|Freddy delivers? Not this time.|
After a passionate night with her boyfriend, Dan, Alice Johnson has a dream where she takes a shower and is suddenly pulled into a dark mental asylum full of deranged patients. She finds herself wearing a nun's habit and a name tag that reads Amanda Krueger, the mother of Freddy Krueger. She's then locked in the asylum and attacked by the numerous inmates, experiencing the events that led to Freddy's conception, but awakens before she's raped. The next day, she graduates from high school with Dan and her other friends, Yvonne, Greta, and Mark, and plans to spend the summer in Europe with him. She tells him about her dream but he reassures her that if she doesn't dream Freddy up, he can't hurt them. Dan and the others have a graduation party at the pool where Yvonne practices swimming while Alice has to go to work. On the way, she finds herself pulled into back into the nightmare at the asylum, where she sees Amanda give birth to Freddy. The evil baby gets loose and Alice follows him into the church where she defeated him previously. He finds his clothes and glove and crawls into them, growing back into the adult Freddy Krueger. Amanda then appears, explaining that he brought her spirit back in order to bring himself back to life. She tries to tell Alice where to find her earthly remains so she can defeat Freddy but he closes the door on her before she can finish her sentence. Alice then comes out of the dream, frightened and perplexed about how this could happen while she was awake since Freddy used her dreams to continue his killing spree before. She phones Dan at the pool, tells him what happened, and he rushes to meet up with her, but is attacked by Freddy on the way and is ultimately killed in a car crash. Upon seeing a vision of Dan dying, Alice rushes outside the diner to find the burning remains of the vehicles and faints when Dan's body comes to life and speaks in Freddy's voice. When she awakens at the hospital, she learns for sure that Dan is dead and is also told that she's pregnant with his child. That night, a young boy who calls himself Jacob visits her room but the next day, she learns that the hospital has no children's ward and there were no children on her floor either. Alice tells her friends the story of Freddy and they're fairly skeptical, especially Yvonne, but promise to help her if anyone really is after her. Freddy soon kills Greta and almost kills Mark, whereupon Alice discovers that the boy Jacob is actually the embodiment of her unborn child. Alice still doesn't know how Freddy is attacking her friends while she's awake but when she goes in for an ultrasound, she learns that unborn babies spend most of their time dreaming and then sees a vision of Freddy feeding Jacob the souls of his victims, threatening to make the baby like him so he can live on through him. Now Alice must fight to save her unborn son's soul as well as stop him from being taken away from her due to her perceived erratic behavior.
This was the series' first major critical and commercial disappointment and I think a little bit of perspective is in order to understand the many factors that led to its demise. The most important one is that it was severely rushed. After Nightmare 4 was such a big hit, New Line Cinema got greedy and decided that they wanted another one out exactly one year later, leading to a hastily put-together, hodgepodge of a script that barely resembles what the three credited writers originally wrote since it was rewritten by two uncredited ones and finalized just days before shooting began. Shooting and post-production were also ridiculously fast, with director Stephen Hopkins given only two months to do both in order to meet the August release date. Such hasty conception and production is almost always disastrous and it's really ironic when you realize that Moustapha Akkad and company made the exact same mistake with Halloween 5 the same year. Speaking of which, 1989 was not a good year for horror franchises in general. Halloween 5 bombed badly that October and is still the lowest-grossing film in that series to this day; Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan performed so poorly that Paramount decided to wash their hands of that franchise and sell the rights to someone else; and while The Dream Child did better than both of those films, its $22 million box-office take was quite a comedown from The Dream Master's near $50 million the year before. This was the year when you had movies like Batman, Ghostbusters II, Lethal Weapon 2, and a number of other major blockbusters, so smaller films like these didn't stand a chance (not even the James Bond movie that year, Licence To Kill, fared well). Also, by this point, the 80's slasher craze was dead and buried, with even popular characters like Freddy and Jason Voorhees unable to overcome the indifference people now felt towards the subgenre. And finally, I think Freddy himself got really overexposed in the year between Nightmare 4 and 5. Now only was that fourth movie an enormous hit but New Line saturated the marketplace with a lot of Freddy-related items, from toys to Halloween masks to pinball machines and even kids' pajamas, along with it and also began production on that Freddy's Nightmares TV show that same year (in case you're wondering, I've only seen bits and pieces of that show when it's been played on Chiller). With Freddy being everywhere, I think it really made people indifferent to another Nightmare movie, to the point where I don't think it would be far-fetched to say that they were sick of him by this point. I know poor Robert Englund must have been exhausted as well, which, among other reasons, could be why he's said that this is his least favorite. In short, Nightmare 5 was virtually doomed from the start and the actual movie didn't help matters either.
