I don’t know how it happened but somewhere along the line during these past two decades I fell in love with the movie BAD DREAMS. When I originally saw it, I remember being pretty into it but being distracted by its similarities to NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS and being more than a little perturbed by its pull the rug out from under you, swallow-its-own-tail ending. Now, those factors do not loom quite so large. I’ve come to terms with its questionable internal logic and those ELM STREET comparisons have greatly blurred. In fact, due to its relative restraint, in many ways, BAD DREAMS seems much less dated than its more successful and sometimes cloying cinematic lookie-likey.
It’s nice to jump off the fence and declare my love, who was I kidding anyway? How could I continue feigning ambivalence when the truth was, over the years, I found myself watching it again and again. It’s not perfect for sure, but perfection has always had an open invitation to bite me. Eventually I simply had to come to terms with the fact that it had a flavor and aroma all its own and that it was ready to stand up and be judged on its own terms. It’s kinda sorta perfect in a way, a late eighties stand alone horror tale filled with pop psychology, retro tune-age and a cast I could send piles of stalker Valentines to.
It’s like this see, luffa mugged creep-bomb RICHARD LYNCH is a scary JIM JONES-type, safe-trap house suicide cult leader who decides to fry his flock and drag them to the promised land. JENNIFER RUBIN (of N.O.E.S. 3) is the lone uncooked survivor who takes a coma nap for 14 years. She awakes in a hospital and is totally macked on by doctor McSweater BRUCE ABBOT (REANIMATOR) who, to steal a joke from 30 ROCK, resembles a “cartoon pilot.” She is forced to go to the greatest group therapy sessions ever because her co-crazies include such kindertrauma spankbank luminaries as Keebler babe E.G. DAILY (ONE DARK NIGHT), uber-eyebrowed DEAN CAMERON (“Chainsaw” from SUMMER SCHOOL !) and a chain-smoking SUSAN RUTTAN (best known from L.A.LAW). Does it get better than this?
Of course LYNCH‘s character “Harris” begins to show up in RUBIN‘s increasingly messed up visions demanding her to return to the cult by offing herself. He also begins appearing to her newfound pals and starts forcing them to commit suicide to drive the point home. The scene in which he is first revealed in an elevator I think is a really well done scare and still holds up nicely today. RUBIN‘s presence still brings to mind Freddy’s third outing, but I also think BAD DREAMS can sit snugly beside THE SENDER and even CANDYMAN thanks to its commitment to straddling “reality” and its main character’s skewed version of reality simultaneously.
Director ANDREW FLEMMING was fresh out of film school when he took this project on, but his efforts are impressively slick especially considering the rather meager budget he had to work with. He went on to direct the, as far as I’m concerned, above reproach FAIRUZA BALK gilded mini classic THE CRAFT and more recently the hilarious HAMLET 2. Some movies you fall in love with at the get go and with some it takes years. Maybe it was I who had to grow up and shelve my Freddy comparisons to enjoy what BAD DREAMS has to offer. There I was all those years pointing my index finger and haranguing “You should be more like Freddy!” when I should have been basking in BAD DREAMS singular, thankfully zinger-less charms. I’m sorry BAD DREAMS; ya know what? I think Freddy should be more like you!