13 years ago, something terrifying almost killed her. Now it's coming back to finish the job.
Year of Release: 1988
Running Time: 80 minutes (1:20)
Director: Andrew Fleming
Jennifer Rubin ... Cynthia
Bruce Abbott ... Dr. Alex Karmen
Richard Lynch ... Harris
Dean Cameron ... Ralph
Harris Yulin ... Dr. Berrisford
Susan Barnes ... Connie
John Scott Clough ... Victor
Elizabeth Daily ... Lana
Damita Jo Freeman ... Gilda
Louis Giambalvo ... Ed
Susan Ruttan ... Miriam
Sy Richardson ... Detective Wasserman
Charles Fleischer ... Ron the Pharmacist
In the mid-1970s the members of the love cult Unity Fields sought the ultimate joining by dousing themselves with gasoline and committing mass suicide. A young girl blown clear of the fiery explosion was the only survivor. Thirteen years later, Cynthia awakens from a coma inside a psychiatric hospital with only buried memories of that horrific day: but now her fellow patients are each being driven to their own violent suicides. Has the sect's leader returned to claim his final child?
Bad Dreams, the movie that reminds us that when you're a psychiatrist who dreams about leavin' skidmarks all over your boss's face, it doesn't mean you're crazy. It just means you're DEDICATED to gettin' inside your patient's heads an tryin' to think like they do so you can help. That's how you know Bruce Abbott really CARES. Some people can be so cynical about that kinda thing it makes me ashamed to be human. Now this one's got quite a bit of psychological crackpottery gettin' in the way of the action, but dispite all that white coat/clipboard bullstuff it's still pretty decent. So you might wonder who could possibly dislike this one. You might also regret wonderin' cause by now you know I'm gonna to tell you an you probably can't appreciate it on the level I can cause you can't relate to people on account of your overall selfcentrist leanins. Pool boys hate it, an here's why. You ever try to pull a corpse outta the swimmin' pool with nothin' but a pool skimmer? Of course you haven't. Not you. But it's long, thankless work. An of course, by the time you get the thing outta there it's startin' to stank an the yuppies that pay you minimum wage to clean it up freak out cause they're afraid they're gonna get sued so bad they might have to reduce the regularity of the lawn maintenance on their vacation homes to just once a week. Then they start ventin' at you. Blame you for the proletariat curse you've brought on the place an all that. The missus TOLD her husband that you were trouble, but he wouldn't listen. Course, then she starts apologizin' an tryin' to get you not to tell her husband about the fringe benefits you've been gettin' out in the green house while he's at the office, but anyway, what I'm tryin' to say is the movie just reminds 'em too much of work an it's kinda upsettin' is all. Just the same, as the best movie ever to feature the voice actress of Tommy Pickles an merge the plots of Helter Skelter an A Nightmare on Elm Street III, it's pretty safe to say that you're probably gonna wanna pay attention to this next part, cause you may never get an another opportunity to learn about these doozies again. First, even though you're bein' pursued by your char broiled ex-cult leader for wussin' out on your mass suicide pact, it's worth lettin' your guard down for junk food. You don't wanna know what Bruce Abbott will do for a Klondike Bar. Second, if somebody wants to be your friend an you tell 'em no, not only is there a good chance they'll kill 'emselves, but it'll also be considered your fault. An third, when someone's advancin' on you with a neck sized vacancy between their hands, it's probably better to just chug the bottle of acid you've got handy instead of throwin' it in their face. They'll never see it comin'.
Powerful stuff, so I'd suggest you make like a sponge an absorb it. But the thing about this movie's twist ending that kinda confuses me is that it doesn't seem like much of a twist at all. I say twist ending, but it's before the cut off point in the plot summary so I wouldn't call it a spoiler per se, but if you don't wanna know about it til the end of the plot summary, scroll down. Ya big sissy. So anyway, turns out the hospital administrator's been givin' all the kooks in the booby hatch the wrong drugs to make 'em crazier than a hippy that got locked in one of them sensory deprivation tanks for about 3 weeks. My question is, are they even sure it was the "wrong" drugs? I mean, it sounds like a great plot twist on paper, but lets look into this a little closer. Mirapex was supposed to control symptoms of various diseases that give people the hippy hippy shakes, only it also causes amnesia. Propecia's supposed to fill in that hockey rink you call a hairline, only then it also makes the guy's pectoral muscles swell up like blowfish til they've got the Moobs like Jagger. Then there's Chantix, which is supposed to make you stop smokin', 'cept the only thing that really changes is that instead of your mouth, it's the barrel of the gun once the thoughts of suicide kick in. So like I was sayin', it's a nice twist ending in theory. But the theory is highly dependent upon the idea that we ain't got our heads in our asses in relation to what these prescription drugs are supposed to do, versus what they actually do. So I figure the drugs were probably just doin' what they were supposed to, an the brainswashed masses that trust the pharmaceutical companies have no choice but to act real surprised otherwise they might get stricken in the face with a serious reality check. Which isn't too big a deal I suppose, cause there's always Prozac to treat the depression. Cept sometimes that only worsens the depression. This whole thing's makin' me kinda depressed let's talk about somethin' else.
