The consensus is that A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, the 1989 entry in the franchise, stinks. It has a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes in both critical and audience scores. Rarely does a film find so much agreement between the proles and the pros. But, I’m going to be different. I’m going to be that guy that defends this flick. Because, while it seemed viewers were searching for a film that was just like the first Elm Street, they missed the wild fun house ride they were actually on.
Don’t think this means I feel this is a great horror film. It is not. But it was creative, and very entertaining. What more do people want out of a supernatural slasher flick, anyway?
Picking up a year after the events of the previous film, the film follows Alice and Dan (Lisa Wilcox and Danny Hassel, reprising their roles), the only survivors of Freddy Krueger’s last tear through Elm Street. The events of junior year seem largely forgotten, as Alice and Dan have a new passel of friends by the end of senior year.
But, evil things are afoot. Through mechanisms too complicated and arbitrary to detail here, screenwriter Leslie Bohem and director Stephen Hopkins resurrect Freddy Krueger (played by Robert Englund, of course) so he can hunt down Alice and Dan’s new crew. Resurrection is not the best description of what happens, considering Freddy is basically a murderous ghost, but I’m not aware of a word in the English language that means “brought back from nonexistence to a spiritual state able to haunt dreams.” Our language never planned for something like that. How it all goes down is convoluted, but no more so than the acrobatics Hammer went through to resurrect Christopher Lee in their Dracula flicks.
Anyway, some other twists and turns follow, but the entire point of the film is to place teenagers in Freddy Krueger’s sights, and that’s what this film does. Once that happens, this flick shines.
Forget plot, forget things making sense. This movie is about a supernatural killer hunting down people in their dreams — emphasis on dreams. Hopkins embraced that idea more than any other entry in the series. He doesn’t go full surreal, but the set pieces where Freddy stalks the teens are confused and nonlinear, just like dreams. Some of these sequences are extensive, as well. As the film progresses, these dream sequences become more and more complicated, to the point Hopkins just rips off M.C. Escher for the climax.
Since this is a horror franchise built on blood and gore as much as anything else, Hopkins provides plenty of that, as well. It’s not the best, but there are a couple glimpses of baby Freddy in this flick that are…unique. Honestly, baby Freddy was an unnecessary embellishment for a film already packed top to bottom with weird shit, but it still had me howling. I didn’t even care that baby Freddy makes little sense in the canon of the series. If one cares about that kind of consistency from a horror franchise, then one is taking the material way too seriously.
The wildness of the film, I think, makes up for all the stuff audiences and critics didn’t like, such as the acting, or the lazy music from Jay Ferguson. Some viewers are hung up on story. To them, I recommend just letting go and enjoying the ride.
Dream Child is silly, stupid, and fun. Hopkins wasn’t the best storyteller, but it was his sense of spectacle that got him more work in the business after this.
This is no 31% flick. This is a much more watchable movie than that. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child just makes it into the top third of the Watchability Index, displacing Chrome and Hot Leather at #108. This is a hell of a rebound for a franchise that had fallen into the moribund with the previous entry. Don’t believe me over everyone else? Then, check it out.