Thursday, April 17, 2014

Census Bloodbath: O Is For Oh No

Today's Blogging From A to Z Challenge post is the next step in our exploration of the Freddy franchise, the final Nightmare film of the 80's!

Year: 1989
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter
Run Time: 1 hour 29 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

It's not often that a film will immediately announce its inferiority to its predecessor, as A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child does during its opening credits. In a series that rarely if ever went the "boobs and guts" route of its slasher brethren (I'm fairly certain that the only breasts in the franchise are during Joey's wet dreams in Parts 3 and 4), they had the absence of mind to include a sex scene before the very first line of dialogue even began.

It's not even a good one, all shot with gender-obscuring blue light and extravagant close-ups that abstract the human form so much that you can't even tell what part you're looking at, just that it's writhing uncomfortably like it's trying not to drown in quicksand. Immediately following this scene we get a shower sequence because god forbid we think this film has even an iota of class before it commences in earnest.

As you can probably surmise, I do not like this film. It's not a good film. In fact, it's so bad that it actually retroactively ruins the quite stellar film that precedes it. The Dream Master Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox), one of my personal favorite Final Girls returns and is utterly wasted, having apparently forgotten how to actually be a master of dreams and dying the crap out of her lovely ginger hair.

With only one year left to go, the 80's finally claimed her.

All of this serves to blandify (Of course it's a word. I just wrote it, didn't I?) one of my favorite characters in the entire franchise next to Nancy Thompson. It's all just a waste, compounded by the fact that the other alumnus of The Dream Master, Alice's jock boyfriend Dan (Danny Hassel) returns to be super hot, but he dies early on and his torso is framed out of every scene he's in.

What a tease.

To rub salt in the wound, the platter of Meat this time around is a queasy array of less than prime cuts. Forgetting the charming characters of the last film or even the one-note human-shaped dialogue puppets that populated Dream Warriors, The Dream Child opted for paper-thin characters (some of whom are literally made of paper by the end) with hardly half a note between them all.

There's Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter) who is ethnic and a swimmer and works at the hospital when it's convenient (As a nurse? This high school's extracurricular program's must be off the chain), and is kind of a douchebag; Greta (Erika Anderson) who is a model and although Anderson tries her hardest to make her likable, she's given absolutely nothing to work with; and Mark (Joe Seeley), who draws comics. That's it. The end. It's enough to make you sick.

And I haven't even gotten to Freddy yet. He made his full transition to chuckling prankster in the last film, but at least the heavy layer of 80's cheese and talented visual vocabulary kept that one going strong. In this film he pushes it even further, beyond the point of lovable huckster and into the dismal depths.

My face the entire time.

The death scenes are a rapid-fire MTV style deluge of hallucinogenic images accompanied by a machine gun clatter of nonsensical puns. Several of them are funny in a begrudging way like jokes your father makes (ie. when he turns into a car to kill Dan and says "Don't dream and drive!") but his nonstop patter eventually descends into lobbing out loosely related phrases like he's trying to beat his high score in charades. 

These "puns" are so far from threatening they might not even technically be in the script (in a continuation of the car sequence, Freddy begins to shout "Fuel injection! Power drive! Fast lane!" and I begin to cry). Perhaps they just appeared in the final cut movie as the result of some ill-advised tampering with a Lovecraftian alternate dimension of horrible jokes. And, when in doubt, the screenwriters have him end sentences with ", bitch!" like it's going out of style. Which, if this movie is any indication, was a pretty accurate assumption.

Englund is clearly hating his life in this film (Which he has subsequently claimed to be his least favorite. This is a man who was in C.H.U.D. II - Bud the Chud.) and the makeup is exceedingly subpar. Most of the time, he looks like a cross between Shrek and a particularly forlorn sock monkey. I question whether or not the visual effects artist actually watched any of the previous films. 

Or any films at all.

This is the first film where the complaints lodged against the franchise as character-less horror-less special effects extravaganzas really begin to reflect the truth. The plot is minimal and dull, so what keeps the film trucking along is a endless stream of effects setpieces that rush down the track like chocolates on the conveyor belt in that I Love Lucy episode.

By the end of the film I was too stunned into submission by the film's insipidity that it barely even registered when Freddy skateboarded across the room or uttered a line that tried so hard to be a pun that it strained itself and died or trapped Alice in an M. C. Escher room straight out of Labyrinth.

Although the film is an utter failure as horror or comedy cinema (or cinema in general - many important scenes are framed behind foreground objects and/or blatantly cross the 180 Degree line and their idea of exposition includes one character looking at her own name tag in the middle of work), it's so startlingly bad that it's a tremendous film to mock. So I wouldn't rate it down there with the dull muddy slashers that have absolutely zero merit, but this film is a disgusting pock on the remarkable legacy of Wes Craven's masterpiece.

Killer: Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund)
Final Girl: Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox)
Best Kill: Mark is killed inside what could only be the music video for "Take On Me."

Sign of the Times: This guy.

Scariest Moment: Freddy returns as a shrieking melty beaked mutant child.
Weirdest Moment: Freddy's arm is apparently made of teleporting spiders.
Champion Dialogue: "Time to die, you scar-faced limp dick!"
Body Count: 3; I'm just as surprised as you.
  1. Dan is fused with a motorcycle and crashes into a truck.
  2. Greta is force-fed dinner until she chokes to death.
  3. Mark is turned into paper and slashed into pieces. 
TL;DR: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child is just the worst.
Rating: 4/10
Word Count: 1152
Reviews In This Series
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (Hopkins, 1989)
Freddy vs. Jason (Yu, 2003)

1 comment:

  1. I think I opted out of the Nightmare movies before hitting 5 (though one did give us Johnny Depp). I can't look at one of these horror movies without thinking of Cabin in the Woods.