ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 25, 1989
By Steve Newton
In the original Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy Krueger stole the show. As the new face of evil, Robert Englund’s character was mean and menacing, and writer/director Wes Craven played up the unique look and style of Krueger in a film that few people expected to spin off several sequels and generate nearly $300 million in box office receipts and videocassette sales (not to mention a TV show and all matter of t-shirt and poster paraphernalia).
Back in 1984, A Nightmare on Elm Street was simply a clever and well-made shocker by a director whose past works have run the gamut from sick (Last House on the Left) to savage (The Hills Have Eyes) to strange (Deadly Blessing) and just plain silly (Swamp Thing).
Five years later, Freddy Krueger has become a cultural icon, and the insidious appeal of the original film has been replaced by a roller coaster ride of special effects–with a wise-cracking Freddy popping up here and there (like he does on the TV show) to add some dark-edged humour to the manic goings-on.
The last Elm Street instalment, The Dream Child, is a mesmerizing display of puppetry, stop-motion animation, opticals, matte paintings, front projection, miniatures, and mechanical effects. There’s still a bit of old-fashioned bloodletting, but for the most part Freddy’s razor-sharp digits take a back seat to more imaginative flights of fancy. He kills a total of three teens in Part 5, giving Jason Vorhees something to chuckle about under his goalie mask.
The Dream Child takes up where Part 4: The Dream Master left off: having been torn limb from limb by the souls of his previous victims, Freddy Krueger is seeking revenge against dream master Alice (Lisa Wilcox), who caused his downfall in the last film.
Realizing he is now too weak to enter Alice’s dreams, Krueger finds access to the living world via the dreams of her unborn baby. Feeding off the baby’s purity, he regains enough strength to enter the dreams of Alice’s friends, and the tricky ways in which the kids are done in is the main attraction of this and every previous Nightmare on Elm Street movie.
Flashy packaging aside, these are still basically slasher movies at heart.
Also of note in The Dream Child are surrealistic asylum sequences concerning the conception of Mr. Krueger–“the bastard son of a hundred maniacs”–and his birth, which features a hideously deformed baby that even a mother could hate.
Like the monstrous infant in It’s Alive, Freddy the toddler causes a real ruckus in the delivery room. His nun mother Amanda (University of Victoria alumnus Beatrice Boepple) plays a significant role in the actual undoing of her own wild child.
With the combined efforts of an FX crew that has worked on Aliens, The Terminator, Predator, and Beetlejuice, Nightmare 5 is a whirlwind of creative visual delights that is more fun than frightening. Don’t wait for this one to come out on video–see it in the theatre and sit close to the screen.
Roller coasters are always better at the front.