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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

BAD DREAMS (1988)

Sad as it may seem, I've wanted to see this film for about eighteen years. I saw the trailer in about '92 on the front of some horror video I shouldn't have been watching at that age (about 14), and thought it looked just my sort of thing. That trailer stuck with me for years, but I never got around to seeing the film itself.

I always feared it wouldn't live up to the trailer. Sadly this is a problem with most films right now- the trailers look brilliant, while the films are a let-down. I was browsing YouTube for old movie trailers and this came up, and thus I decided I should finally see it. A big-box VHS copy was quickly found on eBay, and at long last Bad Dreams was added to my collection.

The story begins with Alice, a young girl who is part of a mad cult, is blown clear of the explosion that kills the whole group. She spends 13 years in a coma, and awakens as an adult, trapped in a psychiatric ward. Before long, she is suffering visions of the horrifically burned ghost of the cult's leader, who died in the fire. This in turn leads to the other inmates being picked off one by one in increasingly brutal ways by the sickening apparition, but is it really him, or the inmates themselves?

It plays very much like A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, a comparison even further cemented by the lead role being played by Elm Street 3's Jennifer Rubin, but it has more depth, more of a creepy atmosphere and characters who are rather more disturbed.

The visions of the cult leader, Harris (played under very crispy makeup by Richard Lynch) are unsettling, and the use of alternating shots of him as a regular person and as the horribly burned apparition add atmosphere and genuine shocks when they happen.

Rubin is superb as the disturbed and frightened Alice, and her descent into madness is performed with some subtlety. The back-story of the cult (Unity Fields) is nicely handled and acts as a thread binding the whole plot together. It's rather more intelligent than your average 80s horror fare, and thanks to that added dimension of unsettling atmosphere, coupled with the grisly visuals, great cast, snappy direction and edit, Bad Dreams is far from a bad film. In fact, it's a dream come true.

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