The movie begins with Richard Lynch bringin' in a new hippie (Cynthia) to his 24/7 Woodstock orgy party house out in the sticks. It's one of those places that has a big sign out from that says "Free love or best offer". So like I was sayin', Lynch brings in the new girl an preaches the gospel of the Hale Bop comet for awhile an ladles out a cup of regular unleaded an pours it onto everybody's heads an pretty quick Chatteau Pigpen goes up in flames like a Mosque in the Florida panhandle. The firefighters are a little late to the scene cause they thought the fire alarm was just the battery dyin' in their smoke detector an by the time they show up the buildin' looks like some redneck went out to get beer while their turkey was in the deep fryer. However, there is one survivor, Cynthia. Cynthia's lookin' a little bit like some of the Colonel's extra crispy as well, but the paramedics are eventually able to use the stretcher as a battering ram an bulldoze their way through the press an into the hospital where they stitch her up an scrape off the real burnt parts. 13 years later she wakes up from her coma an so the hospital administrator (Dr. Berrisford) holds a press conference cause Cynthia's basically a celebrity after havin' survived the big weenie roast. Only she don't remember nothin'. So the press collectively throws up its hands on account of her survival now bein' completely irrelevant an leave to look for somebody committin' horrible acts against animals so they'll have somethin' good for the evening news. Then Bruce Abbott shows up an tells her he's gonna be her new shrink. Then he explains what a shrink is. Then he catches her lookin' at his pants an has to explain what shrinkage is. Later that day, Bruce invites her to his next session with his scrambled regs an one of 'em (Ralph) sexually harasses her til Bruce shows up an tells 'im to get the heck outta his chair an to go get a real haircut cause he looks like Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Bruce has about as much control over his group as a substitute kindergarten teacher has on show an tell day, an they all wanna know about what it was like for Cynthia to hang around with people that had serious neurological problems. So she tells 'em that they really weren't all that bad, just a little misunderstood, kinda like Ed Gein. Really all they were doin' was fornicatin' like an anaconda matin' ball an smokin' a lot of Arkansas Polio Weed. Which, if you're unfamiliar with it, causes total body paralysis after about three hits. My source for this information is the irreproachable Joe Bob Briggs, an he knows just about everything there is to know about everything below the Mason-Dixon line. So anyway, the looney tunes are appeased for the time being, only Berrisford wants Bruce to get Cynthia to spill more details so he can get rich quick an maybe if there's time, help her with her psychological problems.
Later that day, all the loose screws take their medication an Ralph raises his shirt an shows Cynthia the topographical map of the Appalachian chain he's been drawin' on his torso with a Bowie knife. Then Bruce takes Cynthia in the elevator an asks her about her hopes an dreams an aspirations an she tells 'im she wants to go find a new cuckoo's nest an stop wearin' deodorant again. But while Bruce is tryin' to explain to her that that's just not a practical solution, the elevator grinds to a halt an Cynthia starts seein' Lynch an he looks a lot like a sunbaked armadillo that's been stuck to the asphalt for about 3 days after it got mashed by a Mack truck. Once they get her a clean pair of shorts, they head back to another group session where Bruce has everybody scream into pillows so they can release their aggression an leave spittle all over the office furniture cause he don't like the guy hostin' the next session. Cynthia keeps her spit in her mouth though, cause she's havin' flashbacks about Lynch an how disappointed he is in her for not fryin' like succulent bacon, an when she tells the grumpy cop that's been assigned to get her statement about it he figures it'd be a helluva lot less paperwork if he could just pin the whole thing on her. Then all the girls get outta the shower an the one that sounds like Jennifer Tilly after she's done about four pounds of mary jane (Lana) tries to make friends with Cynthia, only she says no cause she only likes people that're nice to her when they wanna roast her like a suckling pig an Lana runs off blubberin' an starts practicin' the deadman float in the pool. While that's happenin', Cynthia's havin' a flashback of Lynch Baptizin' her out in a lake. Lynch says he's real proud of her an that she's part of the whole now, which means she's either a Borg or a commie, but either way after that he keeps dunkin' her like the sissy kid in the swim class an eventually just keeps her head under til she stops tryin' to tear off his junk. Only then the face of the drowned girl turns into Lana an when Cynthia gets her head screwed back on straight somebody starts screamin' like the single women did when Elvis went on The Ed Sulllivan Show. Seems they've found Lana, and she's ready to be graded on her float. So then Hettie (She's the one that goes through about four packs of Camels a day an smells like the back room of the Elks lodge) tries to convince Cynthia it's not her fault an that if they can just break outta this place she can take her to meet the editor she used to work for at Weekly World News til he found out she thought all her stories were real, an they can make it big sellin' her story.
