You can see our other Nightmare on Elm Street lists here. Today, it’s time for Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989), aka, the one where Alice is pregnant
Despite operating from a bare-bones script due to the WGA writers’ strike, Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master turned into the biggest hit in Elm Street history, becoming one of the top 20 grossing films of 1988. However, New Line’s aggressive marketing and licensing combined with Robert Englund’s willingness to do just about anything to promote the franchise had overexposed the character of Freddy Krueger. Plus, the humor of the prior films was quickly teetering toward camp. So, when Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child came out almost exactly one year to the day after Dream Master it found its audience was just a little tired of the franchise [from this point forward, unless otherwise noted all quotes come from Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy].
1. The themes of motherhood and abortion came from a new mother at New Line
Even with Freddy around and delivering endless one-liners, Dream Child attempts to deal with pretty heavy concepts, such as drunk driving, parental expectations, alcoholism, and pro-choice vs. pro-life. The abortion debate is settled rather quickly when Alice refuses to abort her baby even though doing so would cut off Freddy’s re-entry into the world. Where did that come from, though?
According to Executive Producer Sara Risher, “I really think that I came up with the story, because I was a new mother. And I remember stressing that [the teenage audience is growing up] during the creation of the script. I thought it needed to have those themes of abortion and birth and motherhood.”
2. A similar concept was originally pitched for Nightmare on Elm Street 3
“For Nightmare 3 I had pitched [New Line] Freddy has a baby. I went in, one of the executives was pregnant at the time, and I [said] picture Freddy clawing his way out [of the womb]. No one liked my idea. So then I got a call for Nightmare 5 and when they came to me they said, ‘Remember when you wanted Freddy to have a baby? Well, we like that idea now. What if Alice was the mom?’“
3. The dreams of an unborn baby? WTF were they thinking?
New Line’s official Press Kit synopsis describes Dream Child’s premise:
“Seeking revenge against Alice, [Freddy] Krueger discovers he is too weak to enter her dreams to continue his rabid rampage against humanity. He must find renewed access to the living world, and discovers a new victim—the ‘dream child,’ Alice’s unborn baby from her affair with boyfriend Dan. Freddy nurtes his comeback by invading the dream stage of the unborn child, hoping to be reborn into the world by Alice’s baby. Feeding of the baby’s purity, he regains enough strength to enter the dreams of Alice’s friends.”
Sure. Fine. Whatever. Can we get to the killing now?
Not so fast. New Line first hired John Skipp and Craig Spector to write the script, and seeking to justify the dream child premise Skipp now argues:
“Now where do dreams come from? They come from the collective unconscious. Just like the mind of God. Freddy is like this oil slick on the dream pool, this evil black miasma that’s kinda floating there. He can sink into anyone’s head; he’s this eternal, awful thing. If you believe that concept. Who would be most in touch with that but an unborn child? Who for nine months is in a perpetual dream state. They’re dreaming constantly. Freddy has established himself as the guy who sneaks in through the back door of perception. I wanted to play with that, because the door swings both ways. If Freddy can come in, we can go into his world.”
After Leslie Bohem was hired to re-write, he sought to “make up a set of rules for what [Freddy] was doing to get himself into the real world, which might be a little muddy in the movie, but essentially it was to get all four of [Alice’s] friends’ souls and give them to the baby.”
4. One early script involved the kids being in a production of Medea
Thanks to Tyler Perry we now have to pause and clarify that Bohem is not referring to Madea, a story about a black man playing a fiery old black grandma, but instead most likely the ancient Greek tragic play Medea, about a woman who takes revenge on a husband for stepping out on her.
Now, back to Bohem’s quote, “It was very, very weird. There was a play, and then there were the dreams. I finished, and they went, ‘Yeaaaah, we have this other idea.'”
5. John Skipp and Craig Spector had to fight to get credit for their work on the script
“Their dreams weren’t just being chased by a monster. It was more like I dreamed I finally got out of this fucking town, and wasn’t going to grow up like my dad, an alcoholic asshole who beats me. Or I dreamed that I was going to grow up and be the type of person I always hoped I would be. Freddy, who’s coming up through this baby, is like, ‘Oh, no you won’t. I’m here to make sure that all your dreams die.’ We were really going to try and figure out how Freddy works, why he did it, and what made him a monster. Some nun got raped, right, and that mother would have been locked up and that boy would have been a disgrace. He was born stygmatized, he was born shameful and sinful. So, he was basically raised by mean nuns, who helped make him the monster that he was. You would just go into his past and see, ‘Oh God, they fucked with him, and he became a monster. That’s how he got twisted at the root.” You can read their original script at NightmareOnElmStreetFilms.com.
Leslie Bohem worked on the script after that, but he was going off of pages of outlines from New Line. He didn’t know he was working from material originated by Skipp and Specter until he received an arbitration notice since their lawyers got busy when the initial Dream Child posters came out and did not credit Skipp or Specter as writers. They ultimately ended up receiving a “Story By” credit.
