A couple weeks ago, I mentioned Bad Dreams in my list of horror films I had been meaning to watch. Well, I finally managed to see it in the form of a double-feature brought to us by the good people at Shout! Factory. Pair this hospital slasher with another of its kind, Viting Hours, and you've got yourself a purchase! I have now seen both films (and special features), so if you're wondering if that $14.99 price tag is worth it, here you go (NOTE: I was planning on doing both films in one review, but given how long the Bad Dreams review turned out, I decided to split it up):
Bad Dreams 1988
Bad Dreams has been on my radar for a while, but I've never really gotten around to seeing it. The big draw for me was Richard Lynch as the film's main baddie. Like I've said, I feel that Richard Lynch is the greatest bad guy of all time, whether it be in Invaon USA or Puppet Master III. So when I heard Lynch was portraying the Freddy Krueger-esque villain, I was very excited. Of course, I had heard very bad things about the film, mostly accung it of being a "Nightmare on Elm Street 3 rip-off," and it really looked like they were right, judging by the trailer.
PLOT (from back cover): In the mid-1970s members of the love cult Unity Fields sought "the ultimate joining" by doung themselves with gasoline and committing mass suicide. A young girl blown clear of the fiery exploon was the only survivor. Thirteen years later, Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin, Screamers) awakens from a coma inde a psychiatric hospital with only buried memories of that horrific day - but now her fellow patients are each being driven to their own violent suicides. Has the sect's leader (Richard Lynch, Deathsport) returned to claim his final child?
Well, I'm here to say that this movie rocks! It was just one delightful surprise after another, and managed to hit all the bases in terms of an entertaining film. Sure, there are several bold milarities to Elm Street 3, like the hospital setting, the gory murders listed off as "suicide", the therapy group, the burned villain back from the dead, the stubborn doctor who won't believe the main girl, and the lead girl is played by Jennifer Rubin (Elm Street 3). Now, ordinarily these factors would be distracting, but the film manages to seem so fresh I was hooked from start to finish. I find it annoying when a film rips off one of my favorite horror movies, but when that film manages to add enough amounts of originality and even improving on a few aspects of the film it's taking its inspiration from, I think that's great.
The acting was all good, and most people will notice a few familiar faces, like the aforementioned Jennifer Rubin, Bruce Abbott (Re-Animator), Richard Lynch (Puppet Master III), and Harris Yulin (who's been in nearly everything). They are all great, and even the lesser-known actors do well. But still, you can't beat Richard Lynch as a villain. There's a lot more gore than you'd expect, including one scene where there is literally gallons used. Even though most of the deaths occur off-screen (the aftermaths are bloody great), the make-up effects are great. The burns on Lynch's face are legions more realistic than Freddy's (even though in some scenes it really looks like there's a gummy worm hanging from his right ear), and there's also one scene which has a knife going through a hand that I found inconceivably realistic.
Bad Dreams is one of those movies that many people hate for no justifiable reason. Really, the main reason I've seen for people hating this is because it is a rip-off of ANOES 3. So what? Don't look at and compare it to other movies, look at it and judge it based on the quality of the film. Yes, the storytelling is a tad bit choppy at times, and upon initial viewing I hated the twist that comes in near the end, but as time progressed, I grew to like the twist. I like to think of it as, "Nightmare on Elm Street 3 done intelligently". While I did really enjoy this movie, the one thing that washed away every little annoyance I found in it was the end credits song. I'm not going to tell you what it is, just because it is just so awesome in the fact you do not see it coming. Anyway, the bottom line is this movie is fun entertainment, plain and mple. It doesn't get bloated with story, so you can properly enjoy it from start to the incredible finish. This is '80s slasher greatness in its truest form, and is, alone, worth the $15 price tag.
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TRANSFER & AUDIO:
The transfers themselves aren't new, having just been carried over from the previous Anchor Bay releases, but they are still really good. I'm not one of those techie DVD collectors who obsess over their transfers, so this type of thing is out of place for me. However, I do have the ability to spot a decent transfer of a movie. Bad Dreams sports a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and the always pleang anamorphic widescreen. Even though there's no new HD -modified picture, I still think it looks sharp and pleang to the eye.
I was surprised to find it sports a new, 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack that sounds fantastic. I have yet to experience it with the proper surround sound equipment, but the sound goes with the picture very well and feels like a three-course meal: Great movie, great picture, and great sound that all left me feeling satisfied, but not too full for seconds.
Once again, all the special features have been carried over from the Anchor Bay release (with the exception of one new one), but I'm not complaining, because there are some really good treats for the fans here:
Audio Commentary With Director Andrew Fleming: Even though I would have enjoyed it if Richard Lynch and co. had joined Fleming, Fleming himself carries the commentary along well and offers up information not given in the interviews. I wish Shout! had given us a new commentary instead of the old one; it would be interesting to hear Fleming's thoughts twenty years after making the movie.
Dream Cast: In the lone new extra, this is a series of interviews with the stars of Bad Dreams, including Jennifer Rubin, Bruce Abbott, Richard Lynch, and Dean Cameron. There's several fun anecdotes given by the actors and actresses, and they all seemed to have a good time making the movie and reflecting on their experiences on the set.
The Special Effects Of Bad Dreams: A behind-the-scenes look at how two-time Oscar-winner Michele Burke did the make-up effects. Given how amazed I was at the effects, this feature was a real treat for me, especially seeing Ms. Burke in action behind the scenes. Call me a geek, but seeing her apply the make-up to Lynch's face was fascinating to me.
Behind The Scenes: An interesting look at the shoot of the gruesome "parking lot" scene. I feel the clip is a bit too long, clocking in at ten minutes, but it's a nice addition nonetheless.
The Original Ending: Not an alternate ending, but a scene added on to the theatrical ending. Honestly, I don't know why they cut it. Not only do we get more Richard Lynch action, but we also get an important plot detail! While it is a bit cheesy, I still thought the film would have benefited if this had been added in.
Promo: Just as the title says, this is a promotional piece made by 20th Century Fox. I find it amung that producer Gale Anne Hurd thinks this is a highly original piece and she's starting a new sub-genre (pay no attention to that other movie which is remarkably milar to this one).
Photo Gallery: Not much to say here, but there are some nice stills of the actors and actresses and scenes from the movie.
Bad Dreams isn't a film for everyone; the concept isn't original, there are some definite plot holes and unanswered questions, and some parts are hokey in that 1980s type of way. But hey; who doesn't love that? Great gore, great make-up effects, good acting (nothing really exceptional), and a great soundtrack. Shout! Factory has done the world a huge service by bringing this lost gem up to the light, along with another lost clasc, Viting Hours. This is a great release that Bad Dreams fully deserves: Great transfer, audio, and special features all packed into a double-feature bundle for only $14.99. But what about the other film featured in this set? Find out in Part 2 of this DVD review...