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Peter’s Retro Movie Reviews: Bad Dreams (1988)

Bad Dreams (1988) movie posterby Peter Nielsen

First of all, I’d like to welcome you to the 2012 October Spooky Flix Fest! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of the year again and just like last year, the Forgotten Flix crew will try to get you into the Halloween-spirit by presenting a month filled with a string of great horror flicks. Let us serve as inspiration to go visit, or re-visit, some of the chilling horrors you might have forgotten during the long, bright summer evenings.

But now, as fall approaches and the evenings grow darker, it’s time to curl up in the sofa with assorted snacks and beverages and let the darkness creep just a little bit closer. But, come… let’s not dwindle in the foyer any longer. Please have a seat in the main room! I’ll dim the lights and then tell you about the movie I’ve picked this week…

Bad Dreams is one I haven’t watched in a very long time, but have seen a couple of times. I think I had a boot-leg tape of this because as far as I know, it wasn’t even released here in Sweden. It was produced by Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss) and directed by Andrew Fleming (The Craft). Bad Dreams was actually his directorial debut and you know what? He did a pretty darn good job with it too! It starts in the 70’s with a cult called “Unity Fields” having some sort of ceremony, where the leader, Harris, is calling the followers to him one at a time.

The group is now in session.

The group is now in session.

He takes their hands and pours gasoline on their heads. He speaks of love, unity and togetherness… and then sets them all, himself included, on fire! There’s a large explosion and when the fire department arrives there’s not much left to save except for one sole survivor. A young woman named Cynthia, one of the most recent members, has been thrown clear by the explosion and is rushed to the hospital where she remains in a coma for the next 13 years.

The cult leader, Harris, is played by the inimitable Richard Lynch who sadly passed away not so long ago. You might recognize him from Invasion U.S.A. (with Chuck Norris), Trancers II (with Tim Thomerson) or The Sword and the Sorcerer which I’ve done a review of earlier. Mr. Lynch is great in Bad Dreams, very soft spoken, but there’s always that underlying feeling of malice and evil whenever he’s on-screen.

I wonder if I can bite all my finger nails at the same time?

I wonder if I can bite all my finger nails at the same time?

Jennifer Rubin, who plays Cynthia, is also very good here. She’s been in Screamers and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, among others. The cast of this little horror flick is actually not a bad one. There are some fairly recognizable people here. Cynthia’s psychiatrist is played by Bruce Abbott from Re-Animator and Bride of Re-Animator. The head psychiatrist on the hospital is played by Harris Yulin (Fatal Beauty, Bean) who’s always a delight to watch.

The therapy-group which Cynthia attends after awakening from her coma consists of actors whom you may not recognize by their names, but when you see their faces, you’ll almost certainly know who they are. Among them are Elizabeth Daly (Streets of Fire), Louis Giambalvo (Weekend at Bernie’s), Susan Ruttan (L.A. Law) and finally Dean Cameron (Summer School, Men at Work) as Ralph.

As it turns out, Ralph takes a liking to Cynthia and he seems like a nice enough young man at first, but… he is actually bat-shit crazy and very intimidating. In an interview on the DVD, Dean Cameron admits to making Jennifer Rubin cry at one point and that that was something he’d always felt bad for doing.

After waking up from the coma, Cynthia has no memories from the fateful day when everybody died except for her. She slowly recovers and when she finally does remember, she all of a sudden starts to see Harris walking around at the hospital. He beckons her to come with him as she’s the last one and they have all been waiting for her on the other side. She, of course, refuses and that’s when people around her start to die horribly! But is Harris actually there or is she just imagining things?

That was one helluva BBQ!

That was one helluva BBQ!

Bad Dreams is a pretty gruesome movie! Especially the scene where the cult-followers are set ablaze by Harris and they all just sit in the main room of the house… quietly burning up! The only sound you hear is the roaring flames and a poor baby screaming in the background. It’s a horrific scene, one which will stay with you for a while. That scene is actually one of the few things I did remember from this movie.

Some other stuff was Richard Lynch (of course), the knife-through-the-hand scene and the song “Sweet Child of Mine” playing over the end credits, which is weird since I never was much of a Guns N’Roses fan. Oh, and I also remember thinking it was a decent enough horror movie. But as I was re-watching it the other night, I found that I remembered more and more of it as I went along and that I actually like it much more now, than I did back when I first saw it. It would have been cool if they’d used the original ending, though!

So, there you have it… my first pick for the 2012 October Spooky Flix Fest! I hope you’ll join me next week when I’ll take a look at another “forgotten” horror flick. It’s a good one! I promise!

Until then, my friends… I’d really like to know your thoughts on Bad Dreams, so please leave a little comment below!



About Peter Nielsen

Peter was born in Denmark in 1968, but moved to Sweden at the age of six, (not by himself of course), and has lived there ever since. He’s married and has five children, so spare time is somewhat of a luxury. His main interests in life, apart from his family, are long walks, books and movies. Any movie! He has preferences, but he’s not particular as long as it's good or... so bad it's good... he just LOVES MOVIES!

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