Bad Dreams (1988)

“Bad Dreams” is one of those marginally known slashers that used to litter video store shelves in the 90s, and one that I flirted with renting a number of times as a teenager before always choosing something else. I finally got around to watching it as an adult, and it’s about as mediocre and uninspired as it looks. For the first three quarters of its seemingly interminable running time (which is also 80ish minutes but feels about twice as long), it’s a cheap, gutless rip-off of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and in particular, its second sequel (“The Dream Warriors”): It’s hard not to notice that, like those two movies, it’s about a girl tormented by a burned spector who haunts her in her sleep, and when he kills her friends in her dreams, they actually die (it also stars Jennifer Rubin, who plays Taryn in “Dream Warriors”). It’s so flagrant that it comes close to full-on plagiarism, and you can’t help but wonder who, exactly, this movie is for: Horror fans don’t exactly appreciate B-entries that shamelessly plagiarize beloved classics, and casual audiences aren’t going to be entertained by a muddled, needlessly complicated storyline. By the last few minutes the movie finally comes alive like a hallucinatory over-the-to delight, and one can’t help but wonder how much better it would in the hands of, say, Lamberto Bava, but in the hands of director Andrew Fleming, it’s too clean to be any fun, and when it finally ends, you’re finally free to wipe it from your memory.

Rating: ★★ (out of 5)

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