It's been three decades since the fifth chapter of Wes Craven's Nightmare on Elm Street, and the sequel is still a solid horror film that successfully expands the franchise.
Prior to A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, we had witnessed Freddy Kruger terrorize and kill a large number of young adults and adapt to new generations. At that point in a franchise, films typically begin to recycle concepts or take a drastic shift to showcase something different — but Dream Child made the bold decision to follow the fourth film Dream Master (another wonderful Nightmare on Elm Street film) with new avenues to explore.
While everyone in the Nightmare on Elm Street fandom has strong opinions about each installment, Dream Child is a film worth revisiting for fans of the franchise and an enjoyable thrill ride for those who are new to the Freddy Kruger experience.
The Return of Alice and Dan
Normally in the horror genre, films tend to kill off an entire cast to create a new atmosphere, but in Dream Child, we were fortunate enough to return with key players Alice and Dan. The two became an unlikely pairing in the previous fourth film, both overcoming their character's high school personality tropes and becoming the final girl (and boy.) Returning for a sequel via characters that deviated from the initial narrative was a bold choice, and the payoff that came from focusing on Alice and Dan was a pivotal piece of the film's cult classic achievement.
Alice was portrayed by Lisa Wilcox who showed major growth as the seasoned scream queen, with Dan played by Danny Hassel who effortlessly brings genuine depth to the jock-esque roll and becomes a character you truly root for. Both Hassel and Wilcox are crucial to the film, though the loss of Dan is still one of the most tragic losses in the franchise and horror as a genre. I wish that there was an ending where we could have seen them survive together yet again, but regardless, the focus on the pair felt like a smart choice to follow.
More Than Horror
I do realize that the entire drive behind the Nightmare on Elm Street is horror, but one of the strengths of horror is its ability to tackle other subjects. In Dream Child, we follow a young woman who has fought for her life — but is now looking at her encounter with Freddy in a new way.
Alice learns of her pregnancy after the tragic death of her partner Dan, and the result brings a combination of heartbreak, anxiety and potential joy all in one. Alice only continues to face obstacles such as Dan's parents fighting for custody, or even her own friends suggesting she aborts the pregnancy, however, she views this child as her own — and the last piece of Dan she has left. The idea puts parenthood and the love of a partnership at the forefront of the story, and for that, we see a different side of the Nightmare on Elm Street films that we hadn't seen explored until the fifth installment.
A Creative Resurrection
Many horror villains such as Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees are brought back in the strangest or most unexplained ways possible, but Dream Child takes a stab at something different, to say the least. In the film, Freddy feeds on the nightmares of the unborn child of Alice and Dan, using it as a doorway into his return. Freddy had been defeated by Alice in the past, but her unique abilities make her offspring a prime target for the child murderer.
The child adds a new layer to nightmares, with Alice coming face to face with who her child could become and raises the stakes for the mother to be. Not only does Freddy have something to fight for, but this threat makes both sides of the fence realize just that this is a fight for survival.
Not many horror films (let alone sequels) are able to stand the test of time, but A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child is certainly a wonderful exception.