Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bad Dreams

(1988) ****

Dun-duh-NUH!  My last review.  Now I can finally say: Hey JPX - finish your damn reviews!   Seriously, it's December now for chrissakes.    

Bad Dreams exceeded my expectations even after reading this and this.  And Roger Ebert's self-righteous rant sealed the deal. For a film which could accurately be described as an Elm Street by-product (mass murderer continues to kill from beyond the grave by getting inside the victims' minds), it still sticks out as one of the few horror chestnuts from the 80's.    

Yes, Bad Dreams is first and foremost a midnight movie with special effects that are good *ahem* for the time. It's primary goal is jolting a younger audience with shocking death sequences. But it also has much more than that. As a Horrorthonner, If I were to judge these movies by how much they linger with me into the month of November then this would be near the top. Richard Lynch's portrayal of the charismatic Harris is entirely convincing and ultra-creepy. He speaks with a comforting air of wistfulness and benevolence. It's easy to see how his followers are reduced to a collection of vacant-eyed bodies who can no longer identify right from wrong.

Better yet, it touches upon how a how these people with good intentions could reach the point of joining a cult and intentionally lighting themselves on fire. At the mental institution, Cynthia's support group initially insults and rolls their eyes at her naivety. She explains to her snickering audience that her cult deeply believed that if they were selfless enough, they could greatly change the world for the better. One girl in the group immediately sympathizes with this idea and subsequently falls victim to Harris's reign of terror. It begins with the inherent evils of altruism. Those with no self esteem can easily be convinced that self sacrifice is noble but the negation of the self is ultimately the negation of life.

The deaths in Bad Dreams are graphic and grossly unnecessary but I'm not one to see this as a negative thing.


Summerisle said...

Whew! Sorry for the holdup, I never intended to drag my reviews on for this long. I've been purposefully keeping my comments to a minimum until they were done. But I have been really enjoying everyone's input, especially in the zombie chatter.

As discussed everyone (save JPX) can now move on to the post-thon reflections, lists and ideas for the future.

Congratulations to JPX, he is now the official winner for '06! I never thought I'd see the day...

I'mnotMarcbutmyboyfriendis said...

WOOOHOOO! Summer-Isle! Summer-Isle!

i'm the guy at the end of the marathon with the silver astronaut blankets and the mini-powerbars.

i was floored that ebert panned this one so heavily. i'm really happy to see it getting such heavy praise here. if Dawn 04 hadn't come in and kicked everyone's ass, this'd probably be my top flick this year.

one of the things that really made this one rumble and shake was the different perspective of "normal" between characters. just about everyone who bought the farm in bad dreams died with a look on their face that seemed to say, "of course this is the way things are supposed to go."

the sense that there's a ton of static going on behind their faces is ramped up by brilliant music choices in these scenes: electronic, scattered, loud.

Octopunk said...

Yeah, kudos to JPX! Now we can all shoot at his feet and say "dance!" until he finishes his reviews.

Good finish, Summerisle. I hope you'll get to be more chatty now that the review monkey's off your back.

What's up with Ebert here? I credit the man with a lot of good writing (and an absolutely beautiful public dis of Rob Schneider), but his review of Bad Dreams reminded me of when Gene Siskel was still alive and Roger Ebert was the idiot.

"I am aware that teenagers go to these films and 'like' them." Putting quotes around "like?" What a jerk. It's bad enough when critics for whom entire genres are ill fits pull the "it sucks that it isn't still the 70's" card, it's far worse when they act like they're your parents.

Ebert declares BD poison to the process of getting past teen alienatioin without ever thinking that reveling in images of doom is part of getting past it.

Eh, I guess I'll stop refuting this 18-year-old review. Bad Dreams is a highly notable sleeper, and one of this year's standouts.

(Yes, JPX, I know you saw it for the 2003 contest. Go write your reviews.)

Jordan said...

Roger Ebert was only the "idiot" on television. His writing in the Sun-Times is, like, ten times smarter. I don't know why he chose to play his career this way, but he did. I would never have learned this, either, had I not lived in Chicago for four years.

JPX said...

When Gene Siskel was alive I always deferred to his opinion and ignored Ebert's. As Jordan notes, Ebert's written reviews are terrific, but he comes across kind of dumb on his show.

I'mnotMarcbutmyboyfriendis said...

that's great, jpx. now don't you have some unfinished business to attend to?

I'mnotMarcbutmyboyfriendis said...

ps - heavy props on your first horrorthon victory!

JPX said...

"don't you have some unfinished business to attend to?"

The guilt, the guilt!

Thanks for the props!