Friday, August 19, 2016

VHS Summer Week #8

Dream Stalker
Christopher Mills

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) left an indelible mark on popular culture. Monsters with a spark of personality were in, and everyone was scrambling to create their own charismatic killer. The advent of home video meant that anyone with a few dollars could cobble together a movie, and the fledgling rental industry was so starved for content it didn’t take much to get your tape distributed around town, possibly even around the nation if you were persistent.  However, by 1991, both Freddy Kruger and the shot-on-video movie had more or less run their course. This makes Dream Stalker even more of curiosity than it already is.

Recounting the plot of Dream Stalker is, at best, very difficult. The story is series of dreams within dreams, but the gist of the it involves Brittany (Valerie Williams) and her boyfriend Ricky (Mark Dias). She’s a model and he’s a motocross superstar. He ends up dead via exploding bike (or something, it’s very unclear) and Brittany may either being bringing him back to life as Dead Ricky with her psychic powers or he’s haunting her through a cheap gift and killing her friends and potential lovers. There is also the distinct possibility that neither of those plot points is actually what's happening.
Slightly too legible to be a black metal band logo...
Dream Stalker is an incoherent mess. A story that employs a dream narrative with a lot of reality bending can work, but it requires a very deft touch, and masterful editing. Dream Stalker doesn’t have any of that, but it tries to fill in the gaps with gore and nudity. The sound is often drowned out by wind noise, or blaring music. The lighting ranges from surprisingly good to ‘I can’t tell what the hell is happening.’ The special effects in Dream Stalker are a delight, much better than I would expect from an SOV feature. Dead Ricky’s disfigured face is the highlight of the whole production.

"Microsoft tells me you haven't installed Windows 10, yet..."
There are dozens of quirky moments that take Dream Stalker from being just another SOV movie to something special. Whether it’s Dead Ricky kindly putting on a condom before molesting Brittany, stunts gone wrong but left in the movie anyway, tough street kids who look liked they just walked out of Sears, or the single lamest roll down a steep hill that's been put to video. Dream Stalker never makes sense, but it certainly never stops having things happen on the screen.

For a late-in-the-game, shot -on-video movie, Dream Stalker would fit right in with such films as Things (1989), Boardinghouse (1982), and Sledgehammer (1983). It can be a chore to sit through with a constant undermining of the story in way that doesn’t blow minds, it just annoys. There is, without a doubt, a lot of love put into the production and there some effective moments here and there. It can be a difficult watch, but I think it's worth it for the occasional treat that Dream Stalker delivers.

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