• Bad Dreams (88 Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: July 23rd, 2018.
    Director: Andrew Fleming
    Cast: Jennifer Rubin, Bruce Abbott, Richard Lynch
    Year: 1988
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    The Movie:

    When Bad Dreams – number thirty-seven in 88 Films’ Slasher Classics collection - begins, a cult leader named Harris (Richard Lynch) is pouring gasoline all over himself and his followers, about to take them all out in a blaze of glory. A young girl survives but is in a coma. Thirteen years later, this girl, Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin), wakes up. Of course, as she’s been essentially out of it for well over a decade the doctors at the hospital figure she should get some psychiatric help, and she does, but soon various people in the support group she’s attending at the hospital start getting killed off in increasingly grisly ways. Complicating matters further are the dreams that Cynthia is having, in which she sees these people being murdered.

    If that weren’t bad enough, it looks like Harris is still around, scowling his way around the hospital out to bring Cynthia back with him – thankfully a dream doctor (Bruce Abbott) is around to help.

    Well paced and entertaining enough in its own right, Bad Dreams borrows from Nightmare On Elm Street in a big way (Rubin would go on to appear in Nightmare On Elm Street 3 – The Dream Warriors) what with Harris popping in and out of things the way he does and Cynthia’s dreams melding with reality the same way they did for the Elm Street kids in Craven’s movie (though Fleming says he wrote this before Nightmare On Elm Street came out). However, the Jim Jones/suicide cult angle gives the movie a slightly interesting spin and Lynch is pretty great as the man bad guy here. He’s able to use his weathered and eerie looking face along with this imposing screen presence to nice effect. He’s absolutely the most memorable part of the film, but then he had a tendency to be the most memorable part of any film that he had a substantial role in. The guy just has that ‘something’ that works for pictures like this and while he was typically typecast as the villain throughout his career, at least he did it well. Pretty Jennifer Rubin is sympathetic enough in her part and does fine with the material, while Abbott runs around trying to make sense of everything. Dean Cameron and E.G. Daly also have small supporting roles in the film, solidifying its eighties-ness in a big way.

    A few good kills scenes and some fairly tense murder set pieces make this one that eighties slasher fans will no doubt enjoy. Production values are pretty strong across the board. There’s some nice practical effects work on display here, some quality gore and a strong score also worth mentioning. The movie also benefits from some good location work and strong photography. If Bad Dreams isn’t a masterpiece it’s at least a fun time killer and a well-made horror picture.


    Bad Dreams looks very good here in AVC encoded 1080p high definition widescreen framed at 1.85.1 on a 50GB disc. Print damage is never an issue and you won’t notice anything more than the occasional speck here and there, while color reproduction is strong throughout. Detail is noticeably improved over the DVD release from a few years back and colors and black levels both benefit here as well. Eagle eyed viewers might spot some minor compression artifacts in the darker scenes but otherwise, this is a nice HD upgrade over the SD offering that came out previously. Skin tones look more natural, contrast is solid and all in all this is a clean and stable representation of the movie that does a nice job of taking advantage of what the Blu-ray format can offer.

    Bad Dreams gets the DTS-HD 2.0 treatment on this disc and it sounds pretty good. The dialogue sounds a little more fluid and natural here than it did on the DVD, there’s a bit more depth to things than there was before. Other than that, expect nicely balanced levels, clear dialogue and generally just a solid no frills track that suits the movie quite well. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary by Nathaniel Thompson and Tim Greer from Mondo-Digital.com. The pair delivers a reasonably screen specific talk, starting by discussing Lynch’s look and career before then moving on to talking about Andrew Fleming’s career for a while. They also note that the picture was originally intended to be the first of a franchise, the different supporting players that pop up in the film, with some emphasis on Jennifer Rubin and Dean Cameron, how there were very few horror movies set in a hospital after this one and how Bad Dreams doesn’t quite exploit the setting as well as it could have. They also talk up some of the effects work in the picture including the impressive use of fire, how the film plays against certain horror movie stereotypes, and how the movie isn’t quite a slasher film at least by the traditional definition. It’s a solid track, very little dead air at all, with a lot of good information and analysis in it.

    From there we move on to the featurettes, starting with Living The Dream, an interview with director Andrew Fleming that lasts twenty-four minutes. He talks about how this, his first movie, was really like going to graduate school before then talking about his favorite parts of the movie, the importance of his cast and how horror and comedy can intertwine. He then talks about growing up, going to school, his fear of cults and how he tried to tap into that, and how he then went about getting this written and produced and how and why he directed this at twenty-four years of age. He talks about what he learned on set, James Cameron’s insight on the film, casting the picture, working with fire on the set, and quite a bit more.

    In Dream Woman we spend forty-minutes with actress Jennifer Rubin. She talks about her childhood, how she had immune system problems as a kid, how she did in school and how she worked really hard to get her grades up in senior year to get into college, and how she came from a sheltered life to come into her own. She then talks about how she got into acting, some of her early roles, and then working on Bad Dreams. She talks about her experiences working on the film, her thoughts on the picture itself, dealing with the stunts and the wardrobe on set, and what it was like working with Fleming and her fellow cast members.

    The third and final featurette is Derivative Dreams, an interview with academic and curator Spencer Murphy that clocks in at nineteen-minutes. He talks about appraising the film on a specific level and addressing the ‘rip off of Nightmare On Elm Street’ issue and how it’s an understandable response even if it isn’t necessarily fair. From there he talks about the way that the film covers repression, other similarities to the Elm Street series and the way that both films mix horror and comedy. Of course, he also talks about what sets Bad Dreams apart from the Elm Street series like the cult theme, the background of Lynch’s character and more.

    The disc also includes the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    As to the packaging, the disc comes with some nice reversible sleeve and, for the first pressing, a limited edition slipcover and insert booklet wherein Calum Waddell writes up what he considers to be the thirty greatest slasher films. As this is a combo pack release, the red keepcase also holds a DVD version of the movie that contains the same set of extras that is found on the Blu-ray disc.

    The Final Word:

    A solid eighties slasher well worth revisiting for fans of the genre is given a nice upgrade on Blu-ray. The audio and video upgrades are obvious but on top of that we get a nice selection of extra features that add to the fun.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. VinceP's Avatar
      VinceP -
      Ian, does the transfer look pretty much the same as the one from the Shout double-feature with Visiting Hours a few years ago?
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Going by memory it's the same or damn close. I'll do an A/B this weekend and update once I have.
    1. Maureen Champ's Avatar
      Maureen Champ -
      There's a scene where Cynthia had a dream when she's looking at house of her past, that was like a Christina's World paining reference
    1. VinceP's Avatar
      VinceP -
      I did a quick comparison over the weekend and it does look to be the same transfer, but with better encode/compression. The grain looks more finely resolved.