A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Summer horror movies are falling on their faces.

Jason came a cropper in Friday the 13th, Part VIII, a bad outing even for that low-rent series. Now Freddy Krueger, he of the striped sweater and longish fingernails, weighs in with A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. It may be Freddy’s worst.

The first Nightmare on Elm Street, from director Wes Craven, was an edge-of-your-seat experience. The subsequent movies have varied in quality. Part 3 in particular had some creepy moments, and Mr. Krueger has generally kept the energy level up.

Not so in installment No. 5. This is the most incoherent outing yet, with no sense of the rules of suspense or the careful dream scheme of the first Nightmare. The audience could never quite be sure when the dreams were over in the first movie, which meant you couldn’t relax for a moment. Here, Freddy (played once again by the inimitable Robert Englund) can invade the mind of the young heroine (Lisa Wilcox) at any time, not just in her dreams. Ho hum.

Freddy himself keeps in the background, occasionally popping up to deliver a one-liner. Far from the menacing figure of the first film, he’s now a wisecracking chap who simply appears to be a bit cranky. He is, apparently, content to sit back and let the teenagers line up and make themselves Freddybait, which they do with machinelike regularity.

The new wrinkles involve an anorexic-looking model who eats herself to death, under Freddy’s cheerleading supervision, and a nerdy cartoonist who becomes trapped in the pages of a comic book with “Super-Freddy,” the new, pumped-up superhero.

But for the most part, this film is simply boring. (Those who haven’t seen the previous episodes in the series will be particularly bewildered.) If Freddy has let us down, never fear. In a few weeks we’ll be seeing more long-running crazies: Halloween V is on the way, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 is also ready to be unleashed. The slasher wars are not over yet.

First published in the Herald, August 1989

This was directed by Stephen Hopkins, who went on to make Blown Away, Lost in Space, and the first season of “24.” Yes.

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