There's a lot of other untapped potential in this story besides what I've already mentioned. For instance, there's that one brief moment where Mark brings up the option of aborting the baby to really ensure that Freddy won't be able to use his dreams to get more victims. Alice immediately casts that aside when it's brought up but I think it would have been interesting if she had considered it for a bit since, think about the decision she would have to make: does she save her friends' lives by killing her unborn son or does she keep him alive but risk her friends' lives in the process? I'm glad that she decided not to abort the baby for the very reasons she stated and I would have wanted her to ultimately make that decision in this scenario as well but I think having that conflict on her part would have given the film some much needed dramatic weight. What's more, the minute it's brought up and she considers it, you could have that be when Freddy starts to tell Jacob that his mother doesn't want him and, as a result, have him really turn against her, forcing her to have to fight to convince him that she does really want him. Heck, have him disguise himself as Dan whenever he talks to Jacob to really confuse the kid and have Alice be confused as well as to why Dan would tell their son, leading her to realize that it's Freddy in disguise and having to convince Jacob of that. That would be more interesting than Jacob just trusting everything that a creep like Freddy says and it would also lead to a great moment of realization when he sees who he's really been talking to all along and is horrified by it. Besides the abortion issue, you could also have Alice really having to deal with the threat of Jacob being taken away from her, which she says could very well happen if she doesn't deal with Freddy soon. You could have Dan's parents going to social services or even to the cops after that disastrous meeting with Alice and have them try to make the authorities think that she isn't fit to raise a child and could potentially harm him, either intentionally or unintentionally, and have the doctor who first contacted them back their claims up. That could be even more fuel for Freddy to get Jacob on his side: have him tell Jacob that his mother is considering giving him up to someone else and leave out how Alice told Dan's parents that he's not a piece of property but is a part of her that she's not giving up to anyone. Again, a lot of good story potential that could have made for a tougher, more interesting struggle for Alice but is only brought up once and never followed up on.
I have mixed feelings about the score by Jay Ferguson because, like the film itself, it swings back and forth from being rather dark and eerie to downright silly and stupid. There are a number of subtle, ethereal pieces throughout the score, often when someone's nodding off to sleep or in the dreams in some instances, like early on when Alice wanders through the park and ends up in a dream, that I really like, and the same goes for this bell-like noise that's the first thing you hear during the opening credits, some eerie vocalizing voices here and there, and some distant, religious singing you sometimes hear when Amanda Krueger is brought up. That's all good stuff but there are other bits of the score that are just plain dumb, with the most notable ones being this, "Di, di, di," sound that you hear when Dan drives off on the motorcycle and a similar-sounding piece when Freddy chases Mark on the scateboard. The music that plays during the big scenes is either forgettable, like when Dan's driving the truck, or over the top and stupid, such as this crappy, "heroic" music when Mark turns into the Phantom Prowler. This film also doesn't make much use of the original Elm Street theme; you hear it through the nursery rhyme that's actually sung only a couple of times at the beginning and in a very overblown version when Freddy is resurrected and when he turns into Super Freddy. As for the song on the soundtrack, the only one I really remember is this rap song called Let's Go by Kool Moe Dee that plays over the ending credits. That song... just, wow. That guy can rap better than I ever could (I was especially impressed with all of the alliterative L-words he came up with in a row) and it is memorable, but I have no clue what a rap song where a guy verbally punishes some loser who challenged him to a rapping battle he couldn't hope to win has to do with anything. Yeah, some of the songs in Nightmare 4 didn't feel like they fit but, one, I like them a lot more than anything here, and two, the majority of them still did, especially that Ready for Freddy song, as silly as it was. Like the movie itself, I don't know about this music.