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A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)


  • Review: ** (out of ****)
  • Starring: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Erika Anderson, Valorie Armstrong, Michael Ashton, Beatrice Boepple, Beth DePatie, Clarence Felder, Stephen Grives, Danny Hassel, Whitby Hertford, Kelly Jo Minter
  • Director: Stephen Hopkins
  • Screenplay: Leslie Bohem
  • Length: 89 min.
  • MPAA Rating: R

The best term to describe the fifth installment of the Elm Street saga is "stretch."

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child came hot on the heels of the previous year's The Dream Master and took the series to a strange new dimension. Alice (Lisa Wilcox) is back as the lead character and becoming the only member of the cast to survive through two full films.

Also back, although briefly, is Dan (Danny Hassel), the jock from the previous film who, to her surprise, liked her. Despite being fully awake and the only person through which Freddy can access new victims, Dan ends up the first in a new line of victims for the nightmare killer. Much of the film revolves around Alice attempting to resolve why people are dying again when she's fully awake. When the doctor reveals that she's pregnant, it takes all too long for her to realize that her baby is the one sleeping.

Despite the length of time it takes for her character to arrive at a conclusion, there is some distinctive cleverness to Leslie Bohem's (later to pen Dante's Peak and Daylight) script. Several clues present themselves early on that any mystery lover can pick up on easily. When she meets a boy (Whitby Hertford) morosely waiting for Freddy to come home in his dream house (the same Elm Street abode that figures into all the previous films) and discovers his name is Jacob, she tells him that she's always liked the name.

Director Stephen Hopkins whose misses (Predator 2, Lost in Space and The Reaping among others) outnumber his hits (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers stands alone) does surprisingly well with such potentially corny material. When in the real world his choice of shots are pretty ho-hum, but when he gets into the dream world, he uses unusual camera angles and spooky setting techniques to pull you into the dream in ways his predecessor Renny Harlin couldn't fathom.

Wilcox does not improve her performance over the previous film, though Hassel does pretty well with his limited scene material. Hertford spends much of his time glaring into the distance. He doesn't seem to realize, or perhaps it's Hopkins' inability to convey depth of character, that he's the personification of an unborn child. That should account for something, but in this film it doesn't. The three new slashing victims are so indistinguishable that it's hard to even remember their character names.

The series needed a jolt to keep going and unfortunately, The Dream Child didn't provide a large enough catalyst to sustain the tiring storyline. Freddy's pointed barbs continue to lose resonance and he becomes more of a bully and less of a threat.

Although Harlin squandered most of the previous film's potential, Hopkins builds the potential into a nearly-satisfying entry into the franchise, but too many irritating genre contrivances prevented A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child from becoming more than another overbearing cliché of the genre.