A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child


Reviewed by: James Gracey

A Nightmare On Elm Street 5
"A haphazard, mishmash of ideas and tones."

After surviving attempts on her life by dream-demon Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), Alice (Lisa Wilcox) soon begins to have nightmares about him again, and realises that he is using the dreams of her unborn child to get to her…

The Elm Street series reached the height of its popularity with Part 4 and Freddy Krueger was now firmly the star of the show and a bankable pop-icon. The series’ success led to Freddy’s Nightmares, a TV series in which the dream killer hosted Twilight Zone-like tales of the macabre. New Line was still keen to milk the Krueger cash-cow however, and a fifth instalment was rushed into production.

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With a script cobbled together from the ideas of myriad writers, it is a haphazard, mishmash of ideas and tones, and while it does contain an interesting concept (Krueger attempting to reach Alice through the dreams of her unborn child) and an impressively Gothic atmosphere, due to its barrage of bad one-liners, SFX-driven set pieces and inappropriate comedy, it is a film naked of tension, held together by soulless effects and a strange, pulpy cruelty. As is now customary, Krueger shows up, spouts awful puns while killing teenagers in their dreams and is eventually overcome by the purity and virtue of a resourceful heroine. Mention must be made of director Stephen Hopkins’ bid to return the series to its dark roots; but while there are a few spookily atmospheric moments amidst the Gothic sets, and some genuinely unsettling imagery, everything is smothered under Freddy’s mouthy antics.

With its depiction of a deeply maternal protagonist fighting to protect her unborn child and patching things up with her former-alcoholic father, the series’ usual portrayal of parental figures as ineffectual is not as pronounced, though there are a couple of grotesquely caricatured parental figures lurking on the periphery of the plot. Krueger’s own mother even puts in an appearance, albeit a spectral one, to guide Alice in her attempts to stop him once and for all. Notions of familial strife are exaggerated as Krueger attempts to corrupt Alice’s unborn child, and with the various creepy, monstrous newborns appearing in panicked dream sequences, The Dream Child calls to mind Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive; albeit without the subversive subtext or sly commentary.

Despite Hopkins attempts to tone things down, this entry boasts some of the most ridiculous death sequences from the whole series, including Alice’s boyfriend being welded to his motorbike as he races along a motorway ("Better not dream and drive!" cackles Krueger), a wanna-be model force-fed until she chokes to death, an athlete menaced in a swimming pool when her diving board becomes one of Krueger’s claws, and an A-ha music video inspired death where a comic-book geek is sucked into one of his drawings, turned to paper and shredded by Krueger. The pacing is as uneven as the tone and it really only picks up at the climax, set in an impressively realised MC Escher-inspired maze, with Alice trying to rescue her son from Krueger’s clutches as stairways twist and turn before her eyes.

Reviewed on: 13 Oct 2014
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A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child packshot
Freddy uses the dreams of a woman's unborn child to get to her.
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Director: Stephen Hopkins

Writer: Wes Craven, John Skipp, Craig Spector, Leslie Bohem, Leslie Bohem

Starring: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter, Danny Hassel, Erika Anderson, Nicholas Mele, Joe Seely, Valorie Armstrong, Burr DeBenning, Clarence Felder, Michael Ashton, Beatrice Boepple, Matthew Borlenghi, Noble Craig, E.R. Davies

Year: 1989

Runtime: 89 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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