Friday, July 6, 2012

Bad Dreams

In my dreams--you're still by me
Just the way it used to be
 - Dokken

Pop quiz time! What movie starring Jennifer Rubin takes place in a mental institution and features an undead horribly burned killer (evil in life and death) who murders group therapy patients in bloody and horrific ways?

If you said Nightmare on Elm Street 3, you'd be right. But it's also the plot of the little-known Nightmare on Elm Street rip-off, Bad Dreams. (Extra points if you guessed both.)

Bad Dreams starts out promising enough. We see a young girl (well she's supposed to be younger even though the actress looks to be 22), taking her place around fellow members of the cult Unity Fields, led by the charismatic leader Harris (Richard Lynch). One big-ass explosion later and the whole house erupts into flames, killing everybody inside (willingly), save one.

Cut to 13 years later and the 22-year old looking cult girl, Cynthia, has grown into the 18-year old looking Jennifer Rubin, which is mildly confusing to say the least. She's been in a coma this entire time, having survived the big explosion and upon waking is put into a mental institution while she comes to terms with what happened to her. She is helped by a hunky psychiatrist Dr. Karmen and the members of her therapy group including the wise-cracking Ralph, the emo-chick Lana, the chain-smoking Miriam and a couple of other assorted odd characters. But shortly after starting her therapy, Cynthia starts having visions of Harris, now badly burned and back from the dead, who wants her to complete the suicide pact, as members of the group start to perish one by one.

There was a good idea in Bad Dreams but it got lost in there somewhere. First of all the similarities between this movie and NOES3 are sooooo strong that this can't be viewed as anything other than a cash grab. Heck, at one point, Charles Fleischer (Roger Rabbit himself) has a super-brief cameo as a doctor. Just like in the first Nightmare on Elm Street when he had well, a super-brief cameo as a doctor. I mean, come on, at this point you're not even trying to be original. Add the fact that at no time during the movie does Cynthia even dream even though the title implies nightmares. She has visions yes, but bad dreams? Nope, none at all.

The characters are okay, but just that, okay. Jennifer Rubin is certainly likeable and pretty, but she's just not strong enough to carry the entire movie on her shoulders. The members of the group are okay but their characters aren't defined enough to make us feel anything about them. As they are killed, the result is more like meh, okay, whose next? Harris is really the only character who comes across as pitch-perfect and believe it or not is scarier without the burn make-up than with it. You really believe that this guy could lead a bunch of followers to mass suicide and when he's onscreen you can't take your eyes off of him.

But, the rip-off element combined with the really really bad twist ending (SPOILER - highlight to read) - (Dr. Karmen's boss - the hospital's head psychiatrist  - screwed everybody up with drugs to make them suicidal, all to apparently prove some sort of point) which makes absolutely no sense means Bad Dreams is a "skip it" movie. If you're in the mood for good Eighties mental house horror, go back and re-check out NOES 3.

Favorite Moments (may contain spoilers):
  • The first look at Harris in his burn make-up when he appears to Cynthia.
  • Cynthia's flashback to the house fire and watching all the cult members engulfed in flames.
  • Ralph going completely off his rocker to a cover of Sid Vicious's version of "My Way."
  • Cynthia being led to solitary confinement and envisioning herself being led back to the Unity Field home.
Fun Facts Kids!
  • Actor Richard Lynch had been badly burned in a past accident and had a difficult time coming to grips after seeing himself in burn make-up.
  • Writer/director Andrew Fleming was only 24 years old when he made this movie. 
  •  The scene where Ralph throws files and equipment around was filmed in a real hospital basement and he was tossing actual patient files. 
  • In the original ending, Cynthia goes back to the house and learns that Harris was actually her Father.
Agree? Disagree? Or just have a random string of curse words you'd like to share? Comment!

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