If you didn't know anything about movies, you might assume that, if the fifth film in a franchise is released, it has the daunting task of living up to its predecessors. Thankfully, horror movie franchises go out of their way to correct us of such thinking. Why make good sequels when you can just make the first one look even better by comparison? I think that may have been the director's plan when making The Dream Child.
For those of you who haven't seen all the Nightmare movies (shame on you!), here's what you missed: Freddy Kreuger was a child killer who was arrested, but was not convicted due to a never specified "technicality." The Elm Street parents didn't like the idea of Kreuger going free, so they burned him alive and hid the remaining evidence of their deed, because mob rules and hiding evidence are the symptoms of truly justified individuals. It's interesting that his lawyer was not murdered as well; maybe he was, though, and he just litigated the parents... from beyond the grave!!! Somehow, Freddy mysteriously became a creature of the dreamscape and sought revenge against his killers by striking against their children. At the end of every movie, some kid figures out that their fear gives Freddy his power, so they find some way to banish him forever...or until right before the credits, so you can totally tell that there's going to be another sequel.
Well, in A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Freddy finally kills off the remaining original Elm Street kids. End of story, right? Well, it turns out that Freddy is greedy and wants power, so he continues killing kids in their sleep, although now completely without the justification of the original movie. The Dream Master ties directly into The Dream Child, with the character of Alice Johnson starring in both. Alice has the power to bring sleeping people into her dreams, or to enter another person's dreams. This allows her to fight Freddy with friends; in the last installment, Alice trapped Freddy within herself and basically locked away the key. If he can't beat her, the Dream Master, he can't escape into the dreamscape and attack others. It's all just that simple, and by "simple," I of course mean "horribly convoluted."
Alice gets pregnant in The Dream Child's opening sequence. Presumably (although never explicitly stated), her unborn child has inherited her powers. That means that, since babies are stupid and weak (I'm paraphrasing the screenwriters here, this is not necessarily my opinion), Freddy can influence or even assume control of the fetus' power to enter the dreams of others. And since fetuses basically sleep whenever their moms are moving around, that means that Freddy can attack even when Alice is awake. I'm pretty sure the movie makers would have loved for that last sentence to end in an exclamation mark, but it's all I can do to just mock this movie.
In a Freddy movie, you basically look for two things: creative death scenes and Freddy's terrible jokes. This movie doesn't do much for the former and the best death scene has a comic book nerd becoming a super hero to fight off Freddy... and getting owned a minute later. I'm pretty sure that only three people died in this movie, too, which never helps a crappy horror sequel. On the bright side, the main theme won a 1990 Razzie for worst song:
Now, so far the movie doesn't sound too bad. Not good, by any means, but not terrible. But it is terrible. The script is awkward, like the screenwriters were sixty year-old Soviet political prisoners, locked away since 1946 and had never met a teenager in their lives. We get to see the implied rape of Freddy's mother, a nun, by "one hundred maniacs." It's off-screen, but gang rape is rarely in good taste. We also get to see Freddy as a fetus, looking like a heavily scarred tadpole; not scary, but definitely disturbing. The kids in the movie are a motley crew, again probably because the writers had never met teenagers but heard that The Breakfast Club was pretty characteristic of social groups. The movie is terribly edited, too; in order to avoid an X-rating (which, trust me, it never even came close to with the final cut), the director allegedly had to make a lot of last-minute edits. The problem was that the director (Stephen Hopkins, of Predator 2 fame) never bothered to make sure what was left fit together. The viewer is left with props popping in and out of scenes with no explanation and bits of character-building taken completely out of context.
Don't get me wrong, I love horror movies for the good and the bad that they can bring to the table. This one just leaves the "good" table bare and piles loads upon the "bad" one.