What once was a trailer I’d always seen slotted in next to Fright Night 2 (1988) on a rented VHS from my nearest video store, now appears as no.37 in 88 Films’ Slasher Classics Collection. After surviving the mass suicide of her cult community, Cynthia – played by Jennifer Rubin – awakens from her coma 13 years later to find that their leader, Franklin (Richard Lynch) will not depart for the next world without her. And that he will kill those around her until she joins him in death…
First of all, let’s just get this out of the way. To say that a considerable number of elements of Bad Dreams (1988) don’t scream A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) is like saying that water isn’t wet. But it certainly wasn’t the last supernatural slasher movie set in a psychiatric ward. Cult of Chucky (2017), anyone? And if that’s not enough, take a little piece of advice from Jennifer Rubin herself. During her interview she suggests that fans of her Elm Street character could regard Bad Dreams as a prequel to her unfortunate drug-induced end.
The real shame I felt was the lack of confidence in Franklin’s potential as a standout slasher movie killer. Be it Freddy, Michael or Jason, more often than not they tend to take out their victims in the usual one by one order. But in the case of Franklin, in life this man had the influence and charisma to convince an entire community of men, women and children to burn themselves to death without protest or hesitation. Fuck that! Gimme Freddy any day! At least I will die while having a good night’s rest!
Aside from looking wide-eyed and beautiful, with the occasion blood-curdling scream here and there, Cynthia is quite a closed off character. Aside from poor Miriam and her journalistic aspirations, it’s difficult to care about the other patients in her group of which Cynthia refuses to bond with or even talk to. Some are barely introduced to us at all, yet mere moments later we’re supposed to be affected by their grizzly demise? Luckily, it still works because this picture boasts some pretty grim death scenes and gallons of blood.
Bruce Abbot of Re-Animator (1985) and Bride of Re-Animator (1990) fame plays Dr. Alex Karmen, leader of the patient group and Cynthia’s knight in shining armour. He likes to play that dead serious type, which he does so well with that pointed handsome mug of his. But will he actually get to save the girl this time?
I enjoyed the movie very much for what it was on its own. However, if this picture is doomed to be remembered as just another Elm Street, rip-off, for now I’d say it should at least go down as one of the best, if not the best of them.