Monday, April 22, 2019

“Now I’m Having Kinetic Nightmares” - Dream Stalker (1991)

It is time to discuss the surreal shot-on-video classic Dream Stalker from 1991, an inspired variation on the Nightmare on Elm Street film series.

Some reviewers in your universe do not sufficiently respect Dream Stalker for its achievements. For example, reviewer BA_Harrison writes, "A super-naff, A Nightmare On Elm Street-inspired, shot-on-video crapfest, Dream Stalker is poorly acted, badly scripted, unimaginatively directed, and blighted by terrible pacing and horrible sound quality (much of the dialogue is almost impossible to hear)." Reviewer woodyanders writes a list of the film's characteristics, most of which are transparently ridiculous: "slack (non)direction by Christopher Mills, a plodding pace, cheesy gore, rinky-dink (not so) special effects, some tasty gratuitous nudity, a seriously scorching soft-core sex scene, a meandering narrative, tinny sound, rough cinematography, a tacky synthesizer score, zero tension or spooky atmosphere, and crummy acting from a lame no-name cast."

Are these reviewers dreaming? Read on to find out...

The film begins with motocross racer Ricky Fries beating his own record on the track, followed by an intimate picnic with his model girlfriend Brittney on a picturesque hillside. “I want to share my life with you,” he tells her, giving her a highly colorful engagement ring.

She agrees to marry Ricky. At dinner, he gives her a silver clown music box, and then they make love in a Jacuzzi. She promises him that they’ll always be together.

Unfortunately for all concerned, Ricky is involved in a terrible accident on the motocross course, though unfortunately we do not see the accident itself—we only hear about it from the announcer. Brittney runs across the dirt to find Ricky. We hear the announcer say, “Fries is down!”

But Ricky appears to be alive. He climbs onto his motorcycle, but for some reason he rides toward Brittney and slams into her. Suddenly, she wakes up in bed screaming, “No!”

She sits down to breakfast with her mother, telling her she had a dream about Ricky again. Her mother offers, “I’ve called Dr. Frisk.”

“I don’t want to see any doctor named Frisk,” Brittney says, probably quite reasonably.

Her mother says, “We’ve got to take care of this. I don’t want you having nightmares of Ricky trying to kill you.”

Her friend comes to Brittney’s door to tell Brittney that Ricky was in a terrible bike accident and died. “The doctors did all they could. He’s dead. He had a bike accident.”

After the credit sequence, Brittney goes to a cemetery and touches Ricky’s headstone, which says “MOTOCROSS CHAMPION” at the bottom. Ricky attacks her in the cemetery and drags her into the earth while a house somewhere explodes—but it is, again, all a dream. Brittney wakes up screaming.

In a session with Dr. Frisk in which Brittney is hooked up to electrodes, Brittney narrates the dream she just had. She rips off the electrodes, causing sparks to fly.

Later, Dr. Frisk talks to Brittney’s mother. “I’m afraid your daughter’s psychic powers may become uncontrollable,” he says.

“What can I do to help?” asks her mother.

“She needs time. Time to rest until she learns to control her kinetic ability.”

“She has been overdoing it lately,” her mother says.

After an incident with a leaf blower whose motor reminders her of Ricky’s motorcycle, Brittney plays with the silver clown music box Ricky gave her—a music box that emits electrical energy.

Brittney has a vision of Ricky in her mirror, so she takes the fireplace poker from her bedroom and, wearing her enormous fuzzy slippers, carries the poker to the window. She is startled not by Ricky’s ghost but by her mother wearing a green facial mask.

In an extremely disturbing dream, a scarred Ricky enters her bedroom and assaults her, oddly using a condom “just in case.” The condom, however, breaks, according to Ricky. “Oh well.” (This plot point is never mentioned again.)

The film cuts to a colorful party, and the filmmakers helpfully give us some context when someone we haven’t yet met walks up to someone else we haven’t met and says, “Hey, Marty, great idea having a costume party at a mortuary. I love it!”

Marty turns out to be dressed as a white-haired baby in pink pajamas with a zombie scar on his face. He gets a phone call and immediately rushes to Ricky’s grave, where he encounters either Ricky’s ghost or a person named Scott made up to look like Ricky’s ghost, a person who confusingly asks Marty (a mortician) to enclose Ricky’s casket in concrete so Ricky will not decay quickly.

After threatening Marty, Ricky (or possibly Scott) attacks Dr. Frisk by first threatening him with a big knife and then strangling him with his own necktie.

Dr. Frisk does not die, however, until he jumps out a window and falls onto a car.

Brittney drives out to her cabin in the woods, which is actually just a house in the woods. For unexplained reasons, a group of female hip hop dancers appears on her front lawn. A fist fight between Brittney and one of the dancers ensues, and immediately a crowd of about two hundred high school-aged spectators gathers around the two as they punch each other to sound effects that would not be out of place in an Indiana Jones fight scene.

The fight is broken up by a bearded man named Sage, an old friend of Brittney’s. The explanation of all the chaos is that Brittney’s property has been turned into, for some reason, a camp for troubled youth (explaining, of course, the hip hop music).

