Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Directed By: Stephen Hopkins
Written By: John Skipp
Robert Englund
Lisa Wilcox
Kelly Jo Minter

One year after the release of The Dream Master, director Stephen Hopkins took hold of the reigns and steered the Elm Street franchise into an entirely new direction. The film is so different stylistically, that it often seems to suffer the same fate as Freddy’s Revenge: neglect. But why? What makes this film so different than its predecessors? The best way to describe it may be as follows: imagine what it would look like if Tim Burtondirected a Freddy film.

The Dream Child, a heavily gothic-inspired and incredibly dark chapter to the series is even more underrated than part two. I don’t know why this film has a tendency to get glossed over, because as far as slasher films go, it’s damn well-made. I constantly hear people saying something to this effect: great effects but bad plot. This makes no sense to me, since the plot of this film is what makes it superior to many of the other installments in the series. The movie follows the previous lead heroine, Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox), now pregnant and once again the target of the maniacal Freddy Krueger. The catch? This time around, Krueger is able to get to Alice through the constant dreams of her unborn baby. Now tell me, how is that not a brilliant plot?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand there are still more than a handful of plotholes and things to pick apart storywise, but I think the overall concept is solid. It’s also the first time anyone attempted to do something different with the formula since the second film, and for that I commend the writers. We also get something that was only hinted at in the third film: the savage backstory of Freddy’s mother, and the origin of Krueger’s conception. For this reason, The Dream Child is undisputedly an essential film in the series.

But as a horror film reviewer, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t discuss the makeup and special effects. Stylistically, this is where The Dream Childcompletely breaks free of the previous films and forges its own path. The Freddy Krueger depicted here is a Freddy that fits perfectly into the gothic atmosphere and scenery of the film. Physically he appears considerably older, sporting a sinister hooked nose, and is made to look more like a demented grandfather figure than the middle-aged man we’re accustomed to. The gothic sets — ranging from a dark and dirty asylum to a brilliantly horrifying reproduction of M. C. Escher’s Relativity — coupled with brilliantly executed special effects, are hard to ignore. They create a dreamworld which is no longer confined to just the boiler room setting that we’re used to seeing, but instead form a terrifying and inescapable bleak labyrinth. Lastly, the death scenes themselves are considerably darker, more drawn out, and far more sadistic than any of the earlier films — when was the last time you saw Freddy force-feed someone their own intestinal matter while a group of onlookers watched, laughing?

There’s no question that The Dream Child was trying to do something original and entirely new with the series, and I’m glad that Stephen Hopkins was ultimately chosen to direct the film (though it is interesting to note that both Stephen King and Frank Miller were both offered the role of writer/director). Without a doubt, it is unusual for the fifth film in any horror series to be as good as this one, so I encourage you to not wait any longer before checking it out. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.