Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
Studio Line: New Line Cinema - Evil Has Spawned...

Freddy Krueger returns to deliver a whole new breed of terror in his most fiendishly perverse frightfest yet!

Unable to overpower the Dream Master who vanquished him in A Nightmare On Elm Street 4, Freddy (Robert Englund) haunts the innocent dreams of her unborn child and preys upon her friends with sheer horror. Will the child be saved from becoming Freddy's newest weapon or will the maniac again resurrect his legacy of evil?

For this eye-popping installment, director Stephen Hopkins (Lost In Space, Predator 2) enlisted make-up wizard David Miller (The Terminator), original creator of Freddy's hideous visage. The result: a face that not even a mother could love, and terror beyond your wildest nightmares!

Director: Stephen Hopkins
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter, Erika Anderson
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9, standard 1.33:1; audio English DD 5.1 & Digital Mono; subtitles English; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 23 chapters; rated R; 90 min.; $24.98; street date 8/22/00.
Supplements: "Jump To A Nightmare" Scene Navigation; Original Theatrical Trailer. DVD-ROM Features: Read The Screenplay While You Watch The Film!; New Dream World Trivia Game -- Test Your Nightmare Knowledge!; Up-to-the-Minute Cast, Crew, Trivia Info and More!
Purchase: DVD | The Nightmare on Elm Street Collection | Freddy's Favorites: Best of A Nightmare on Elm Street - Soundtrack

Picture/Sound/Extras: A-/B-/D-

Over the prior two A Nightmare On Elm Street movies, we saw the filmmakers lead dream demon Freddy Krueger farther and farther away from his origins as a nasty, vicious killer. Sure, he still slaughtered plenty of innocents, but he developed a flair and wittiness that made him quite popular.

1989's ANOES 5: The Dream Child tries to straddle the fence. On one hand, we see a much darker and more sinister tone to the film, and a few scenes are genuinely disturbing, such as the one in which Freddy's mother Amanda is attacked by 100 nutbags. (Not a spoiler, by the way, since we've always known FK was the "bastard son of 100 maniacs".) The plot also features a really creepy kid, and there's just about nothing scarier than some disturbing little cheesehead; the spookiest parts of The Shining were the "redrum" bits, not anything Nicholson did.

However, on the other hand, we still find Freddy in his nightclub comic glory. The public loved the wacky and wise-cracking version of the character, and there was no way the filmmakers would slaughter that cash cow. As such, N5 is an odd piece that can't quite make up its mind about what it wants to be. Is this a nasty, dark horror film or is it just another comic book affair like N4?

I can't answer that, because the movie never functions consistently enough for either side to predominate. This makes for a confused, somewhat muddled picture, but it's one that I nonetheless found moderately enjoyable. The comic Freddy undercuts the film's scarier aspersions at times, but not to a horrible degree; to a certain extent, the two sides are able to co-exist.

Admittedly, I wish they'd let the horror aspects of the plot take the lead, as the cutesy Freddy started to get pretty tiresome. Sure, some of the lines could be witty, but that side of the picture began to seem stale, since it felt like we'd already seen those antics. Granted, we'd also already witnessed a disturbing, fierce Freddy, but it'd so long since then that a more menacing and crueler presence would have appeared fresh.

Since this dichotomy is the movie's chief flaw, here's a list of the main things N5 does right. First of all, it maintained a connection to the prior film. In fact, N3, N4 and N5 actually form something of a trilogy, as they come together in a reasonably sensible manner. The biggest mistake made by N2 was to tamper with continuity, and the subsequent three pictures were careful to keep links between them. I thought this made the entire affair more satisfying, as it created the impression that something more substantial was occurring. Consistency is important in this kind of movie; you can get away with almost any length of absurdity as long as you play by the universe's "rules", and though N5 stretches these dictates, it still keeps to them fairly well.