(Although the audience might have expected the fistfight scene to be a dream, it actually occurred in real life.)

Later, a handsome young man enters Brittney’s bathroom while she takes a bubble bath to look for his dog. He is Greg, a high school friend of the nearly nude Brittney. Of course, she invites him to stay for lunch. And of course, as soon as she gets dressed, they sit on the white leather couch and start kissing. Then he gives her a shoulder rub. “You’re pretty good at this,” she says. “Are you professional?”

“Well, I’ve never been paid, but every once in a while I get a nice tip.”

“I’m never very good at tipping,” she replies. “I either give too much or not enough.”

“I don’t think you could give too much this time,” he says, which might possibly be some kind of innuendo.

Later, Brittney walks alone in the woods, but two of the troubled teenagers from the camp attempt to rape her. She kicks one in the testicles and runs away, but she is chased by the other one, who, frighteningly, runs while flailing his hands in the air.

Brittney trips and falls. She lies on the ground, unconscious, while the would-be rapists run down a hill and into a motorboat, which they take out onto a river—until Ricky’s ghost appears and throws them into the water.

The other troubled teenagers are on a campout with an adult coach, and they find Brittney and wake her up. They can’t find the rapists, so Brittney returns to her cabin. Around the campfire, the teenagers complain about Brittney. “You know how those high-class types are,” the coach says about her. “Always a little bit on the strange side.”

A camper named Chris hears something in the dark. “What was that?” he says, alarmed. Then he adds oddly, “It’s strange. I swore I could have heard something out there.”

The next day, the would-be rapists return to camp with a story about a creepy dude who tried to kill them.

Later, in a horrifying scene whose significance is somewhat difficult to ascertain, Brittney listens to the silver clown music box that Ricky gave her while her friend Sage is murdered in an outhouse when he sits on a pitchfork and is dragged down into the toilet.

Brittney has a vision of the murder occurring, but the vision is interrupted by handsome Greg, with whom Brittney immediately starts making out on the floor to alluring saxophone music.

After they finish, Brittney asks, “Hungry?”

He replies romantically, “Just for food.” Then he says he has to go back to his cabin.

Brittney tells Greg that people around her are dying. “The doctor told me that I possess some kind of kinetic energy. Now I’m having kinetic nightmares.”

“What are you talking about?” Greg asks. (Perhaps, like many of us, he has heard the term kinetic energy before in a different context.)

“I think I can just dreaming,” she says, though this assessment of the situation does not match the film we have been watching.

In the very next scene, Greg leaves and Brittney’s friend Sherrie arrives, giving Brittney a chance to explain her kinetic nightmare problem again. Sherrie comes up with a brilliant solution: She will invite the cute guys from the camp to party with them in the cabin, and Brittney will not be able to sleep, so her kinetic nightmares won’t kill anyone. Before they can invite the guys over, however, the rapists break into the cabin, though Ricky appears and makes short work of them.

Ricky appears before Brittney. “You can’t be real,” she says. He appears to be concerned—possibly forgetting he has already raped her—but despite his gentleness he punches her in the face, knocking her out. Then Ricky goes out to kill all the troubled teenagers who are camping in the woods.

After several more kinetic murder dreams, Brittney asks Greg to take her back home to Sacramento. Unfortunately, however, Ricky’s ghost appears again to murder Greg. Brittney runs into the dark woods, chased by Ricky and his machete. The killer spouts clever one-liners like, “You’ll be late for your own funeral.”

At the climax, Brittney turns the tables on Ricky and slashes him with his own blade.

However, this is less effective than might be expected, as Ricky is a ghost. He pops back to life and tries to kill her, but then for no apparent reason he fades away. Brittney revives and finds out that Greg is alive as well—which is fortunate for all concerned, as Ricky returns yet again, only to fade away again when Greg gets rid of the silver music box.

In the end, Brittney wakes up from a four-month coma to find out that Greg is in jail for murder, and that, chillingly, her mother has had Ricky’s music box repaired. The filmmakers freeze on Brittney’s horrified face.

Dream Stalker, it must be said, solves the central problem of the Nightmare on Elm Street film series, which is, of course, that there are too many rules governing Freddy Krueger's behavior, and the characters threatened by Freddy must know, discuss, or make up these rules. In Dream Stalker, rules are neither defined nor discussed--to the extent that the audience is not even certain about the true identity of the killer. Surely it must by the ghost of Ricky, who can appear in mirrors and step through walls in the real world as well as in dreams. But what if it is Brittney, who believes that her dreams are killing people in real life, despite the fact that some of the murders occur while she is awake? And what if it is someone named Scott, who is mentioned in the graveyard scene as being hired by Marty the Mortician to impersonate Ricky's ghost for some undisclosed purpose? Despite its identity as a traditional slasher film with various murders and returns from the dead, Dream Stalker is something more: a mystery whose central question will forever remain unsolved.

Unless Ricky's ghost is the killer, in which case the mystery is solved.