Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 10, 2021)
Across 1987’s Dream Warriors and 1988’s Dream Master, we saw the filmmakers lead Nightmare on Elm Street 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 popular.
1989's The Dream Child tries to straddle the fence. In the last film, Alice (Lisa Wilcox) thought she escaped the terror of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) once and for all.
However, this doesn’t prove true, and Freddy has a new target. Now pregnant, Alice’s unborn son turns into the vehicle through which Freddy hopes to stage his resurrection.
As mentioned earlier, Child somewhat veers away from the camp of the prior two movies. For one, we find a much darker and more sinister tone, and a few scenes become genuinely disturbing, such as the one in which Freddy's mother Amanda gets attacked by 100 nutbags.
However, 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, Child 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?
I can't answer that because the movie never functions consistently enough for either side to dominate. This makes for a confused, somewhat muddled picture, but it's one that I nonetheless find moderately enjoyable.
The comedic Freddy undercuts the film's scarier aspersions at times, but not to a horrible degree. To a certain extent, the two sides can co-exist.
Admittedly, I wish they'd let the horror aspects of the plot take the lead, as the cutesy Freddy starts to get pretty tiresome. Sure, some of the lines can be witty, but that side of the picture begins to seem stale since it feels like we've already seen those antics.
Granted, we'd also already witnessed a disturbing, fierce Freddy in the first two films. However, it'd been so long since then that a more menacing and crueler presence would have appeared fresh by Child.
Since this dichotomy becomes the movie's chief flaw, here's a list of the main things Child does right. First of all, it maintains a connection to the prior film.
In fact, Warriors, Master and Child actually form something of a trilogy, as they come together in a reasonably sensible manner. The biggest mistake made by Nightmare 2: Freddy’s Revenge was to tamper with continuity, and the subsequent three pictures were careful to keep links among them.
This makes the entire affair more satisfying, as it creates the impression that something more substantial occurs. Consistency is important in this kind of movie, as you can get away with almost any length of absurdity as long as you play by the universe's "rules". Though Child stretches these dictates, it still keeps to them fairly well.
After a series of weak leading ladies in Nightmare films, Lisa Wilcox provides a refreshing change with her work as Alice in this picture and its predecessor. She has a tougher job in Child and she handles the part reasonably well.
The Nightmare series wasn’t known for its terrific acting, and Wilcox would never win any awards. However, 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, it provides enough solid material to deserve a look.