That sounds good to Cynthia, so they plan to meet up later, only when Hettie gets in the elevator the Nightmare on Elm Street music kicks on, Lynch is in there, an he helps Hettie off at her stop. Which appears to be about the 9th floor before she's hurtled outta the window like a shotput into the waiting arms of the concrete below. At least she probably took 10 or 15 pigeons with her when she landed. By now, group just doesn't have that upbeat feeling it did when it was simply a merry gathering of nut bars, an Cynthia figures now's as good a time as any to tell what remains of the group that they're pretty much gonna get squished into Heinz tomato ketchup. At this point, Lynch starts tellin' her that if she'll just do herself in, ya know like she pinky swore she was gonna do in the first place, he won't have to keep corpsin' up her play mates. Elsewhere, Ed an Connie (The older couple that really don't seem to have much wrong with 'em. Cause from what I can see, Ed wants to roll around on the floor an make animal noises all the time an Connie don't, which seems like a perfectly normal marriage as I understand it) are startin' to get grabby with each other til Connie remembers she's Catholic. Eventually she decides to go ahead an make the sign of the double humped wildebeest with Ed, but only cause she hates herself an that means she can abuse herself later. Ed's kinda like her self abuse dealer, and a pretty decent guy that's in no way takin' advantage of her mental state. But the bed check is comin' up pretty quick, so they've gotta go find a place where nobody'll hear Ed gruntin' like a dyin' walrus. About that time, Bruce is tryin' to convince Cynthia about how just cause her par-baked cult leader's runnin' around pulverizin' everybody into Welch's Premium Preserves that's no reason to get scared, only she's not listenin' cause she spots Lynch followin' Ed an Connie to their make out spot. So Ed an Connie sneak down into the boiler room to see what Fred Krueger's up to an when they can't find 'em they plop down near the big huge unprotected boiler fan, ya know, to stay cool. It's hot in there, afterall. But about that time the lights go out an the night nurse has to send the wormy maintenance guy down to see what all the hullaballo is, only he's got arms big around as a drinkin' straw an he can't get the hatch open. Fortunately, Lynch loosens it up for him an simultaneously reenacts the climax of Carrie an the guy gets this look on his face like he just ruined his church pants an his Mom's about to come home from work. Then Cynthia sees Lynch runnin' around in the air ducts an starts yellin' at 'im so then she gets Carrie'd too an Bruce gets this look on his face like he's not REALLY sure if he wants to hit that or not anymore.
By now, "group" is becoming a somewhat misleading term, an Ralph's gettin' a little concerned about the quality of his treatment an thinks maybe he'd like to cash in his chips an go home. Cynthia concurs, but when she tries sneakin' out Bruce grabs ahold of her an lures her back to her room with the promise of candy. There's really not much you can't get a woman to do if you're offering chocolate. But while she may be content to munch on his junk food, she reminds him again that what's left of the group is gonna get run through the proverbial wood chipper no matter how many Reeses cups he's got in the bag. Meanwhile, Ralph's over in his room givin' himself the stigmata so he can try to calm down long enough to formulate a plan to escape, when suddenly it hits him. Though not nearly as hard as he hits his security guard with the coffee pot before he takes off lookin' for Cynthia so they can make for the storage room. I guess Bruce must've been tryin' to track down more Ding Dongs in the candy machine with the hopes of puttin' Cynthia into a choco-coma cause by the time he gets back she's flown the cuckoo's nest an he has to grab the grumpy asshole cop before the kids can escape an tell everyone what a lousy psychiatrist he is. By this point, Ralph's pretty well cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs an Cynthia just kinda tepidly tries to convince 'im that bustin' out all the light bulbs an destroyin' the company's financial records from 1969 aren't gonna do a whole lot to help their present situation, but Ralph's pretty well Hulked out by now an he's happier than Paula Deen in a plantation. Then Ralph grabs a couple scalpels an starts practicin' his lower case letters on his forearm until Bruce an Pissypants show up an Ralph guts himself like a Sockeye salmon. Pissypants has had it by now, he's sure Cynthia's behind all this mayhem an he wants her thrown into solitary with Hannibal Lecter, Drayton Sawyer an Owen Wilson. It's at this point that Bruce realizes that Berrisford is deliberately tryin' to make Cynthia crazy to see what'll happen an when he points it out Berrisford tells 'im to go clear all the executive toys offa his desk cause he's through. Bruce knows he's gotta spring Cynthia from the hole, but right now he's just too dang mad an there's nothin' quite so therapeutic as kickin' the crap outta your box of personal effects while you're high on Prozac. Once he gets to his car he notices Berrisford entering the parkin' garage an figures it's as good a time as any to play pin the ass to the concrete barrier, but after Bruce squishes 'im into a fine paste he wakes up an realizes that if he don't try to save Cynthia there's a good chance she'll be completely rehabilitated an then she'll never go out with 'im. So he sneaks back inside an starts talkin' to the pill jockey when he realizes Berrisford's been givin' everyone the wrong pills as a form of job security an by now Bruce is pretty dang pissed off about bein' the last one to know everything an goes lookin' for Berrisford. That's probably way more than you needed to know so we'll cut here.