I also really liked that creepy little kid. Jacob, as played by little Whitby Hertford (who also acted as the brat at the start of Jurassic Park), is one of the spookiest movie young 'uns in memory; something about that kids saucer eyes just gives me the willies! (I'm not surprised the dude looks so crazed and scary all the time; his first role was as the young version of famed transsexual Richard Raskin, aka Renee Richards. Something like that just has to affect a boy's development!)

After a series of weak leading ladies in Nightmare films, Lisa Wilcox provided a refreshing change with her work as Alice in this picture and its predecessor. She has a tougher job in N5 and she handles the part reasonably well. The Nightmare series was never known for its terrific acting, and Wilcox would never win any awards, but her she creates a nicely strong-willed and forceful presence.

Like its immediate predecessor, A Nightmare On Elm Street 5 remains middle of the pack Nightmare material; it tries harder to be a true horror movie but since it can't quite make up its mind, it comes across a little weakly. Still, I thought it provided enough solid material to deserve a look.

The DVD:

A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child appears in both its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen edition on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the letterboxed image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the widescreen side was rated for this review. After four straight video transfers that ranged from decent to very good, New Line finally nailed one with this DVD. Put simply, Nightmare 5 looks terrific. It's not quite perfect, but it manages to offer outstanding visuals from start to finish.

Nightmare 5 definitely lacks the softness and haze that marred Nightmare 4. The image seems clearly focused and clean, and it always remains that way. Surprisingly, colors are a high point. One doesn't think of the Nightmare series as being colorful affairs since the films tend to be so dark, but Nightmare 5 comes through nicely in that regard. Check out the graduation scene or Greta's dinner segment; both display colors that are bold and still subtle at the same time, and they all look terrific. Black levels seem strong, and I noted no print flaws or digital artifacts. All in all, Nightmare 5 is easily the strongest visual transfer of the first five films.

In regard to its remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, Nightmare 5 is roughly on a par with the previous film, though I encountered different strengths and weaknesses. On the positive side, speech and especially music sound more natural and display greater sonic depth. At times they still seem slightly flat, but they're a great improvement on the generally hollow sound we encountered during the first four films.

Effects, on the other hand, actually seem like a step down from the quality heard in Nightmare 4. They appear even more artificial than during the prior movies, and there's a greater level of distortion than detected in the previous picture. The quality isn't terrible, but considering the improvements in other aspects of the audio, it's a disappointment.

I found the surround mix to be roughly equivalent to that of Nightmare 4 but it seemed slightly involving. As with that movie, Nightmare 5 also comes from what was originally a stereo mix, but for some reason, the surround channels seem less dynamic than in the prior picture. The surround effect tends to come across as largely mono in nature; while the other movies didn't display a lot of split surround activity, they did seem better separated than what occurs here. Much of the distortion in the mix comes from the surrounds as well. Considering its age, it remains a good mix, but I feel that it could have sounded better.

The supplements on this DVD include the "Jump to a Nightmare" feature - which lets you skip directly to any of Freddy's scenes - plus cast and crew biographies. As usual, the bios come from the original 1989 press kit. We find articles about twelve actors and three crew members.

Nightmare 5 includes some DVD-ROM content as well. It features the screenplay - which can display corresponding scenes as you read - and gives us part six of the "Dream World Trivia Game". The latter provides 20 questions about the movie; if you correctly answer at least 13 of them, you get a congratulatory message but nothing special. (The games found on the boxed set's discs provide a code that you can use to access a final contest on the eighth DVD, but that feature disappears here, for logical reasons.). I found these questions to be pretty tough, but not impossible. They vary from try to try, so while you'll probably encounter some of the same queries each time through, the roster of posers isn't set in stone.

Finally, the DVD contains web links to New Line's Nightmare On Elm Street home page and to "up to the minute" details on the film's cast and crew. That means if you click the link, it'll send you to IMDB's facts.

ANOES 5 clearly falls in the middle of the pack compared to other Nightmare movies. The film has quite a few flaws but it generally offers an interesting experience. The DVD provides excellent picture, decent sound but few extras. Nightmare fans should at least give it a rental.

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