Looking back on it now, though, Skipp concludes, “Even though I fought to get my name on it, once I saw it I was more like, ‘Hey, could you put my name on 3 instead because that one’s really good and 5 not so much.” Oddly enough, only half of Leslie Bohem‘s screenplay was kept, with William Wisher Jr. and David J. Schow performing extensive re-writes. In the end, Skipp, Specter, Bohem, and Schow received writing credits.
6. The poster was released before they’d even started filming
If you were a Nightmare on Elm Street fan looking at that poster in 1988/1989 you were probably curious what the heck “Dream Child” meant, and what was going on with the fetus in the crystal ball in Freddy’s glove.
Well, the people making the film thought the same thing, too. That poster came out before they actually had a clear idea what the movie was going to be about beyond its premise and title.
7. The director only had 8 weeks to finish the film: 4 weeks to shoot, 4 to edit
Exactly how rushed were they to make their release date of nearly one year to the day after Nightmare on Elm Street 4? New Line gave director Stephen Hopkins two months, one to actually shoot and another to edit. As a result, the production was in constant motion, shooting on one stage while the crew prepared another. Hopkins’ efforts were impressive enough to later land the gig directing Predator 2.
8. Dan’s bike scene death was originally pretty darn horrific
Dream Child has a surprisingly low body count, but it originally attempted to make up for it by turning in some remarkably grisly death scenes. Then the MPAA told them to get real, and the death scenes were all cut down. The unedited versions of the scenes have only ever been officially released on VHS and Laserdisc.
The most notorious of the bunch is Dan’s-merge-with-motorcylce death. You can watch the unedited version below, but just remember this is graphic enough the MPAA of 1989 made them cut it out meaning this video doesn’t even qualify to be considered Rated R (mere seconds we saw in the finished film were full minutes in the original cut):
9. Greta was originally cut open and had the contents of her stomach fed back to her
It could have been worse. Originally, Freddy quipped, “You are what you eat,” at which point Greta realized Freddy had gutted her as well and was now feeding her material from her own stomach. In 1989, that was too far for the MPAA. By 2001, they were cool with it, letting Hannibal get away with the same concept just more graphic and grounded in reality, what with not being set inside someone’s dream.
10. The comic book kid originally had his head cut off
They clearly figured the wizard master from Dream Warriors was so much fun why not make one of Dream Child‘s victims a nerd too, this time a comic book nut. That should afford them some really fun imagery to play with.
Unfortunately, that ultimately came out looking like this:
It’s kind of hard to imagine how such a death could truly become more gruesome considering that by the end the kid’s entire body has been turned into a cut up pile of paper. However, in the original version while Freddy is shredding the paper we can see the poor kid’s agonized facial expressions and hear his screams before Freddy ultimately chops off his paper head. The MPAA, again, said no soup for you.
11. There was originally a rap song
No, not that one. The Fat Boys did a rap song with Robert Englund for Nightmare on Elm Street 4, but presumably to stay hip and “down with the kids these days” Elm Street 5 originally featured a sequence during the graduation ceremony where Alice, Greta, and Yvonne performed an impromptu rap song.
For their parts, Lisa Wilcox says the rap scene was cut while Erika Anderson (Greta) claims to have absolutely no memory of performing the song or ever reading about it in the script. Is it possible that such a thing never actually happened? Or was it so regrettable Anderson buried it away in her memories, never to be retrieved again?
12. Freddy was played by the screenwriter for the teaser trailer
David J. Schow, one of the Dream Child script re-write wizards, actually got to be in the film. Kind of.
That’s Schow’s hand in the Freddy glove at the end. The baby carriage was a big prop which he could fit into, but the lights they had to place inside the carriage almost caused his arm to catch on fire.
13. They lost 200 tarantulas. Maybe.
Remember when Freddy’s arm gets cut off and transforms into green and red tarantulas which scamper away? According to director Stephen Hopkins, they “got lots of tarantulas, hand-painted them green and red, and on the floor of the stage placed a little wall up in the shape of an arm and had trainers come in and around the tarantulas.”
The plan was to simply drop the wall and film the resulting scattering of the spiders. However, after they got the shot they were left with a studio full of around 200 angry tarantulas. Hopkins figures, “We probably carried on shooting on another set, I’m sure. I don’t think anyone ever found them again.” As far as the director knows, those spiders roamed freely through the studio and escaped into the free world.
Or maybe it was just somebody’s else job to ensure the tarantulas were all accounted for.
But that doesn’t make for good copy. So, let’s just go with the idea that those tarantulas were never recovered.
- $22.1 million, which would be like making $44.4 million at current ticket prices. That’s very, very not good compared to Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, which grossed $49.3 million domestic in actual dollars, $95.6 million after you adjust for ticket price inflation. It’s not just in comparison to Dream Master that Dream Child looks bad. It’s actually the lowest grossing Elm Street film in franchise history, other than Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Still, $22.1 million for Dream Child was around 4 times more than its budget.
Next time, we’ll look at why exactly they gave Freddy a daughter in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.