Deadly Dreams (1988)

Author: Josh G.
Submitted by: Josh G.   Date : 2008-10-30 13:38

Directed by: Kristine Peterson
Written by: Thom Babbes
Starring: Mitchell Anderson, Juliette Cummins, Xander Berkeley and Thom Babbes

Reviewed by: Josh G.

There are three reasons why I have been searching for Deadly Dreams. One, it’s pretty rare. Two, it has one of my favorite scream queens in it, Juliette Cummins, of Psycho III, Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, and Slumber Party Massacre II. And three, the killer wears a wolf’s skin mask! Creativity is my calling. I was always told that this was a slasher movie, but after viewing, it plays out more like a psychological horror. Whether good or bad, I’m glad to have added it to my collection. But getting down to what really matters, should you take part?

Alex Torme (Mitchell Anderson) is having bad dreams. They usually start off the same: the memory of his parents being shot by a hunter named Perkins at Christmas time, followed by the fictional part of the hunter trying to kill him. When Alex wakes up, it’s the middle of hunting season, and everyone around is wearing the same wolf mask as the killer. Torme goes to see his brother Jack (Xander Berkeley) to talk it through with him. He wants these nightmare images to just go away. His friend Danny (Thom Babbes) thinks that he just needs to calm down, until Danny ends up seeing the killer outside of Alex’s home in real life. It soon becomes apparent that the distinction between dream world and reality is blurred, and that these night terrors may not all be in Alex’s head. Torme befriends a lady by the name of Maggie (Cummins), and they attempt to keep a relationship steady, while juggling Alex’s condition. So what’s the truth? Are these dreams too deadly to handle?

Virgin Vision Inc.’s artwork for Deadly Dreams caught my attention immediately when I first saw it browsing the web. One glance made me suspect a routine slasher picture; how foolish of me. Deadly Dreams makes itself its own by taking the slasher formula, and gracing it with twists, illusions and a memorable killer. The backstory is present. Effects are used. And last, genuine thought went into its production. Once a trailer for Destroyer ends, we’re greeted by a Christmas atmosphere, with trees, snow, and holly. It appears fair budgeted, and the end will satisfy all. Or so one may think. But sometimes, change isn’t always good. I’m sure the A Nightmare on Elm Street series had some influence over the subject matter at hand, them being popular at the time.

As said, there is a link between the Freddy films and this movie, and that has to do with both the viewer and the main character Alex not being able to figure out which parts of the feature are dreams or reality. Obviously, the answer comes to you when people are shot or stabbed, and later appear alive in the next shot, lying in bed. As Deadly Dreams progresses, the answers to the ‘dream or no dream?’ game show get easier and easier. Unfortunately, the acting remains the same — too acty. It’s as if you’re watching a play at the theatre, and the over exaggerated lines deliver you a painful experience. Your ears won’t bleed, but it’s terribly noticeable. Despite flawed writing and performances, the characters are relatable and caring, with Cummins being the best of the film. In fact, Deadly Dreams may be Juliette’s best performance in a horror film. I salute her. Danny is well cast as the flimsy friend, who tries to fix up his messes, and Jack is pitch perfect to play the emotionless sibling of Alex.

Alex has a poor sense of humour, thanks to those damned writers. “I jinx you, you pig bitch!” he yells at his friend, Danny, playing pool. Do not ask where he got that from. I’m completely baffled. And if you’re wondering, the troubled Alex hasn’t known Maggie for that long of a time. He sees her in a bar, and from then on, he can’t stop thinking about her. The couple’s relationship seems to be going strong, and with his inheritance soon to be coming in, life is grand. Aside from one thing of course...the nightmares! Since Alex has a dream about a hunter in a wolf’s mask trying to kill him, you can imagine the shock and surprise of receiving a gift from Maggie: a deer’s head to hang on the wall. He pretends to like it, but he’s a little spooked. As if that wasn’t enough, one night, Alex stumbles upon a dead his bathtub! Oh, the humanity! And written in blood on the wall is ‘Alex’, dripping down the tiles. Fuck! Our hero is in deep trouble.

The opening scene involving Alex’s parents being shot is bloodless, but there are some nice kills later on, considering the low expectations granted by the early double homicide. The best thing is that the body count reaches double digits, but some of the deaths are just dreams, so you get to see some characters die all over again! A bit irritating, but effective. Some examples of such bloody dreams include a gooey shotgun blast into Jack’s chest, another blast into Alex’s shoulder, a knife stabbed through Alex’s bare chest, erupting blood, and a knife driven through a pillow, where on the other end, Maggie’s head lies. Without overdoing the gore, Deadly Dreams is still fun, keeping the violence but relying mostly on suspense and thrills. There are many dull moments throughout, but it’s worth it. A throat is slit, and all is revealed to show some plots that make deliciously perfect sense. By the way, if you were wondering, yes, Juliette Cummins shows off her chest, just as she has three films before.

This tape is living proof, along with the same year’s Edge of the Axe, that computers have come a long way since 1988. The scenes with this technology truly age the product, but it works through this problem. Even the soap opera attitude paired with this horror film can’t break Dreams down. The A Nightmare on Elm Street relation doesn’t appear to rip-off that series at all, but there is a little bit of homosexuality thrown in, ala A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge. In a bulk of scenes, Alex is shown shirtless throughout, showcasing his body brilliance. He doesn’t want to sleep. He wants to walk around half naked! Power to this guy. And just like Mark Patton of Freddy’s Revenge, lead actor Mitchell Anderson is also gay. Coincidental pattern of food for thought?

For good measure, throw in some cocaine abuse, accidental shootings, a pulse of life an hour through, a close call with a knife and a male’s bulge, cheating scandals, and a pretty glass deer birthday present. With a terrific twist ending on top of a twist ending (as mentioned, very soap opera-ish), Deadly Dreams offers some well made spooks. I welcome it to the psychological slasher genre any day. One of the best scenes of this film is when Danny looks out the window at Alex’s place, and sees the wolf mask killer in broad daylight. Alex has always been thought of as just a bad dreamer, but with this shred of evidence, maybe he’s not? Maybe someone’s trying to mess with Alex’s mind. Whatever the answer, it’s definitely working our minds. Weak in spots, only to pick up the pace soon after, Deadly Dreams is certainly worth the scrambling. Rent it!

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