After being defeated by the dream master, Freddy decides to try something different to get to her. He uses the dreams of her unborn child to kill off her friends and attempts to return to life through him.
After A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors produced a hit formula with the right mix of scares and special effects, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the series stuck to the same tactic. But even then, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master didn’t strike the same notes, becoming more gimmicky, more self-aware and, sadly enough, more 80s. Cheesy comedy, dated special effects and pop culture references galore dogged the film. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child doesn’t even attempt to reverse that trend, continuing the self-destructive path with even more daft gimmicks and self-awareness.
Arguably the worst entry in the series, this sequel continues the downward spiral that began with the previous film. It’s an effects-driven slasher where the main focus of the story is driven towards creating as many innovative as set pieces as possible and trying to string them together with a flimsy plot. There’s a sad lack of focus on what made this series so great in the first place.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child is repetitive and silly drivel which does exactly the sort of things that screw franchises up. The main factor is the use of Freddy Krueger. Granted he was starting to turn into a cartoon villain in the third film with his use of one-liners but he was still reasonably scary and malicious. He’s come a long way from the cruel and demonic killer in the original to more of a sadistic Japanese game show host! I’m not knocking Robert Englund’s performance as Freddy. He’s the only constant of the series and he’s brilliant in each one. But he can only bring to life whatever character is written down on paper and, as we saw from the first one and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Englund can hit ‘serious Freddy’ down to a tee when he needs to. It’s a pity that most of the sequels turn him into a campy buffoon, only happy to gloat, crack jokes and mess around at his victim’s expense. Some of his one-liners are downright terrible and I bet even back in 1989 they were frowned upon with disdain.
I guess I could tolerate this version of the character even more if he wasn’t on the screen as much. He was a background player in the original, content to lurk in the background waiting for people to go to sleep. But as the sequels increased, so did his screen time. Now the films are focused on him, not the characters he’s killing off. We’re treated to more back story of how Freddy came to be – another downfall of horror sequels which attempt to flesh out back stories and just end up confusing the audience and watering down their main antagonist (I mean look at what they did to Michael Myers, turning him into some sort of Druid-like enforcer). Freddy’s family history is now more intricate and confusing than ever before with flashbacks to his nun mother and conception. But whilst the writers attempt to flesh out his character, they must have ran out of time in trying to figure out a decent way to resurrect him, giving him another lazy rebirth which will just have you shrugging your shoulders.
I do think that the story had potential as Freddy uses Alice’s unborn baby to haunt her dreams. It’s a clever twist on the usual Nightmare story as Freddy is unable to get into the Dream Master’s mind and needs to find other ways to do it so uses her unborn baby as a conduit. But in all honesty, the plot is just a weak excuse for more carnage. I mean how many friends can one person have? The character of Alice Johnson has a seemingly endless supply of friends in this film and the previous one. You would have thought that after most of her friends died previously under mysterious circumstances, no one else would dare to be her friend for fear of sharing the same fate – she must be cursed or something!
But here she has made a whole host of new friends only too willing to be destroyed in highly imaginative set pieces. Elaborate kills this time around include one motorcycle rider melding into his bike as he’s riding it and a teenager being drawn into a comic book before the paper he’s trapped in is slashed to pieces. The worst sequence involves Freddy force feeding a teenager until she’s extremely fat. The special effects might have been cutting edge back in the mid-80s but nowadays they look extremely dated. Even Freddy’s facial make-up looks to have been softened so that he doesn’t look as sinister. But this softened approach is just a damning indictment of the overall film.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child is a stale, ultimately shallow effects driven sequel which drove another nail in the coffin of the franchise. The effects have dated as bad as the 80s wardrobes and soundtrack. Even die-hard fans of the series will be hard-pressed to find much of worth in this one.