Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child celebrated it’s 29th anniversary on August 11, but does it stand the test of time? With four successful films under his belt, Freddy Krueger had carved out a cozy spot for himself in just five short years. He (literally) killed it at the box office the previous year with his fourth attempt at massacring teenagers in increasingly imaginative ways. He made the leap to the small screen with the Freddy’s Nightmares anthology series, and he even had a hit rap song or two out there. By 1989, Freddy Krueger was a bonafide pop culture phenomenon. So what’s a guy to do but start a family. Freddy tried to settle down and make things work, but it was not an easy task to rebirth himself, nor was this new arrival so openly accepted.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master premiered in theaters on August 19, 1988. The Dream Child premiered in theaters less than a year later, on August 11, 1989! In the documentary Never Sleep Again director Stephen Hopkins said that he would never again shoot on the type of schedule that he had with Dream Child. According to Hopkins, the entire production was so chaotic that set pieces would be in construction within earshot of where the crew was filming, and the script was being rewritten for scenes as they were already completed.
The Dream Child‘s final tally was $22,168,359, less than half of The Dream Master‘s, $49,369,899. At the time, The Dream Child was the lowest grossing Nightmare film in the franchise. The rushed production is probably why the 5th installment didn’t fair well, but what really led the film to such a bland response?
I am not aware of the political stances of the late 80’s but I can only assume the writers and producers had along going against them, using teen pregnancy as their central theme for the movie. Perhaps the topic was at a different space in the late 80’s, but the subject of abortion could have been hit a little more heavily, in my opinion. Maybe this would have led to further decline in the film’s criticism but one would think that if you’re going to tackle teen pregnancy, and if you’re going to have that pregnancy as a killing tool, abortion becomes the subject matter regardless. Just like the writers did on this point though, I digress.
Our Final Girl Alice, has found herself a new group brave enough to befriend the girl who seems to have people dying all around her. We are introduced new Elm Street kids Greta, Mark, and Yvonne. Each comes with their own baggage as all Elm Street kids do. Greta is being molded and shaped by her overbearing stage-mom, Mark’s insecurities come from not being macho enough, and Yvonne is an overachiever. We also still have Dan whose sole priority in the film is Alice. Oh, Dan.
Each kid’s baggage is ultimately used to meet their demise. Speaking of those demises, there are only three! 3 deaths in a slasher film? Seems like chump change in a sub-genre renowned for it’s body count. But I will definitely go on record as saying that they are three of the most imaginative and far-out deaths the series has ever produced. The Dream Child is what The New Blood is to the Friday The 13th franchise. The MPAA gutted it, and there weren’t even many death scenes to gut! Three!!
Dan‘s motorcycle fusion happened so sloppily in the final version of the film that the gory details of how his motorcycle molded to his body aren’t even there. When it looks like something hardcore will almost happen, the film cuts away to another chopped scene. Greta‘s death sequence is so scattered that you literally have no idea of what is going on. It looks like she may be eating a doll’s innards, but wait!, she suddenly has a hole in her stomach? Is she eating her own insides?? Based on today’s standards, the small things that were exorcised are just that, small things, and really should not have been left on the cutting room floor. Luckily, both can be viewed in their entire glory on Youtube.
Complaints aside, The Dream Child has never been given full credit for delving into Freddy‘s history. We get a bit of it in the original and Dream Warriors, but it isn’t until The Dream Child that we go back to Freddy‘s beginnings. As it’s explained, Freddy is the bastard child of a hundred maniacs. Literally. New Line Cinema were keen to avoid any conversation about abortion, but they sure as heck had no problem with a nun being raped by 100 insane men. Her inclusion in this sequel should have set us up for more of her in the next and final chapter, but her story ends here. While we do see more of Freddy‘s past in the next film, it has absolutely nothing to do with her.
As for Freddy, Robert Englund gives another golden performance. We have all heard how Freddy went “soft” in the later sequels, and how he became more of a joke than a threat. But has anyone making those accusations actually sat down to watch The Dream Child? Freddy is just as sinister as he’s always been, and his campiness was even scaled back a bit for this entry. Those infamous one-liners are still being spat out, but it’s only pure evil radiating from the character. There is one scene towards the end where the film goes silent. We see Freddy down a long hall. He advances slowly, as the film splices his advancement down the hall. It’s a small scene, and it’s without sound or score, but it’s proof enough that he is as evil as menacing as ever.
While Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy and Englund’s Krueger reign supreme in the Nightmare franchise, Lisa Wilcox’s Alice is just as much a part of the franchise heart. The Dream Child is Alice‘s story. Not only does she have to deal with the loss of her friends from the previous film, she’s also coming to terms with her surprise pregnancy. Not to mention the fact that her unborn child is possessed by the spirit of the man who has relentlessly tormented her. She loses Dan in the process of all of this so when Alice‘s maternal instincts kick in, it is felt. She goes into full “mama bear” mode, and doesn’t look back until she’s finished, literally pulling Freddy from her own body.
The Dream Child had a lot going against it. A rushed production, detrimental cuts from those pesky folks at the MPAA, and limited effects and deaths overshadowed everything good about this black sheep of the franchise. The Dream Child has since found a home in the hearts of horror fans, and this Nightmare purist thinks the film is a wonderful addition…unlike the one that would eventually follow, but that’s a bedtime story for another night.
Freddy already had a lot on his plate in 1989. How do you rank Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child? Do you think he should have (New Line should have) waiting another year or so before heading back into battle with Alice? Let us know in the comments what struck your Elm Street heart, and what ripped it out! Let us know in the comments below, over on Twitter, or in our Horror Group on Facebook!