Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It's an Elm Street Boy!

Reviewed by Jerry Saravia

Just when Alice, the female protagonist of "Nightmare 4," thought that she had destroyed Freddy Krueger forever (in one of his best screen deaths ever), Mr. Pizza Face comes back with a vengeance. "Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child" is a weak, patched-together effort by director Stephen Hopkins (who was given only four weeks to shoot and four weeks to edit), but it is also the most interesting of the Elm Street efforts.

The powerful protagonist who gave Freddy a good fight in "The Dream Master," Alice (played by Lisa Wilcox), is now graduating from high school. She is dealing with a typical reality in any teenage girl's life: she's pregnant by her boyfriend, Danny (Danny Hassel). Of course, she doesn't realize this until she unsuspectingly resurrects Freddy by dreaming of his mother, Amanda Krueger (Beatrice Boepple), raped by a thousand mental patients (including one played by Robert Englund!) In one heart stopping moment, we see the burned Freddy fetus emerging from his mother's bloody womb, racing like a rat across an abandoned cathedral, becoming fully formed as Freddy proclaiming in typical jokey fashion, "It's a boy!"

The rest of the movie consists of Alice fending off Freddy's invasion of her unborn baby, and there are some brief, hilarious nightmares involving three of Alice's friends, including Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter), a nurse and fantastic swimmer; Greta (Erika Anderson), a supermodel who has to lose weight thanks to her domineering mother; and Mark (Joe Seely), a talented comic-book artist who despises real-life blood and guts. The best nightmare sequence involves Mark who enters one of his own comic book worlds, where he fights Super Freddy! The mixture of black-and-white and color makes the nightmare sequence inspired and, frankly, a little silly. Some of the nightmare sequences however, were severely truncated. I had seen the uncut VHS version and the Greta death scene where she is forced to eat her own innards by Freddy is as gruesome as it gets. Dan's motorcycle bit where the bike thrusts wires into him is also quite graphic. Consider the fact that the film almost got the X-rating (a defunct rating since 1989) whereas if it was released today, it would be considered sanitized gore compared to any "Saw" installment or a "CSI" episode.

Despite its flaws and its apparent rushed, disorganized rhythm (and a far too abrupt ending), "A Nightmare on Elm Street 5" does concern itself with certain teenage problems such as pregnancy and abortion - unusual for what's essentially a slasher film. Alice deals with the birth of her baby and her beau's parents try to take her baby away ("The courts might see it differently"). I understand the parents to a degree - this teenager is telling her friends that Freddy Krueger wants her baby! Get it together, girl! Nevertheless, the Elm Street saga has always focused on teenagers and their central issues, which become the focus of their nightmares. It is also nice to see a little more of Amanda Krueger, thanks to Beatrice Beopple who gives the character a saintly, peaceful demeanor. The late Nan Martin gave the character a more haunted, aged look in "Nightmare 3."

There is also a lot less of the jocose Freddy in this film, and more of a nicely modulated performance by Lisa Wilcox; she restores whatever dignity the series warrants. Also, it is great fun watching Kelly Jo Minter as Yvonne, a nurse who has her own nightmare in a swimming pool. "A Nightmare on Elm Street 5" is far more Gothic in its look (Freddy is steeped in deeper shadows and deeper eyeliner makeup than ever before) - obviously, the filmmakers aimed to create something darker and more disturbing but it still has some fun and thrilling moments. There are some bizarre, Lynchian special-effects (the tubes emerging from Freddy's birth platform, the canted angles inside staircases that would make Salvador Dali proud, the cavernous interior design of the mental hospital). Not a complete success but I'll give it points for being anything but an anonymous sequel.

Footnote: The film's advertising originally had Freddy holding a sphere with a baby in it. It was changed to him holding a carriage in the sphere.