A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Part 5 is one of the less popular Freddy pictures, maybe because it made an admirable attempt to get beyond high school. It continues the story of Dream Master Alice and her boyfriend Dan (still played by the same actors, Lisa Wilcox and Danny Hassel) and their new circle of friends who replaced the dead ones. They are just graduating from high school, Alice and Dan are planning a trip to Paris over the summer, and early on Alice finds out that she’s pregnant. So they’re still teens but they’re dealing with some growing up type shit here.

The gimmick this time is that because she has a baby inside her, and because babies (according to the movie) dream all the time, she suddenly starts having Freddy dreams while awake. In the dream world the baby is a kid named Jacob and he does not have a positive male role model in his dream life so unfortunately Freddy comes in and takes advantage of that. You know how a bad uncle lets his little nieces and nephews drink beer, or helps them score pot? Freddy’s like that, he feeds Jacob the souls of Alice’s dead friends. I’m actually not sure what he’s trying to do – will this make the baby grow up into Freddy? Is he just trying to make the baby a killer like him? Or is he just pushing Alice’s buttons by messing with her kid? I don’t really know.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream ChildWhat if the baby doesn’t turn out to be evil, but has dream powers from eating all those souls? Maybe he’ll haunt people’s dreams but instead of giving them gimmicky deaths ironically based on their hobbies he’ll give them nice dreams. Instead of getting slashed and they wake up and have real cuts, he gives them a lollipop and they wake up and it’s right there on the pillow next to them. Or he gives them a bunch of money. And it works as real currency, it doesn’t show Freddy wearing a George Washington wig or anything stupid like that. It’s not printed in red and green ink.

On the other hand, he’s a fuckin fetus. How does he know what a lollipop or money is? What do babies dream about, anyway? I mean it can’t be the old “going to class without pants on” dream, because fetuses don’t wear pants. Do they dream about umbilical cords? I don’t know, whatever they dream about I’m betting it’s some weird shit. I bet baby Jacob gives you more fucked up dreams than Freddy. Freddy’s dream powers are actually limited by his knowledge of reality. Fetus dreams are unencumbered by such boundaries.

I guess you could say this movie is pro-life, because the baby being a grown kid in her dream kind of indicates that life begins at conception. Also, the whole point of a horror movie is to try to survive, which is pro-life.

But I also think it’s a feminist movie. It’s pro-lady. Alice has taken charge of her life. She’s not so timid anymore, she doesn’t get pushed around like she used to. She got her father to stop drinking and repair their relationship. When her friend points out that she could abort the baby and Freddy wouldn’t get to her anymore she says no – acknowledging that it’s a choice, and making it for herself. When Dan’s folks try to get her to let them raise the baby she stands strong and says it’s her responsibility. When Dan gets killed in a really cool scene where he becomes one with a motorcycle Alice stays strong, she doesn’t lose her shit. So she’s the type of strong female character Nancy was in the first one and not the screaming airheads people (mostly unfairly) associate with slasher movies.

Wait a minute, come to think of it, why not get an abortion? Then the kid will just keep coming back in people’s dreams. He’ll be a more powerful baby that way than if he was alive. I know abortion isn’t pleasant, I consider myself pro-choice but in general I hope people don’t get abortions. But you gotta at least make exceptions for cases of rape, incest or babies fed “soul food” by Freddy.

But I guess even if he was gonna turn out to be an evil Freddy baby it might be unfair to abort him. I mean think about it, if you aborted every evil slasher baby then Seed of Chucky never would’ve been born, and he was actually a nice guy. Also Godzilla was a real asshole in his prime but his kid turned out okay.

Anyway, back to the feminism. There are other women who make it out okay – the ghost of Amanda Krueger, Freddy’s mom, is key to stopping Freddy this time. And I think Alice’s friend played by Kelly Jo Minter may be the first supporting character in any of these movies to have a gimmicky Freddy dream (she’s a diver, so it’s about the diving board attacking her and jumping into a pool that turns out to be empty) and survive. That’s pretty tough. Also, there are many, many scenes where the camera flies through spooky, fleshy tunnels which I guess are supposed to be some kind of evil Freddy flesh but are clearly, you know, girl parts. Private girl parts.

Freddy’s not very scary anymore, but he’s arguably not as corny as in part 4. He doesn’t wear sunglasses, at least. He does re-use that terrible “soul food” line, which is embarrassing. But he mostly stays away from puns and wacky costumes. He’s reborn in a dream that also acts as a flashback to his birth. But it can’t be what really happened because he’s a monster baby that looks like burnt up Freddy. Then he grows into adult Freddy. One of the more authentically dreamlike moments is when a Freddy stuntman jumps through the air and you can see in his silhouette that he has big claw-like toes. That’s pretty weird. Also I like when for no reason one of his arms is really long. A nice tribute to the long-arms scene in the first one, but this time it’s an animatronic arm with moving fingers instead of a rubber hand on the end of a pole.

But then you get to the scene that really emblemizes everything that gets so lame about these sequels. There’s a character who likes to draw and read comic books. In a dream he finds himself reading a comic book of the movie so far, and gets to a panel of him reading the comic. Then he gets sucked into the comic and the world around him is black and white, but he’s in color. Okay, so they play with this color/black and white thing which is an okay art director showoffy type gimmick, but then Freddy, he– I have a hard time saying this. But he, uh– well, he turns into “Super Freddy.” I’d rather not go into the details.