Alrighty, so this one manages to be fairly cerebral, and yet not particularly complicated. If that makes any sense at all, which it really doesn't. There's a fairly significant amount of plot, yet, it's easy to follow. Which also doesn't make much sense, it's a little difficult to describe. Although as stated before, it's essentially Helter Skelter meets A Nightmare on Elm Street III. Which is convenient for Jennifer Rubin who had a part in NoES 3. It's also one that you pretty much never hear about, yet manages to stay afloat above a 5.0 on the IMDB, which may not sound like much if you've not noticed the way horror films are generally treated like plague victims on ratings aggregates, but it's rather significant. I'd actually suspected it would have been a bit higher, because it's got a well written plotline, which should appease the horror snobs, but is also pretty gory, which should appease the disgusting freaks, of which I count myself. As if that isn't enough, bonus points for the genre actors. I dunno what the people rating this below a 7 want, unless it's just to thumb their noses at things so none of their vapid acquaintances think any less of them. I'll grant, it's got essentially nothing new, but the plot twist near the end is pretty fair, and it's not as though movies of this age frequently had plot twists. Perhaps that's the problem. Anyone rating it within the last 10 years is so used to every movie having approximately 26 plot twists that the idea of a movie that just tries to play it straight and linear comes off as "stupid" in what passes for their minds. I suppose there definitely are those that aren't happy unless they're being surprised by the direction a movie takes every five to six minutes, even if that direction doesn't make any sense. Ironically, the twist has become so standard these days, that NOT having a twist, would be the twist. I for one hope that concept can make a comeback one day, although I'm not real optimistic. All the same, this movie is actually really recommendable, on the basis that it's not the same old hackneyed simplistic story, yet is reasonably graphic in its special effects. Some points off for a couple off screen deaths, but you're generally at least still given an image of the aftermath of said deaths. It's also better than the rating the IMDB has it presently sitting at, but then that's not the least bit unusual.
Well, lets scrape off the charbroiled portion an see if there's anything edible underneath. The plot, while easy to follow, is pretty interesting and engaging. When everything is said and done, we know that in fact, Richard Lynch's character has not come back from the big Spawn Ranch in the sky to haunt Jennifer Rubin. But rather, the doc's got her all hopped up on hallucinatory medication that makes her insane in the membrane an just thinks she's seein' Lynch. But you don't find out about that til near the end and even before that point, the idea that Lynch is a Freddy Krueger-esque sleepstalkin' dream reaper is fun, if derivative. It's certainly got a few holes, which I do feel the need to bring up on the basis that the movie is trying to be cerebral. When a movie's got a nobrainer plot I generally don't nit pick, it's only when they develop ambition that things need aired. So by the end we know that Lynch really isn't there, it's all in Rubin's head. So, why does she see Liz Daily gettin' drowned in her mind when she's actually drowning? And how come the handle on the porthole above the wormy maintenance guy twists on its own? I realize those scenes happen that way to throw you off in preparation for the upcoming twist, but when those things cannot have actually happened after the twist is revealed, it's no good an it'll cost the overall score. The acting is pretty good, and one could even write off Jennifer Rubins' somewhat Kristen Stewart-esque emotionless acting as a byproduct of the drugs she's supposed to be on in the movie. The rest of the characters are pretty entertaining as well, with Richard Lynch (who's great in everything he's ever done) and Dean Cameron as the gonzo Ralph serving as the two major support beams. The writers wrote some absolutely hilarious dialog for Cameron's character that he delivers with dead pan mastery to the point that even though the real genre actors in the movie are Abbott an Lynch, Cameron really steals the show.
