A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) Movie Review

One of the more irritating conventions of Teen Slasher films is that our teen lead is determined to “spread the word” about the killer, even though no one will believe her, not having seen or faced the killer as she had. Of course our teen will not be deterred by something as minor as lack of evidence or the absurdity of her statements, and will keep spouting the gospel until she looks crazy to everyone around her. The use of this convention is doubly irritating when a character, having survived a battle with said killer, continues to spit out the whole “he’s coming to get me” line to people prone to disbelieve her since, as previously mentioned, they haven’t met the killer yet. The reason for the constant use of this convention is simple: lazy writing.

More examples of lazy writing courtesy of Leslie Bohem (“Daylight”) is the continued use of foreshadowing, once again proving that subtlety is a thing of the past with the franchise. Gee, I wonder if that kid who keeps drawing those comic books will die in a way relating to comic books? And did he mention that he was terrified of blood? Or how about the girl who boasts she’s a great swimmer? I wonder if her nightmare will involve water somehow? Or how about the leggy friend whose mother keeps pushing her into the modeling biz? What I’m trying to say is, just once I’d like to be surprised by how the background “friends” characters get killed off. It’s getting so blatantly obvious that I can’t even appreciate the creative aspects of the kills anymore.

If “NOES 4: The Dream Master” got serious about the bodycount, then “NOES 5” has taken a big step backwards. We get three — count’em, three — dead bodies this time around. (That Freddy, he’s really slacking off, I tell ya.) Returning is Lisa Wilcox as Alice, who is about to graduate with boyfriend Dan (Danny Hassel, also returning). As the film opens, Alice finds herself reliving some of the events that led to Freddy’s birth, including the accidental trapping, and then rape, of Freddy’s nun mother. Freddy himself, thought killed, has somehow resurfaced in the dreams of Alice’s unborn child, and plans to be “reborn” in the place of Alice’s baby.

It should be obvious by now that the writers have effectively stopped caring about how Freddy comes back from the previous sequel’s “death” scene. Their one main concern is how Freddy is going to be “killed off” this time around. Having established different ways Freddy could be “killed for good” (this paragraph in itself is worth a big *snicker*) in the last 4 installments, Part 5 once again invents a new “surefire way” to kill Freddy. Helping to off her own son is Freddy’s mother, whose remains were locked away somewhere, and now must be found.

The thing about “NOES 5”, besides its complete lack of scares, or even an attempt at maintaining its “horror” elements, is that the film actually opens very well. Director Stephen Hopkins (“Predator 2”) paints a very elaborate dream sequence involving a very naked Lisa Wilcox (or at least a very attractive body double). Unfortunately the rest of the movie is dead weight, consisting of Alice trying to convince anyone and everyone within earshot about supernatural killer Freddy coming after her baby, and Freddy himself dropping one groan-inducing one-liner after another. Comedy has replaced horror, and action set pieces have replaced nightmares. At one point, Freddy even goes “extreme sportsman” on a victim.

Although we are told more about Freddy’s mother and the events that led to her rape by “100 maniacs”, it’s nothing series creator Wes Craven hadn’t filled us in already in “NOES 3”. Only now instead of being told we get to see what happened to dear ol mom. I suspect writer Bohem and director Hopkins were also trying to turn the franchise into a movie replete with metaphors and motifs, what with all the water and birth references. Which leads me to this conclusion: they must have forgotten they were contracted to add to an established horror franchise, because there sure is nothing very horrific about this installment.

As our Fair Hair Lead, Alice falls somewhere between Nancy and Kristen in the spunk-o-meter. And yes, if you were wondering, despite having gone through this whole “you can do anything in your dreams” thing more than once, Alice still proves to be a slow learner — if you can call it learning at all. This is even more frustrating because one of her friends, the comic book geek, seems to grasp the notion of taking control of your dreams faster than she ever did, or still seems capable of doing.

Of further interest is that Robert Englund, who plays knife-for-fingers Freddy Krueger, finally gets top billing. This is only fair, not to mention a long time coming, since Englund is the franchise’s real star.

Stephen Hopkins (director) / Wes Craven, John Skipp, Craig Spector, Leslie Bohem (screenplay)
CAST: Robert Englund …. Freddy Krueger
Lisa Wilcox …. Alice Johnson
Erika Anderson …. Greta Gibson
Beatrice Boepple …. Amanda Kreuger
Danny Hassel …. Dan Jordan

Buy A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child on DVD