When you think about it the death of this comic book guy is really tragic. This kid is just graduating high school and yet his artwork (which covers his entire room) looks 100% profesional. Clearly he is a great talent lost too soon. But it’s not to be relieved by his death because the character is so annoying. He looks like a 35 year old dressing as a teen skateboarder for a Church of Latter Day Saints commercial. And he talks like Garth from WAYNE’S WORLD. In the movie’s most unintentionally hilarious line he whines about the death of the girl he had a crush on:

“The Phantom Prowler wouldn’t have been afraid to tell her how he felt. If I only had a tenth of his guts!”

Later he inspires Freddy to ride a skateboard. So yes, he deserves to die. And I hope they burn in hay-ell.

Like anything that gets to part 5 this is not all that hot. But I’m not sure it deserves the bum rap it gets. It has some spooky atmosphere in parts and it reaches a little bit, it’s taking baby steps towards trying something new. Get it, because of babies. It is a movie about babies so I said baby steps. I didn’t even write that pun on purpose, it just flowed out of me. I’ve been watching too many Freddy movies I guess.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008 at 4:50 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

4 Responses to “A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child”

  1. Count me in the minority of crazy people that prefers Part 5 to Part 4. Sure this is a “worse” movie in almost every respect – it looks cheap, the FX have taken a huge drop in quality, the story is absolutely nonsensical (the way they kill Freddy makes the random end of the last movie look like a masterpiece of screenwriting). But I actually thought this was interesting and tried for more, which may not mean anything for most people, but means everything for me when you’re in a genre as repetitive as the slasher one.

    Lisa Wilcox is legit great this time – she even retroactively makes the last one better because Alice is cemented as a solid protagonist here and doesn’t have to split duties with Kristen. I think the continuity (with her dad and her boyfriend) is alot stronger between 4 and 5 than between 3 and 4, and I like that her dad even gets an arc! I even like the pared down cast because to be honest at this point I’m just trying to get through these and we don’t need 4 more characters to show up and get killed just so nerds on the internet will stop complaining of a low body count. I actually even like Punster Freddy here. Taking it from his typical one-liners to him yelling out “Fuel Injection! Overdrive! Fast Lane! Don’t Dream and Drive!” all in a row while turning a dude into a bike may be hitting Batman & Robin territory for some, but it’s right up my alley.

    Quick note: It’s interesting how the classic “Freddy” look we all know and remember was literally just from 3 and 4. He looks slightly different in 1 and extremely different in 2, and he looks weird here, like they tried to cross him with a witch and made his skin several shades lighter. Still better than Jackie Earle Haley Freddy though!

  2. I have a soft spot for this one too. 4 is like the purest expression of Horror as empty calorie Blockbuster thrill ride. This doesn’t exactly break that mould, but it does bring in more elements of surrealism and artistry. Stephen Hopkins is a very interesting director who has (to my knowledge) never quite pulled off an entirely successful film.

  3. Zod, that is the Kevin Yagher Freddy they switched to. Dave Miller did Freddy in Part 1, and I believe he came back and did him part 5. In part 5 you see a bit more of the purple-ish and blue-ish hues to the burns, and it’s a bit more variegated / less uniform looking. Yagher’s was good, too, imho, but pretty bland.

    Part 5 feels gloomier, more gothic, lower-budget, more arty, and a little more claustrophobic. It’s definitely a turn from Part 4, from sunny California look to gloomy and gothic look. There are also some more inspired kills here, which does keep up that trajectory from Parts 3 and 4. I enjoyed Super-Freddy comic book Freddy, and that scene where he force feeds the eating disorder chick to death as well as Dan’s motor-cycle cyborgification thing — pretty inspired, as PacMan says. At the time, I kind of also enjoyed the way they kept building out the Freddy backstory mythology, even though in hindsight I think they carried that way too far. As a 12 year-old kid, it was pretty cool to see the continuing mythology-building.

    This one is also a soft sport for me, b/c it’s the first one I saw theatrically. My autobiographical memory is terrible, but I still remember my mom walking me up to the teller and buying me the ticket and then watching it by myself, which felt pretty badass at the time. At the same time, I didn’t love it. It had some really interesting ideas but felt a little aimless and a little smaller.

    I definitely had a crush going for Alice by that point. Adolescent 1980s male sexuality was definitely a big factor for me there, not going to lie.

    Historically, this film was a big momentum crusher for the franchise. Part 4 had broken an opening weekend box office record (at least among ANOES franchise and maybe beyond) and so was peak commercial success. Then this one landed with a thud, and in some ways the franchise never really recovered. Same story with JASON TAKES MANHATTAN. Sure, they limped along with a couple other films (including some good ones), but it was never really the same for these.

  4. When Don Winslow is .writing about something he deeply cares about he is goddamn unstoppable, but then there are the books that he cranked out that felt more like he was forced to write under gunthreat. But I hope he keeps the momentum up withe the string of fantastic books he put out lately.

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