The once beloved word Grindhouse has been so overused as of late when it comes to cult film that it is all but meaningless. Does it refer to the time period of the seventies before the mandatory “R” rating of all modern day film, where nasty hyper-sexualized violent movies played in double and triple features in small filthy theatres or small town drive-ins? Does it refer to the Planet Terror/Death-Proof double feature by Rodriquez and Tarantino, which sought to reclaim the authentic feel of a double feature from long ago by using stressed film, fake trailers, and a finished hardcore product which still packaged the same tame lame MANDATORY R-rated viewing experience that might as well have been filmed on digital all along? Whatever the true, “according to Hoyle” meaning of grindhouse, Full Moon has recently released a ten-volume series of movies which, hopefully, will reintroduce this overused phrase to a whole new generation of moviegoers, most of whom won’t remember when it actually meant something.
During the late eighties, there was no denying to popularity of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET; the story of a killer who could attack and kill you in your dreams, thus killing you in real life. It seems that every studio tried to develop their own version of the “killer that never slept” who lurked in a Dali-esque nightmare world of horrors, waiting for you to join him. Of course, most of them never made an impact and would be consigned to thematic horror subgenre dumpster of history never to awaken into a sequel. DREAMANIAC is Full Moon’s attempt to cash in on the deadly dream horror genre with a “sleeper hit” of its own. How did it go? Let’s just say that it was at hard to stay awake through.
DREAMANIAC is the story of Adam, a reclusive Heavy Metal aficionado who is privately tormented by visions of an evil succubus named Lily (who dresses like a 1980s prostitute). During the high-concept (smoke machine) sex scenes she is seen “going down” on him only to come up with a mouth full of dripping blood as he screams himself awake. Adam is a troubled man; so troubled that he often lights black candles in what seems like an attempt to communicate with the she-beast if not an attempt to summon her into our world on a more permanent basis. The things poor metal heads will do just to have a girlfriend that looks like the monster off of an album cover. Tsk, Tsk.
Not that Adam needs more strange in his life; his devoted girlfriend Pat is played by Kim McKamy, who would go on to become hardcore porn star, Ashlyn Gere; a woman who, truth be told, probably did just as many dreamy, nasty things in bed on camera as the succubus character, in real life. Still the heart wants what it wants, so Adam keeps “dreaming around” with his mistress and still finds time to have sex with his girlfriend in the first ten minutes of the film, which invites the question, “when does this guy get any rest?”
Things will eventually get a whole lot more complicated for Adam. Pat’s sister, Jodie is throwing a party in his house to become accepted by her sorority and every stock character in a 1980s horror film is going to be there. Among the guests is none other than Lily, herself; a rather conspicuous looking woman that no one but Adam knows nor can remember giving a formal invitation to, but are too afraid to say anything. No matter; in time she will simply start butchering her way through the guest list, as it’s not like she was completely uninvited. Thankfully, the guests are too busy being jerks by being rude or openly unfaithful with one another that they don’t notice as a hot woman starts striking them down with blitz attacks that are neither supernatural nor particularly savage. Odds are, neither will the viewer.
The basic theme of this movie, while nothing exceptional, serves as a valid horror movie springboard, but, for some reason, every aspect of this movie premise of a dream world demon never quite “comes to”.. None of it makes much sense, and none of the little details add up. One example; while Adam is admittedly an unrepentant “metal head”, there is no actual heavy metal music played anywhere in the film. Not only does Adam have short hair; his bedroom has Poison posters on the wall, and, during the party sequence, all we hear is Duran Duranesque pop-synth-crap background music that he doesn’t notice or complain about whatsoever. Moreover, for a succubus, Lily is absolutely lame. Don’t get me wrong; in dream sequences she indeed gives “killer oral”, but, once she manifests into a flesh and blood being, all she does is creep around and kill people with crude physical weapons. Now there are several of scenes of suggestive sex, yet because this is a work of fiction written by openly gay director, David DeCoteau, certain scenes where the main male characters are killed tend to linger, focusing on certain areas of the male anatomy. Women shouldn’t become too excited because, aside from the usual artful female toplessness (so integral to the genre), there isn’t much to signify that sex is even happening, except that it is constantly being interrupted by other guests who assure us that coitus has actually happened by yelling loudly, announcing that they are angry for being cheated on. I am just saying that the last time I saw a movie this blatantly homoerotic was Joel Schumacher’s BATMAN FOREVER. Talk about being trapped in someone else’s nightmare…
Finally, let me say that the print of this film was murky, dark, and reeked of a direct transfer from a VHS source. For Full Moon’s credit, I have to admit that they did warn me (as always in this series) before the movie played that the elements of this “GRINDHOUSE” film might be sketchy in places, as they had to compile it from various sources. Still, such a warning deserves to go on the back of a box so consumers may make an educated decision before buying; not somewhere that can only be read once the item is no longer returnable. I am probably just being picky in this case, however, as the damage to the tape, itself, was perhaps the only authentic “grindhouse” thing about this film. By 1986, the world had moved to kinder gentler horror films where young kids battled evil, always emerged victorious, and learned a little something about themselves at the end. (Just how precious is that?)
Extras include the exact same spiel offered on all other volumes, as Charles Band tells us, once and for all, what “grindhouse” means (according to him), as well as an extended trailer devoted to all of the films of this series. The rest of the extras consist of several trailers for Full Moon films, all of which I have actually reviewed, and that realization served as the one moment of this film that was liable to give me nightmares of my own. Yikes!