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.