I was intrigued by the title of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989). Would it deliver the seismic shift in the series that the title suggests? After the dire A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) I was not at all confident. Whilst the shift is perhaps not seismic, this is still a hell of an improvement and does actually do a fair bit different.
Most of the really excellent stuff in this entry into the series comes from the Dream Child part of the title and the creative crew behind the series have managed to incorporate a much needed jolt of narrative originality into the film as a result. I think the reveal midway through of how Freddy is getting into people’s dreams is nicely different, as is the appearance of the returning Alice’s child as a toddler in her dreams. Ups the stakes in a way no film since the original has managed to do in this series. I think director Stephen Hopkins and co went out of their way with the opening scenes to separate this film from the fourth last entry. It is shadowy and moody, with a gong tolling ominously and the first real hint of sex that there has been in the entire series. It is instantly a darker and more intriguing take than what has come before. In addition to the Dream Child, the other narrative aspect of this that is incorporated well are the flashbacks and references to Freddy’s past. Again, plenty of this is really dark and at times a little confronting – the scene that gives us a glimpse into Freddy’s conception in particular. I was a little concerned that this focus, coupled with none on Freddy’s child murdering crimes, would make the character sympathetic. But for me, the film never fell into that trap. The film does get a little silly at times, but it always manages to keep that on a pretty short leash. Actually at times the more humourous side of Freddy is actually quite engaging and amusing, without detracting too much from the horror storyline that we are meant to be absorbing.
Initially, once out of dreamland, I had grave concerns that the acting and characterisations were going to be unbearably kitsch. Thankfully though, with one notable exception (the acting performance of Joe Seely as Mark), this is really not the case and the film probably has the most interesting characterisations and relationships of any of these films. One of the best aspects of that is the return of Alice’s alcoholic father in this film. He is probably the first character who has satisfyingly grown from one film to the next. Alice, as played by Lisa Wilcox, is also a great recurring character, a surprise given how unmoved I was by her in the fourth film. The character and acting are a lot stronger here. You can really feel her desperation as she fights for her unborn child, as well as her friends around her that she loves so dearly. In addition to at least some level of narrative originality, what sets the good films apart from the bad ones in this series is effective imagery. Again, this film nails that pretty well. A battered and torn pram is great and comes back a second time with some fantastically spiky additions whilst the ultrasound scene veers into slightly absurd, but innovative looking territory. Against all better judgement as well, I really dug the look of the creepyarse Freddy baby. Also, some of the set pieces in this are as good, if not even better than anything else in the series. The early car sequence and the one involving a dream on top of the diving board spring to mind immediately.
It appears that the odd numbered films in the series are where all the quality is at. The classic original, the return to form of number three and now this have all been comfortably the highlights of this series. This one is so refreshing after the fourth and lives up to the title by incorporating the Dream Child into the narrative and utilising it to raise the stakes in both a story and visual sense. I suspect this may be the most underrated of the bunch, given I am not sure too many people out there are big fans of it. But count me as quite the pleasantly surprised fan.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
If you enjoyed this one, please take a look at my other Elm Street reviews: The classic first film, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
Also faithful readers, please don’t forget to vote in this all important poll here, and check out the episode of the Forgotten Filmcast I appeared on last week.
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I don’t remember much of this one apart from seeing it in the video rental place when I was a kid. Glad you enjoyed it, I might have to check it out now
Do so man. Have yourself a little odd number Elm Street marathon.
The one thing I remember about this movie, or the one before it for that matter, is how much of a crush I had on Alice.
Great review. It’s about time I revisited this whole series.
Cheers mate. I am having a lot of fun working my way through these films, so I would definitely recommend you doing the same (well the odd numbered films anyway).
I know I have not been commentating steadily, and I really think I should, but I would like to let you know that I have been reading these. Reason why I am saying this? Simply because I would like to point out that it is awesome how you have been reviewing the whole series of such a legendary slasher. Of course, not all of them are good, and your reviews are fairly reflecting that.
I love when Freddy is wise cracking, and humorous personally. It does not take away from the horror elements at all, because someone who can joke about, and explain the horrible things he will do to you, is terrifying when you think about it. No remorse is in this horrible man’s voice. It is also a nice change from the countless quiet killers.
Cannot remember much of this film personally, or if I liked it very much, but glad that you did. It did not do well critically, but the masses are typically hard on slashers, so that would make sense.
Cheers mate, always glad to hear that you are reading along to these and enjoying. Has been cool getting in the routine of watching one of these a week. I am going to move onto another franchise after this one (will probably do a poll on the site to decide what).
The more humorous Freddy as only really bothered me in one film so far (#4). I actually thought that it made this film better, whilst in #3 I don’t think there was enough of it to annoy me at all.
Another excellent review, and glad to see you have been enjoying your Freddy Krueger journey! 😛
Cheers Zoe. Has been a lot of fun. Am going to be doing a poll for which franchise to do next sometime soon.
😀 Keeping my eyes peeled!
There is always the Friday the 13th franchise, X-Men, James Bond, Alien/Predator and later Alien vs Predator, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Planet of the Apes, Final Destination (if you’re really bored), Scream, The Fast and the Furious…
There are so many!
Some excellent choices. A few of these will definitely make the poll.
I see I need to catch up on reading these! Glad you enjoyed this one a lot more than the 4th one. : ) That’s it – I’m digging out this boxset soon! I remember 4 & 5 the least.
Yeah I can understand why they would be the least memorable ones (even though I liked this one).