Bad Dreams (1988) Review

Dr Harris (Richard Lynch), leader of the Unity Fields cult, gives his followers a gasoline bath before torching the compound. Love Child Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin) is the only survivor and spends the next thirteen years in a coma. After awakening, Cynthia is placed in the Borderline Personality Group to help her adjust to life in the 80’s. Before long, a crispy Harris returns with an offer; join the cult on the other side or he will kill every member of the group.

Bad Dreams is Fox Studios’ attempt at a Freddy Franchise. It’s almost painful to see the number of elements “borrowed” from Nightmare on Elm Street 3. Just replace Craig Wasson with Bruce Abbott and you have this film. This is sad because there are a number of good performances in Bad Dreams. Harris is a creepy villain because of Lynch’s strong performance. Rubin maintains a sense of childhood innocence throughout her performance.

Writers Andrew Fleming and Steven DeSouza do add a nice subplot to Love Child. Everything Rubin’s character loved and believed in turned to ashes. How does one live in a world where hope is dead? There is a real sense of lost innocence in these scenes. Another wise choice is the absence of one-liners from Harris. Fleming’s direction is adequate, but he loses control of his lesser actors.

Fans of 80’s films will want to see this for the familiar faces. Dean (Chainsaw from Summer School) Cameron does a good job of balancing between humorous and manic. E.G. Daily spends most of her screen time hiding behind her hair, but her character is still sympathetic.  Charles (the voice of Roger Rabbit) Fleischer makes a cameo as Ron the Pharmacist. He gets to reveal a big secret before palming a bottle of liquid pot. At the time of its release, Gale Anne Hurd was seen as a super producer with a golden touch.

Despite the obvious similarities to Elm Street 3, Bad Dreams is worth watching. This film has some gore, a large body count, suspense, and a twist ending. Some may see Bad Dreams as a studio’s attempt at cashing-in on a hot trend, while others may find a flawed gem.

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