Starring Jennifer Rubin, Bruce Abbott, Richard Lynch, Dean Cameron, and Harris Yulin
Directed by Andrew Fleming
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
After sitting through a few really bad movies lately, I needed a cleansing. Something that could possibly wash away the memories of recent cinematic messes. Things are really strange nowadays. Once slasher films started getting released as PG-13 kid-friendly fright fests, I knew there was a problem in the genre. Had film-makers lost their balls? Where were the splatter fests of days gone by? We watched these films just to see new and inventive ways of people getting slaughtered. I can guarantee you folks will still be talking about Kevin Bacon’s arrow through the neck gag from the original Friday the 13th decades from now, while pussified drivel like Cry_Wolf will be long forgotten. All is not lost though; thanks to the efforts of directors like Alexandre Aja, James Gunn, and Eli Roth, the blood’s slowly getting back on the big screen where it belongs. Though for some truly great slasher gems, a fan has to look no further than the Eighties. Coming in around 1988, Bad Dreams was one of the last good slashers of a decade that had seen them all.
Welcome to the 1970’s and a quiet hippie love cult known as Unity Fields. You just gotta love the hippies, man. They were all about getting stoned, free love, and blindly obeying the terrifying orders of their group’s leader. Said leader, Harris, played with an ample amount of creepiness by Richard Lynch, has one last blast planned for his followers. He needs to christen them in gasoline and burn them alive along with himself. All for love, baby. All for love. Things get really hot as he planned, but one of his love children ends up surviving. Fast forward thirteen years, and Cynthia (Jennifer Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors Rubin) is just waking up from her coma. With no family or friends left, she finds herself in a mental ward and under the care of Dr. Alex Karmen (Re-Animator‘s Bruce Abbott). Life is just about to begin anew for her when suddenly she begins having visions of a horridly burned Harris. Apparently he’s not too amused about her living and has come to collect on her death promise. Before you know it, bodies start dropping and the race is on to save Cynthia’s life and sanity.
What makes Bad Dreams work is that the film takes itself very seriously. While there is humor at times, it is well placed and not at all distracting. Without question when it comes to horror, this film means business. Also of note is the sheer ferocity of the killings. Sadly, the Eighties saw the birth of a very, VERY uptight MPAA, and as a result a lot of horror films were released extremely neutered despite their R ratings. Bad Dreams is not one of them. Each kill is even more mean-spirited than the last, and the blood flies quite liberally. It’s damned refreshing, I tell ya! Director Fleming gets the most out of every scene with some truly slick direction, but a nod must be given to the film’s music supervisor as well. As proved by Dan O’Bannon’s zombie epic, Return of the Living Dead, licensed music can do a lot to add to a film’s mood and feel. Bad Dreams is no exception to this rule. From the funky clangs of The Chamber Brothers’ classic “Time Has Come Today” all the way to Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” Bad Dreams still sounds as good as it looks.
On the DVD side of things Anchor Bay Entertainment has once again delivered the goods as there is much more here than I expected. First up we’re treated to a series of short featurettes apparently shot during the making of the movie. I didn’t know things like this were even filmed back then, but big time kudos to AB for snatching them up and piling them on. Next up and worthy of extreme note is Bad Dreams’ original ending. My guess is that it didn’t score very well with test audiences so was scrapped in favor of the ending we’re all familiar with. While watching it , it’s fairly easy to see why it was excised. Truth be told, it’s way too drawn out and has a ludicrous and completely unnecessary supernatural twist. Still, it’s very cool to see it included here. Lastly we have a director’s commentary that is informative but a bit on the dry side. All in all, it’s a great little package and a good reason to finally ditch that old worn out VHS tape.
The Bay has struck again with some more digital goodness from our genre’s past. Whether you’re an old fan of this film or just looking for a good blind buy, seek no further. Bad Dreams does everything that it should in spades and is a worthy addition to anyone’s personal DVD library. Go to it, my love child!
Audio commentary with writer / director Andrew Fleming
The Making of Bad Dreams featurette
The Special Effects of Bad Dreams featurette
Anchor Bay trailer gallery
Screenplay (DVD ROM)
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