Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[The regular A Movie A Day list has been frozen in order for me to do an all-horror line-up for October. I’ve pulled many horror titles from my regular “to see” stack and have ordered many more horror and thriller titles to make sure we have some good stuff. Like the regular AMAD column all the movies I’m covering are films I have never seen, but unlike the regular AMAD column I will not connect each film to the one before it. Instead I will pull a title at random every day and watch whatever the movie Gods determine for me.]
I get really nostalgic when watching ‘80s horror. It’s not the best photographed, most atmospheric or best acted decade for horror, but what ‘80s horror has over damn near every other decade is just how damn fun they are. The ‘90s traded fun for funny and the ‘00s have been a mixture of great foreign horror (THE ORPHANAGE, INSIDE, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, HAUTE TENSION) and remakes.
There are exceptions in each decade of course. I think the atmosphere of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is incredible and would hold it up to the greats of the RKO era. Neil Marshall is giving us great English language horror (THE DESCENT) now and I’d even say THE STRANGERS is an example of good studio horror these days. It’s at least a movie serious about its subject matter, playing up atsmosphere and growing dread over tongue-in-cheek.
And tongue-in-cheek… a lot of people could turn that on my argument on ‘80s horror, but I will say there’s a difference between being fun and being tongue-in-cheek. Look at the progression of the Evil Dead films. I’d say the first is firmly rooted in horror, Evil Dead 2 is a healthy combination of real creeps and real humor and Army of Darkness is full on tongue-in-cheek.
Of course, my whole argument pretty much boils down to ‘80s horror being my introduction to the genre, the movies I watched as a kid. That’s the nostalgia factor. I feel the same nostalgia for ‘80s horror that my parents felt for ‘50s sci-fi/horror. I appreciate those films, too, and enjoy a great many of them, but I’m watching them from a completely different perspective.
All this is to say that I’m inclined to enjoy ‘80s horror, so know that going into this review.
BAD DREAMS does tap into the nostalgia portion of my brain. The cast, the photography, the make-up effects, tone… all that dialed into my love of ‘80s horror.
Directed by THE CRAFT, DICK and HAMLET 2’s Andrew Fleming, co-written by DIE HARD’s Steve E. de Souza and produced by Gale Anne Hurd (one of the characters in the movie actually wears a TERMINATOR shirt, no less) there’s a lot of interesting behind the camera talent involved with this flick.
In front of the camera you have Jennifer Rubin. You’ll remember her as the girl who became a badass switchblade wielding leather-wearing chick that fought Freddy Kruger in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS.
She’s hot there and she’s incredibly hot in this movie, playing Cynthia an ex-Jonestown type cult member who survives the mass suicide and is haunted by visions of the cult leader.
The cult was a love and peace hippie cult in the ‘70s called Unity Field, led by Richard Lynch (INVASION USA, baby!) and they all doused themselves in gasoline before Lynch drops a match, taking them to the next plane of existence. Now, Cynthia seemed to have some doubt, at least moreso than the rest of the smiling, dull-eyed followers, but still went along with it.
That is, until the flames started engulfing her friends. She panics and tries to escape as a still-burning Lynch points her out saying that she’s forever entwined with the group. The flames reach the gas cans and the explosion sends her flying. She doesn’t burn, but is hurt bad enough to put her into a coma.
Thirteen years later she wakes up with blanks in her memory and has to undergo psychiatric treatment in order to find those memories and cope with them.
As is to be expected, she is very shortly visited by The Ghost of Cultmas Past. Lynch appears to her, trying to get her to kill herself in order to join her family. He appears either as how he was pre-fire or what he looked like right after… in other words, a crispy critter.
Wow, a movie called BAD DREAMS starring a cast member from DREAM WARRIORS where the bad guy is a burn victim. You know, for all the expectation going into this thing, I was surprised at how much they avoided ripping off A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
Lynch doesn’t look a thing like Freddy Kruger when all burnt up, for one. He looks like a man probably should after being burned alive. His skin hangs off his face, blackened and crispy… one of his eyes is milky white, this guns and teeth exposed as a good portion of his lips are burned away.
In short, the make-up effects in this movie are outstanding.
Another thing that sets it apart is that this isn’t a nightmare movie. There are visions that occur, but it’s not people falling asleep and finding themselves in a nightmare world. The twist at the end of the movie makes the title make a little more sense, but it’s surprisingly not a NIGHTMARE ripoff.
And I was almost disappointed that it wasn’t. But I love a good rip-off movie. PIRANHA, BLOOD BEACH, ALLIGATOR, GREAT WHITE, GHOULIES, BIG BAD MAMA and SLEEPAWAY CAMP to name a few. I was hoping to add another great rip-off movie to my favorites, but fortunately BAD DREAMS is its own thing.
Alongside Jennifer Rubin, you have a bevy of recognizable ‘80s faces, including RE-ANIMATOR’S Bruce Abbott, Pee-Wee’s girlfriend E.G. Daily, SUMMER SCHOOL’s Dean Cameron and Harris Yulin, who has been in a lot of movies, but I will always remember him as the hard-ass Judge from the beginning of GHOSTBUSTERS 2.
There’s some good gore and some fun characters, including a bizarre married couple who hate each other, but are also apparently incredibly horny, Dean Cameron’s Ralph who has some crazy thick eyebrows and is incredibly charming and charismatic… then he cuts himself to let his “anger” out.
There are two stand-out horror scenes, though. One is the “raining blood” scene when a couple of characters have “an accident” where they both fall into a air-vent fan spraying blood and gore through all the vents. Another is the vehicular homicide scene that I think is the best scene of the movie. Gory, funny, way over the top and all with Verdi as the backdrop.
Final Thoughts: I enjoyed the movie a lot, but it’s not all that memorable if I’m going to be perfectly honest. It’s a fun slice of ‘80s horror with an interesting twist (is there something supernatural going on or isn’t there?), but on the whole it’s not extreme enough to make me want to show friends who haven’t seen it, to make it a party movie, and it doesn’t stand out enough to go in recommendation overdrive. What it is is a fun little movie with some interesting characters, some good gore and nice effects.
Here are the titles in the drawing pool for the rest of October:
Wednesday, October 1st – Friday, October 31st: H-MAD! Horror Movie A Day! Check out the list here!
Added PEEPING TOM to the list… I’ve been meaning to get to it for years and missed it on the big screen this summer when it was playing the Paramount here in Austin due to travel. But I have Criterion’s disc now and it’s in the running for this month’s adventures.
Now it’s time to pull the next HMAD!
Next up is:
Nice. It’s about time we hit a haunted house movie and one starring Susan George? Count me in.