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A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

I see we’ve hit the low point. After the futile efforts found within A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, there was no way the follow-up could have been any worse. With that in mind, though, it’s amazing that A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, still manages to savagely tear through any expectation audiences may have had of a somewhat enjoyable time. Freddy Krueger is back, for the fifth time, and it’s an appearance that feels leagues apart to what we’re used to. Gone are the days of a chilling, albeit boring villain, here, Robert Englund’s portrayal gives us the Krueger nobody knew they had wanted. A tongue in cheek nightmare destroyer.

What surprises me most about A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child is how much lore it looks to bring to the screen. Krueger’s backstory, his abilities as a demon and host, how he can infect babies, it’s all very weird and doesn’t amount to all that much. Once again, the film looks to adapt extracts from the third (and best) film in the series, presumably because that’s the only film with anything worth repeating. Another group of non-descript characters appear before us, but led by two of the leads from the fourth film. It’s all very convoluted, and to be honest, not worth the energy needed to explain the many tangible plot lines that cross over between films, because frankly, they’re just not very good to begin with.

All would be forgiven if it weren’t for such horrific performances. Within the late 80s, horror casts were presumably hated as much as tax collectors or Michael McIntyre. Detested by all, horror films, especially those with multiple sequels, struggled to find decent cast members. Englund was the lucky chip of this series, and without him these films would be, without a doubt, unwatchable. But aside from Englund and his slightly bigger appearance here, the rest of the cast are horrific. The same issues as the previous film, where characters represent one character trait and that is, in effect, what kills them off.

To give credit where it’s due though, you can at least see what director Stephen Hopkins was going for. There are moments that, had they been built up effectively or in any sort of interesting way, would make for perfectly interesting material. A few of the kills are quite good, but devoid of any horror as they slam themselves into a wall of satire. One in particular sees a brief riff on old noir films for no real reason, until Kreuger cuts one of our supporting characters into pieces whilst he’s made out of paper. This scene precedes a moment where entering into the dream looks like an a-ha music video. It’s bizarre, it’s sort of funny, but not what I was looking for from a villain considered to be one of the scariest in the business.

Once a baby Freddy Kreuger has torn a church apart with the power of his voice alone, it’s clear to see which direction the series is taking. Not up to the task of scaring audiences anymore, it looks for cheap thrills, one-liners and a weird parody of a-ha’s Take on Me video. I wouldn’t say it’s so bad that it’s good, but it lingers around that area. Blurring the line from time to time, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child has pockets of interesting visuals but ultimately flat direction, weak performances and is a futile continuation of a strangely convoluted series.

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Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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