I got called out on something a while back that I never ever thought would be an issue. I was told, if you can believe this, that I’m “too positive” in my reviews. Apparently there are those out there, mainly other film critics, who feel that to be a critic you have to be overly, well…critical. I swear, I think some people start writing reviews just so they can tear movies to shreds. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I do make excuses for bad movies and go out of my way to accentuate the positive. The thing is, I love horror movies. I love ‘em. There’s something to dig about all of them. I guess the fact that I like far more flicks than I don’t like makes me less qualified. I guess to properly write about movies, I have to be a Roger Ebert style pompous windbag. Well, those of you who think I’m not hard enough on crappy horror flicks, you’re in luck, because today I’m reviewing Dreamaniac, a flick that’s just plain awful, and I’m calling a spade a spade; or in this case a turd a turd.
Here’s the synopsis…”In the sleep-stirring tradition of PHANTASM and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, DREAMANIAC introduces Lily, a deadly leading lady who makes Freddy look like a bargain basement boogieman. Adam is a heavy metal rocker and part time Satanist. When Lily enters his dreams, he uses black magic to summon her into reality. Too late, Adam learns that Lily is a succubus, a demon seductress who makes love to men and murders them – though not necessarily in that order. When she crashes Adam’s sister’s sorority bash, the blood flows and the body count rises. But Adam, entranced by her power, soon faces a tough decision. Will he break free to save his sister and her girlfriend – or will he experience the ultimate sensation of loving Lily…?”
What the hell happened here? That’s a pretty good concept, but man is it wasted. A lot is made on the cover and the synopsis of the “dream” aspect, but there’s really only one dream sequence in the entire movie, and that’s the first minute and a half. This is a little more accurate…”A naked guy walks down a hall, embraces a skinny, blood covered naked girl, screams, and wakes up. Later, he uses a couple of black candles and a library book to summon a Succubus, who bites him on the dangly bits. He lets his sister use his house to throw a party for her irritating sorority sisters and some ridiculously cliché guys. They proceed to try to get laid, eat hash brownies, snort coke, and occasionally get stabbed. Adam has joined forces with the Succubus, and it’s up to Pat, his girlfriend, to stop him.” Doesn’t sound too bad, huh? Well, it is. This movie is boring as hell. Nothing much happens except for a poor excuse for bad 7 or 8 person party footage and a LOT of talking. The tedium continues until what might be the longest, most uneventful fully clothed catfight in cinema history, followed by possibly the most idiotic, out of left field, “well that just ruins everything” twist ending you’ve ever seen. M. Night Slapnuts does twists better than this. The Village had a better twist ending than this. The Village! Yeah, it’s that dumb.
The acting? Well, it’s almost uniformly horrible. Adam broods hilariously, and the rest of the cast fight losing battles to give a little bit of life to their one note characters. There’s the man-stealing bitch, the dumb jock, the amiable slut, the bad boy, the “skinny tie and sunglasses at night” guy, etc. Particularly bad is the rich valley girl Rosie, played by Lisa Emery. Like, very rarely has, like, a more, like, totally mondo annoying character been, like, put on, like, screen, like. Sylvia Summers, who plays Lily, has absolutely no sense of menace to her at all. She’s not exactly giving Freddy a run for his money as the back of the box suggests. You know that girl at the party that acts half slutty and half crazy so people will pay attention to her? Yeah, that’s what she strikes me as. The one exception to the less than stellar cast is Ashlyn Gere, who gives a pretty good performance as Pat, Adam’s girlfriend. She would end up, after a certain very successful augmentation, becoming a porn star and giving even better, um, “performances.”
The story and acting aren’t why we watch these old “shot on video” forgotten gems though, now is it? Hell no, we’re here for the gratuitous nudity and gore. Let’s start with the nudity. It does have gratuitous nudity, but not the usual 80’s slasher flick fare. If you’re one of those people who laments that horror movies objectify women, enjoy this one, ‘cause the boys are on display this time. There is one short shot of some unspectacular boobs, and a whole heaping helping of bare man ass. Nearly every male actor ends up naked or in his tighty whiteys with the camera gazing lovingly at his crotch. Since David DeCoteau, one of the more outspoken gay horror legends, directed this it makes a lot of sense that the beefcake would far outweigh the cheesecake. Not my cup of tea, but if you’re into it, there’s plenty here for you. As far as the gore goes, it’s mostly of the “knife stabs into something off-screen and blood squirts into the frame” variety. There’s a decent amount of the red stuff, but none of the stabbings are at all convincing. There are two good moments involving a drill going through a hand and a head that will catch your eye. When they go in for the close-ups though, it looks like different film stock. Considering how high quality those shots were, I have a feeling they were lifted from another movie.
This flick does have the nostalgia factor going for it. Those looking for some serious 80’s, here’s some serious 80’s. It really doesn’t get any more 80’s than this actually. The outfits, the character archetypes, the music, the “not yet ironic” Def Leppard shirt, everything! This flick might as well be titled “Generic 80’s Direct to Video Horror Flick #17.” There’s a certain tenuous charm to terrible 80’s horror. This flick has a scant smattering of that charm. There is one pretty funny scene where Adam’s sister finds her boyfriend in bed with the bitchy slut of the group, and promptly pukes on them. Let’s see, going down the checklist here, drill, puke, nostalgia…yep, that’s about all the good stuff.This is another one from Full Moon’s Grindhouse collection. The transfer is the same quality as it was on VHS. I have no problem with 80’s crap movies looking like 80’s crap movies, but the sticklers for pristine picture quality will want to pull their hair out over this one. This collection has some real winners in it, like Zombiethon, Filmgore, and Necropolis, but Dreamaniac is definitely one of the misses. I really wanted to like this one too, because I dig a lot of DeCoteau’s other flicks. Hell, I consider myself a connoisseur of bad movies, and it took me two sittings to get through this one. Pretty much the only things that keep it from being completely unwatchable are the 80’s nostalgia and the unintentional humor. I’m gonna be generous and give this one half a severed thumb up. Nathan says only check it out if you’re desperate.