Friday, September 21, 2012

Dreamy: "The Dream Demon" (1988)



Director and cowriter Harley Cokliss assembles a small cast in a creepy house and delivers enough scares to recommend this little sleeper.

Jemma Redgrave, a cousin of the other acting Redgraves, is a virgin about to marry a Falklands War (anyone remember that?) veteran. He has bought her a new house that used to be apartments. A tabloid reporter and his oily photog sidekick begin bothering the soon-to-be bride, and she takes in an American (played very well by the underrated Kathleen Wilhoite). Wilhoite is trying to regain her childhood memories, and she thinks she grew up in Redgrave's house. Soon, the photog goes missing, Redgrave and Wilhoite are able to pull one another into their dreams where they both try to help a blonde haired little girl who is being abused by her father. This culminates in a finale you kind of see coming.

Cokliss keeps his cast very small, and that works. There are no extra characters or red herrings thrown in to confuse you about the identity of the blonde girl. The setting is very good, with a lot of action taking place in broad daylight. The scares mostly consist of very effective (and un-CGI) cheap special effects. A change in the lighting, or the photog appearing again and again as his face dissolves are very creepy without overwhelming the suspense (like "The Haunting" remake). Wilhoite, who I have seen mostly on TV, is great here, making a small little horror film seem a little more important than it is.

The film does get into Freddy Krueger territory once in a while, when Redgrave begs Wilhoite not to let her sleep, and there are too many scenes where you are supposed to believe the subjects are awake, when in fact you know they are dreaming and something bad is about to happen. Redgrave is good, but is outshined by Wilhoite. The title is a misnomer as well, since there really is not a demon in the film.

This is entertaining enough, especially if you have nothing else to do, and you might get a few scares out of it. I will recommend it. (* * * *) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: Dream Demon [VHS]