really being a little more light shed on Freddy's backstory.

  3. This movie is truly a mess - but reading those Fango articles, where they had multiple writing teams competing with drafts at the same time and then they basically slapped them together...just madness. And why did there need to be a new Nightmare almost every year, while Freddy's Nightmares was running?
    I think this one might be my least favorite in the series.


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