A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
PLOT: Alice, having survived the previous installment of the Nightmare series, finds the deadly dreams of Freddy Krueger starting once again. This time, the taunting murderer is striking through the sleeping mind of Alice's unborn child.
This might sound weird, but this might be my favorite ANOES. At least, maybe my most watched. Pretty much everyone thinks 1, 3, and New Nightmare are the best of the series. And as a kid, I agreed with that, which meant I watched those three so many times that I got sick of them and started watching 2,4,and 5 a lot more. Even Freddy's Dead, while certainly the low point of the series, has its moments. And this has a lot of moments.
You're introduced to all of the themes of the movie just within the title sequence and first scene. You see Dan and Alice having sex, creepy operatic gothic childlike music, the asylum, the conception of Freddy, and Alice being in a double dream. Pretty much the rest of the movie is set up right here. All within a few minutes and very little dialogue.
This nightmare happened the night before graduation, which throws some a kink into the timeline. ANOES came out in 1984 and you assume that it was probably set in 1984, but part 2 has the main character's finding Nancy's journal from "a few years ago". Parts 3-5 are directly connected. So for this to be 1989, that would mean the original movie probably needed to take place around 1980, as there are 3-5 years between the first and second, and then at least 3 years for 3-5. Or, who knows. Freddy's Nightmares throws off the timeline even more. We're introduced to all the main players. Dan, Alice's lover and future football star with the "need for speed", according to his overbearing father. Greta, the beautiful model to be whose mother watches her (and her diet) like a hawk. Yvonne, the sassy take no shit girl who doesn't believe in anything supernatural. Mark, the comic book nerd hopelessly in love with Greta. Again, another short scene that sets up all the characters, their motivations, what defines them, and their relationship to each other. The basic themes and the characters are all pretty clear and defined within the first 12 minutes. No room for bullshit in this.
Alice now finds herself in Dream Land while being awake. She finds herself Amanda Krueger front of an amazing gothic matte painting. I love the set design in this movie. Everything is genuinely bizarre and creepy. This whole movie is full of really garish, nightmarish sets and colors, more than any of the movies.
The nightmare takes a turn when a most spooky, spiky baby carriage shows up. Alice finds herself first about to give birth, then seeing Amanda give birth to the demon seed that was Freddy. Complete with a great animatronic puppet. This leads straight into Freddy's rebirth in the church that 4 ended in, now deformed on top of his already burned body. It harkens back to his appearance in the original, with the wonky arms while he's chasing Tina in the alley. Freddy's back, all the baby stuff is reinforced, and Amanda's spirit needs to be released from the tower where the rape happened to stop Freddy. The editing, camera work, lighting, sets...it's all great. So well done, even with Freddy coming back to life and immediately making a quip, but then showing off a truly ugly side of him that hasn't been seen since Part 2 right after. He called his mama a bitch. Well, he hissed it, really.
Yvonne is a swimmer, and as such, has the access to throw a pool party for graduation. Here, we find out that Mark is horrified by blood, despite drawing exceedingly violent comics. Alice calls Dan in a huff, scared and confused that she's dreaming up Krueger while being awake. Dan leaves the party. He dozes for just a second, which means it's time to enter Dream Land. His own truck turns against him. First, the radio tunes to a show where Dan's mother calls in, calling him an ungrateful shit. Then Freddy shows up as a passenger to rub it in. "This boy has the need for speed", an echo of what Dan's own father said earlier. Freddy causes him to have a wreck. Dan then steals a motorcycle, which fuses to his body, and along with the speed, literally rips his skin off. He has a wreck outside of the diner, which Alice senses before it actually happens. This shit is brutal, so much so that it had to be heavily cut down. Alice faints at the scene of the crash, waking up at the hospital where Yvonne works. It's here that Alice learns she's pregnant, and the father of her child is dead.
Alice begins dreaming of a young boy named Jacob, although no such patient exists at the hospital. Jacob knows about Dan's death. From here on, Freddy goes into overtime of picking off all of Alice's friends. In what might be the grossest kill of the series, Greta chokes to death at a dinner party. But in the dream, she's been placed in a highchair and is force fed until she dies. Alice also sees the end of this dream, while being awake and around her father, who is completely clueless. There is some great 80s stop motion animation in this. Freddy then focuses on Mark, by sucking Mark into his own comic book, slicing him like paper, with all the color draining out of Mark. It looks amazing. It mixes animation, rotoscoping, and possibly early CGI.
Freddy reveals himself to Yvonne (with more dope stop-motion animation), who now has to believe in him. They both enter the Dream Land. Alice to find Freddy, while Yvonne is set out to free Amanda's spirit. It all ends with Baby Jacob luring Freddy in and SWERVING him as Amanda reabsorbs Freddy back into her. His hand busts out and its left on an ambiguous note, but you can assume that shit ain't holding Fred down.
I like this a lot, friends. It does everything right. Everything set up has a pay off. You learn about every character, their motivations, and what what Freddy will use to go after them within the first 15-20 minutes. It employs pretty much every possible trick and effect, from latex to squibs to animatronics to animation to rotoscoping to stop motion to maybe CGI. Every scene matters. There is no wasted time in this movie. Everything progresses the story and character arcs. It's just very well done. Especially when you consider that this came out almost exactly one year after part 4, and had 8 weeks total for shooting and editing. I also liked that it touched on some more mature and adult themes, like teenage pregnancy, parental rights, a brief scene discussion abortion and pro-choice in a completely non-political or hyperbolic manner. Feels like this was a made for the audience that would have been 15-18 when the original came out and were probably starting families by the time this came out. It also has legitimately bonkers shit like Freddy's face inside Alice's womb, shit talking while feeding souls to the baby. It's the only movie that actually says Freddy was a child molester, although only on a newspaper headline and only if you freeze frame. But none of the other ones have anything to explicitly point that out. As far as 5th movie in a horror series goes, it's hard to beat this.
Here is the section from the WONDERFUL Never Sleep Again documentary that focuses on The Dream Child. Please buy it. It's amazing and should be purchased if you're a fan of the series. It's a four hour documentary that covers the entire series, narrated by Heather Langenkamp and has the actors, directors, producers, and crew members from all the movies. It's amazing. Buy it.
Also from the out of print The Nightmare Series Encyclopedia are some short clips that Robert Englund did around 1999, for some reason all relating to Part 5. The Nightmare Series Encyclopedia was the bonus disc that came in the original DVD box set for the series. It had an interactive labyrinth/game that revealed all kinds of behind the scenes stories and and clips. It was pretty dope. These were filmed specifically for the box set. Why they all focused on ANOES 5 is anyone's guess. They're Englund at full ham. Had Freddy vs. Jason not happened, this would have been the last time Englund did Freddy for New Line.