Director: Andrew Fleming
Cast: Jennifer Rubin, Bruce Abbott, Richard Lynch
Director: Jean-Claude Lord
Cast: Michael Ironside, Lee Grant, Linda Purl
Reviews by Brian M. Sammons
I actually love little collections like this. You see, neither of these films are what you would call great. Hell, a lot of people would say that neither of these films are what you would call good. And to some degree or another, I can see their point. Bad Dreams is pretty much a poor man’s A Nightmare On Elm Street and Visiting Hours is really a suspense/thriller melodrama masquerading as a slasher film. However both these movies have enough going for them, if only just enough, to warrant a watch, but both have been out of print and pretty hard to find for a good long time. And honestly, I don’t know if you would want to pay full DVD price for either one of these. But both together for a reasonable price? Sure, why the hell not get them.
What, you don’t believe me? Ok, I’ll prove it.
First let me describe something to you and see what you come up with. There’s a burnt-faced killer that stalks teens in their dreams, including a group of troubled kids in an insane asylum. Sound familiar? Could that be A Nightmare On Elm Street, or more specifically Part 3 of that series? Well surprise, that’s actually a little remember fright flick from 1988 called Bad Dreams. Yeah I know, it’s weird, and perhaps a bit slimy, and things only get more muddled when the start of the Dreams film was first in The Dream Warriors as the badass punker chick, Taryn. So if you experience a sense of déjà vu while watching this movie, don’t worry, that’s intentional.
Anyway, standing in for Freddy Kruger, you get psycho cult leader Harris, played well by perennial villain, Richard Lynch. Harris led a doomsday cult some years back who got it into their heads that dousing themselves in gasoline and flicking a Bic would be a great idea. Only one young girl, Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin) survived the inferno. Too bad for her that fried-faced Harris still wants her to burn, and he begins to haunt her dreams, and the dreams of her new friends in a teen-centric asylum. One by one the kids start to off themselves thanks to Harris’ scare tactics, until it’s just Cynthia and the bogyman who remain. But things may not all be what they seem. There is a neat little twist to this tale that some people either love or hate. Me, I liked it because at least it doesn’t appear to be a total rip off of the Elm Street movies.
Bad Dreams is a fun little film, not great, but enjoyable. The direction is competent, the story moves along at a brisk pace, and the characters are fun. Jennifer Rubin is great as frightened little bunny Cynthia, but my favorite is Ralph, played by Dean Cameron, perhaps best known as the horror loving Chainsaw in the Mark Harmon 1987 vehicle, Summer School. He plays the same kind of whacky and “crazy” guy here and in both films I really dug him. The special effects are effective and should make the gore hounds happy, and as I mentioned before, the twist at the end is pretty good, or at least better than the last four M. Night Shyamalan films combined. Oh, and it has just the right amount of cheesy ’80s horror flavor that I always love, so Bad Dreams gets a nod of approval from me.
On to Visiting Hours, which frankly I don’t like as much. It’s not a bad film, it just drags a bit and isn’t anywhere as fun as Bad Dreams. It’s about a woman-hating psycho with anger issues attacking an opinionated female journalist. When he hears later that she survived his attack and is now resting in a hospital, the nut job goes to the hospital time and time again to finish what he started.
The highlight in this film is easily gravely-voiced, steely-eyed, professional bad guy, Michael Ironside. He growls, snarls, spits, and chews his way through the scenery whenever he’s on screen and is totally believable as an unhinged madman. What’s not as good are the other actors, including William … Shatner … who … plays … the … reporter’s … boyfriend. Other than Ironside, they all appear content to phone in their performances, or perhaps just really bored, and if that’s the case, I really can’t blame them all that much because I too was bored through much of this movie. When things happen in this film they’re usually good, if a bit weak on the gore for a slasher film (which this movie really is not, despite pretending to be) but the problem is that there are long stretches of nothing between the good stuff. Still, this one is worth watching, if just to see Michael Ironside do what he does best, and that’s be bad.
Now unlike most combo DVDs, Shout! Factory actually included a few special features on this 2-disc set, if sadly just for Bad Dreams, which comes with a director’s commentary, interviews with four of the actors, a featurette on the special effects, an alternate ending, and trailers. Visiting Hours just gets a trailer and that’s it. That is a bit disappointing, but hey, at least the film is back out on DVD.
If you are missing either, or most likely both, of these ’80s fright flicks in your library, then you can pick them both up, in one nice package, and for a reasonable price, when they become available on September 13.