For some reason, campy horror seems to exist and thrive in the 80s only. With every campy horror franchise I’ve watched, when the series hits the 90s, it takes a dive. I suppose it’s a testament to the times. After all, the 80s were a fun, big-hair, exaggerated time period. Campy horror is a reflection of the decade and once the decade evolves and begins to roll over to the next, campy horror goes from being a fun testament to just plain silly. This is the case with A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Released in 1989, this film stars Alice, our favorite protagonist from the fourth film, and of course, a new set of teens. Alice is just graduating high school, she’s in love with Dan (also from the fourth film) and they are planning to spend the summer in Paris. Fate (or Freddy?) steps in and screws up the whole plan. Alice discovers she’s pregnant and that Freddy is using her dreaming unborn child to access her friends and wreak havoc on their lives. Alice and her friends spend the film fighting Freddy and searching for a way to destroy him forever.
After four great films, this franchise took a hit with this installment. Of all the crazy plots this franchise has provided us, this one was the hardest to swallow. I couldn’t get behind the “my unborn baby is dreaming inside me and Freddy is using those dreams to kill people” story. Call me crazy, but it seemed far-fetched, even for Krueger. The stop-motion clay animation that makes this series great was pushed to its limit, causing even the graphics to suffer. Furthermore, this group of teens paled in comparison to Alice’s friends from the fourth film. I didn’t have as much fun watching them run from Freddy and I didn’t care as much when they met their demise. Krueger’s evolution seemed to stall in this film as well, although this movie contains the first blatant mention of him as a child molester. This trait of his appears in a newspaper headline that Alice finds and as some of us know, it’s used excessively in the remake a couple decades later. Perhaps I was just naive for the first four films, but I never assumed “child murderer” meant “child molester.” This film calls attention to it, so in a way, I suppose Freddy does evolve slightly.
The only thing saving this film was the continued genius of the series: the ability to make even the audience question whether or not something is a dream. This film, as with all the others, pushed the boundary between dream and reality. It blurred the lines to the point where even I wasn’t sure what was what. When the audience is watching, they come to accept that 50% of what they’re seeing (if not more) is probably a dream. The best thing is that you don’t know the characters are dreaming until several minutes into it. It’s a genius tool for this franchise and it keeps the audience guessing. If it hadn’t been for this, I would have scored this film much lower.
Overall, I was less than impressed with The Dream Child. It was a delight to see Alice and Dan again, but I struggled to connect with the rest of the cast. Freddy’s mode of destruction in this film also befuddled me. It wasn’t a terrible turnout for Freddy, but it wasn’t awesome either. This film should knock his franchise SOF rating down a few notches.
If you liked A Nightmare on Elm Street 5, you might also like Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, Wes Craven's New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason.