Review Date: November 15, 2003
Released by: New Line
Release date: 9/1/1999
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Basking in the success of the enormously profitable The Dream Master
, Freddy Krueger was the subject of lunchboxes, commercials and teenage banter in the late 80's. With the steam of the Friday the 13th
films ailing, Freddy was the undisputed slasher box office champion. But just as quick as Freddy rose to the top, he fell down nearly as hard with the latest Elm Street birth by New Line Cinema: The Dream Child
. Released in the summer of 1989, Child took in less than half of the overall gross of The Dream Master
and the reviews were just as disappointing. The gloved maniac was becoming, dare I say, passé. Was this fifth installment worthy of its poor reception, or merely a victim of Freddy over-saturation?
Keeping consistent with the past Nightmare
films, this begins with an unsettling dream. Alice (Lisa Wilcox
) walks in to take a shower, but it quickly floods with her inside, sheathing her in much like a child in a womb. She is dumped into the house of 100 maniacs, where Freddy was first born. She views first hand how Amanda Krueger was brutally raped by the legion of maniacs. Alice quickly leaves her wonderland and realizes it was all a dream. This was the first time she had dreamt about ol' love glove since she killed him back in The Dream Master
. Freddy's growing on her, literally; she is having a baby.
She meets up the next day with her friends for graduation, but all is not as festive as it should be. Alice unable to gauge dream from reality, as certainty and nightmare become indecipherable. With each passing moment Freddy is becoming stronger, and as a result, he friends are becoming, well, deader.
Alice keeps having recurring images of Freddy's birth mother, Amanada, and she is convinced that she holds a piece in putting Freddy back in hell where he belongs. Her unborn son, Jacob, is also showing up in her dreams. Freddy is trying to take Jacob under his wing...err, claw, and Alice must act quick before Freddy takes over her unborn son once and for all.
The Dream Child
is an ambitious entry into the Elm Street series, certainly a welcome return to creativity after The Dream Master
. Directed by Predator 2
helmer, Stephen Hopkins, this film is full of horrifically dreamlike imagery, with gravity defying staircases and surrealistic shadow usage. It is boldly a much darker and more disturbing film than The Dream Master
, and lays on the atmosphere fairly thick. There is no pop montages for escape this time around, this is a murky voyage, through and through.
Hopkins does an excellent job of breaking down the barrier between the conscious and uninhibited fantasy. Since Alice's unborn child is in a near constant dreamlike state, Freddy is able to strike at whatever moment he desires, thus enabling the film to blur the lines between dream and reality. The entire film therefore feels like a nightmarish trip into Alice's subconscious, full of imaginative backdrops and death sequences. Thematically this is a step back in the right direction for the franchise, but somehow the film as a whole fails.
The visuals, however inspired they may be, are ultimately too murky and dark that the finished product feels like an overcast skyline rather than an ominous twilight. The girth of special effects are equally as murky as the picture, and at times disgustingly ugly. A girls face swells up as Freddy feeds her to death, another person is overtaken by the wiring of a motorcycle and yet another is thrust into a muddy labyrinth full of shades of brown and black. Even Freddy's demise seems more like a freak show than a competent display of special effects.
Adding to the sheer blah-ness of it all is another batch of uninspired and painfully mediocre teenagers. The jock, the comic geek, the swimmer and the prom queen are all on display here, and none of them really add anything of interest to the story. Lisa Wilcox is the exception though, throwing a fair bit of charisma into the entire mix.
By this point, even Freddy is more or less cliché. He simply lurks in the background, emerging only to dispel some pun-ridden one-liner like "It's a boyyyyyyyyyy!" For all the jokes and punch lines he bellows out, he may as well be played by Carrot Top. On top of that, he acts more like a prop than he does a true character. He's part of the engine in a motorbike, a black-and-white comic book character and even another doctor. Apparently the red and green sweater just wasn't enough for Mr. Krueger anymore.
The Dream Child
feels more like a coherent attempt at an atmospheric horror film than The Dream Master
was, but somehow the pieces just don't quite mesh. At only 90 minutes, it moves along quickly, but as the credits roll there just really isn't anything that resonates in memory. A better film could have easily come out of this material, but as it stands, this is one of the weakest films in the seven film franchise. An ambitious but ultimately mediocre foray into Freddy's legacy.
If you've read the reviews for the other Elm Street visuals, you aren't going to find much more here. The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is clear, sharp and completely without blemish. The black levels are nice and the colors very consistent. As mentioned previously, this is a murky looking film, and as a result it will look much less appealing than the other films. It has always looked like this though, and New Line has done an accurate job at presenting the visuals once again.
Like The Dream Master
this is in either stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1. The 5.1 track this time sounds the most active out of the first 5 Elm Street films, with a few engulfing surround effects and an overall full and pounding soundtrack. The screech of Freddy's glove, the dripping in Freddy's labyrinth and never-ending climactic slamming of doors all sound very sharp and well realized. When it comes to audio and Elm Street, New Line can seemingly do no wrong.
Talk about consistency! Again, we are treated to a "Jump to a Nightmare" chapter listing, cast & crew bios, the screenplay and a trivia game (the latter two in DVD-Rom only). The trailer is included here on the standalone DVD, but can be found on the encyclopedia disc for those who want the box set. There are more extras on the Encyclopedia disc, but for those seeking only the movie-only release, this is sadly all that you get. It should also be noted that the theatrical cut is the only one that New Line saw fit to include on this release. The VHS release of this film featured uncut material not seen in theatres, but nowhere is this footage to be found on the digital format.
The Dream Child
is a return to the darker themes of the series, but unfortunately the final product is a murky and somewhat dissatisfying entry into the Elm Street mythos. The audio and video are up to typical New Line standards, and the extras continue to be non-existent. Those deciding on picking up this film by itself should seek the first three films instead, but those looking to buy the entire set should not be too turned off. The Dream Child
is a weak sequel, but at least it sets its aspirations higher than the mocking trash that is Freddy's Dead. It's a nice DVD, but ultimately this Child is one only a mother can love.
Movie - C+
Image Quality - A-
Sound - A
Supplements - C+
- Running Time - 1 hour 30 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English subtitles
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English Mono
- Cast & Crew bios
- Jump to a nightmare feature
- Interactive screenplay (DVD-ROM only)
- "Dream World" trivia game (DVD-ROM only)
- Theatrical trailer (standalone release only)