Pros: Some of the special effects are really good!
Cons: Too much Freddy the Comedian. . .
Without a doubt, the Nightmare on Elm Street flicks are some of the most consistently inventive, visually creative slasher flicks of the eighties. With Friday the 13th, you've got Jason in the woods (mostly) stabbing people with a machete (mostly). But Freddy - with his acid trip dreamscapes and reality warping powers, each kill is fresh and new. And then you have Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. . . .
Guess what everybody! Recently re-deceased child molester/murderer Freddy Kruger isn't quite as dead as we'd hoped. Nope, after being defeated in The Dream Master, Freddy has found an all new way to reach out and torment someone: through the dreams of Alice's unborn baby son, Jacob. Alice and Dan are back from The Dream Master and have hooked up since the last movie and baby makes three. Freddy has figured out that he can use the baby's dreams (since fetuses are 90% asleep - at least according to this movie, at least) even though Alice is wide awake.
Even better, after Freddy kills someone their souls get placed in the baby in an effort to make Jacob into the perfect host body. And so Freddy kills off Alice's friends and feeds their souls to her little developing bundle of joy, and Alice looks to be powerless to stop him. . . .
This one is a mixed bag because it's got some really good ideas and some really stupid ones too. The movie has a ton of good special effects work, like when Alice's friend Greta dies of overeating or the pool dreamscape that has great animation and the Freddycycle sequence is really well done. There's also some cool stop motion work with rapidly decaying food in a fridge and the make-up effects when Alice and Freddy are separated - that's pretty gruesome and messed up. So from a technical standpoint it rocks.
On the other hand, it's painfully predictable what happens to the teenagers in this movie. Greta the up and coming supermodel? She gets the eating disorder death. Mark the nerdy comic book kid who draws superheros? As soon as you see that, you know there'll be a dream about it later - and surprise! Mark turns into that superhero and fights Freddy (although admittedly his death was pretty creative, dying in a 2D style line drawing style with all the color running out of him).
But slopping writing is not what's so frustrating about The Dream Child - it's the overwhelming sense that we've seen this all before. To defeat Freddy this time, Alice has her friend Yvonne find Amanda Krueger's remains in the ruins of the Westin Hills Insane Asylum - but this is pretty much a straight-up rehash of the search for Freddy's remains in The Dream Warriors. While Yvonne goes to find Momma Kruger, Alice has Mark watch her while she sleeps, playing out like the scene between Nancy and Glenn in the original Nightmare. Freddy's scheme to instigate his own rebirth through someone else's body sounds a lot like his attempt to take over Jesse Walsh in Freddy's Revenge and we even get the Evil Wheelchair from The Dream Warriors (this time an Evil Baby carriage).
Up to this point, even when The Nightmare on Elm Street series stumbled, that movie would stumble in its own unique way. But here with Part 5, it feels like we're recycling all the best bits of the previous four movies. Now we're just Jason Vorhees doing the same old, same old instead of new and exciting kills.
And of course this character of Freddy is rapidly careening down the slope of self parody. Gone is all the sinister aspects of Freddy Kruger, replaced completely with Stand Up Comedian Freddy. Robert Englund struggles to make Freddy interesting and witty, but the writers are working against him with post-mortem one-liners in abundance. Super-Freddy? Seriously?
THE DVD -
The biggest disappointment of all? We get the (very slightly) edited print of The Dream Child. Apparently the VHS version has the full Greta death scene while the disc version has the abridged cut. Censoring aside, the widescreen anamorphic video looks fair. While there's no real print damage that I spotted, the blacks aren't quite as strong as they were in the previous movies, and the colors are a bit tepid. All in all, it's a step backwards from the A/V quality of what has come before. As far as audio, we get a new 5.1 mix and the original 2.0 mono mix - both in pretty good shape.
THE EXTRAS -
Much like the other discs, we get a pretty comprehensive package of extras - a documentary discussing the origins of the story, a look at the special effects and art direction, an interview with director Stephen Hopkins about the M.C. Escher-ish climax - oh and an apology for The Dream Child. No, really. Then we get the original theatrical trailer and - god help me - Freddy rapping with The Fat Boys in Are You Ready for Freddy? and Anyway I Gotta Swing It by Whodini. Oi vay.
THE BOTTOM LINE -
While A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child is a weak entry in the franchise, it's not completely unwatchable. There are bright moments - more fucked up Freddy Kruger backstory and some good effects - but the story is a rehash of the series' greatest hits and Comedian Freddy is too over the top. It's not my favorite of the series, but it's still entertaining enough to watch.
I give it two and a half Rapping Child Molesters out of five.