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Bad Dreams

February 9th, 2009 by unkle lancifer · 6 Comments

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!

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Tags: Repeat Offenders

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 FilmFatherNo Gravatar // Feb 9, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Not to get all artsy and stuff, but is that scene above the  Bad Dreams trailer a tribute by Andrew Flemming to the famous Wyeth painting Christina’s World? Woman on the ground, in foreground, looking at a house back in the distance…just wondering.

  • 2 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Feb 9, 2009 at 12:44 pm


    Yes that is a tribute to Christina’s world, good eye! There is also a great visual reference to “Carrie” in Bad Dreams too. I forgot to mention that the Anchor Bay dvd of “Bad Dreams is fantastic. There is commentary with Flemming and you get to see an extended ending of the film. I really wish they did use the ending that was nixed because I think it works better and helps to bring the movie full circle. It’s grainy and there is no soundtrack but its definitely a great bonus feature.

  • 3 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Feb 10, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    I too find The Craft above reproach. I may have seen that film 100 times when it first came on cable. I was going through a really, REALLY bad break up and something about that movie just made me feel better.

    I like Bad Dreams, but haven’t seen the whole film in quite some time. I tried to watch it a few months ago, but I’m famous for falling asleep during my Saturday night movie fests. I’m getting old.

    I adore Dean Cameron. ADORE.

  • 4 smidget28No Gravatar // Aug 15, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    Just saw this tonight, and I did really like it….except for one thing. The ending. On the DVD there is an “original ending” that is way better except for the silly last shot. What do you all think?

  • 5 gcap2719No Gravatar // Aug 11, 2010 at 1:38 am

    I saw this again this morning and was on the prowl looking for the original ending  that is in the DVD, when I came across your imdb post.
    Like you, I saw this one when I was younger (in the theater in fact) and hated it – thinking it was going to be like Dream Warriors as the trailer made it out to be. Fast forward to about 15 years later, I re-watched it (to see Dean Cameron in a more serious role) and appreciated it for what it was. Having a fresher mind and no perceived notions this time around, I fell in love.  This is a film I always recommend to people who want to see something from the 80s that is “a  little different”. Still I am dying to see that original ending so I might have to rent it.

  • 6 ally_mcfeelNo Gravatar // Jun 11, 2011 at 9:56 am

    This is a great flick! Jennifer Rubin made some fantastic horror/thrillers in the 80s and early 90s. I highly recommend Drop Dead Gorgeous. It’s is A LOT of fun.

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