Anyway, this is gettin' pretty long so lets review who matters and why: Jennifer Rubin (Heebie Jeebies, Twists of Terror, Screamers, The Wasp Woman 1995, Full Eclipse, A Nightmare on Elm Street III), Bruce Abbott (The Prophecy II, Re-Animator & Bride of Re-Animator, Trapped, Interzone, The Last Starfighter, TAG: The Assassination Game), Dean Cameron (Disturbed), Harris Yulin (The Believers), Susan Barnes (They Live, Stranded, Zombie High), John Scott Clough (Phantoms, Asteroid, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1991), Elizabeth Daily (The Devil's Rejects, One Dark Night), Damita Jo Freeman (Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Ratboy), Louis Giambalvo (Nightmares), Susan Ruttan (Helter Skelter 2004, Bride of the Killer Nerd), Sy Richardson (The Pain Killers, Dead Man Walking, Nocturna), Ben Kronen (The Howling VI, Dreamscape, Mako: The Jaws of Death), Charles Fleischer (Zodiac, Demon Knight, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Deadly Friend, The Hand), Brian Katkin (Dinocroc), Steven Anderson (The Stand, Halloween 5, When a Stranger Calls 1979), Chip Johnson (Time Warp), Coleen Maloney (The Ring), Tim Trella (Syngenor), Kristina Loggia (Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town), Julianne Dallara (Freeway 1988), Evan MacKenzie (Scannercop II, Children of the Night, Ghoulies III), Anthony Cecere (The Return of Swamp Thing, Dead and Buried), James Purcell (Bloodwork, Supernatural), Don Sparks (Ratboy), Julianna McCarthy (Ted Bundy, Starship Troopers, A Bucket of Blood 1995, Satan's Princess), Sarina Grant (Candyman, The Howling), Romy Rosemont (Congo, Intruders), Randy Oglesby (The island, Independence Day, Candyman 2), Charlies Bouvier (Seedpeople), Michael Joiner (Fright Night Part 2, The Hidden), Linda Kaye (Shocker). Psychologically devastated husks, by which I mean parents, will probably recognize Elizabeth Daily as the voice of countless cartoon characters, including Buttercup from The Powerpuff Girls, and Tommy Pickles from Rugrats. To you poor unfortunate souls, I snicker at your life choices and bid you the best of luck.
The special effects are great, if not particularly elaborate. Undoubtedly, the most impressive effect is the char broiled Richard Lynch, which looks really good. But I suppose that's what a $4,000,000 budget will do for you. Otherwise you've really just got some bloody corpses an Dean Cameron givin' himself a pair of matching c-sections. All of which look good, though I think we really should have been privy to what happened with Susan Barnes and Louis Giambalvo in that room with the big fan. Anyway, what they've presented to us is pretty good, I only question the quantity of mutilation, not the quality. The shooting locations... well how many horror movies have you seen that mostly take place in a hospital? Gettin' kinda old by now, but it's really nothing worth complaining about. If you don't like the setting, take it up with the writers, not the location scouts. The Unity Fields headquarters, however, is a great location, even though it's only in the movie for maybe a grand total of eight minutes if you include flashback scenes. So the shooting locations are okay, but nothing special. The soundtrack you'd have to break up into scores, and actual songs. The scores aren't particularly memorable, but nor are they bad or problematic. They're just kinda there and you generally don't notice them, with the exception of the scene where Lynch is in the elevator with Sheila Scott-Wilkenson. That track was pretty good, if derivative of Nightmare on Elm Street. The songs, are surprisingly good considering that they were obviously selected to play during specific scenes where the lyrics were synchronous with what was going on in the movie. "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)" is particularly amusing during the opening where Jennifer Rubins has been comatose for the last decade an she's been dreamin' about the Kentucky Fried Richard Lynch. "Sweet Child of Mine" by Guns 'n Roses also plays during the credits, but is significant because Lynch kept callin' Rubin his "love child". The opera "La Donna e Mobile" playing over the radio while Bruce Abbott commits vehicular manslaughter on Harris Yulin is also extremely entertaining in a morbid kinda way. Bottom line, for a movie you've probably not heard of before, it's really pretty good, and one that is accessible to more than just fans of the splatter subgenre. Give it a chance.