Youtube Film Club: Dreamaniac (1986)

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After “I’ve Been Watching You”, because I’m a glutton for punishment and because I hope you – dear reader – enjoy reading about bad movies more than good ones, I decided to really get into the filmography of David DeCoteau. You might be flicking through the listings of your streaming service of choice one night, happen upon DeCoteau, and come to me for advice (metaphorically speaking, but if you know me, feel free to just give me a call and ask).

We’ve talked about him before, and mentioned his career arc – by the way, did you know he directed the recent meme-bait “A Talking Cat?!?” – so feel free to read our old reviews. Click these words right here to go to a list of our DeCoteau writing! Or carry on reading, right now, to find out about his first ever non-porn directing job. Yes, after “Boys Just Wanna Have Sex” and “Never Big Enough” (sorry, I do love a good porno title), he was offered his first directing job by Charles Band and his pre-Full Moon “Empire Pictures”.

 

From the opening credits on, this reminded me of a slightly sanitised version of early Donald Farmer – the B-movie horror legend who gave us “Demon Queen”, “Cannibal Hookers” and “Vampire Cop”, among many many others. Exhibit A is the opening credits, which go on for about 5 minutes (of an 80 minute movie), and just list the cast and crew, pausing for an excruciating length of time on each one. I love a good “get it to feature length by any means necessary!” trick.

 

Adam (Thomas Bern, in his only ever role) is a professional heavy metal lyric writer (huh?), although he has a poster for punk musician Jello Biafra on his wall, and the t-shirt he wears at the beginning is of Def Leppard, not exactly the most metal-y of bands (the soundtrack has nothing approaching metal on it, either, presumably the whole thing was due to some satanic music panic being in the news the week they made it). He’s having trouble sleeping, dreaming of a woman in a bathtub full of blood, but he does have a lovely and supportive girlfriend, Pat (Kim McKamy).

McKamy has the drill

McKamy has the drill

ASIDE: As every other review of this movie has mentioned, McKamy, under the name Ashlyn Gere, would go on to a long career in porn, winning a number of awards while still doing bits of mainstream acting (she’d appear in a few episodes of “The X Files”, for instance). Evidently, there are people who watch porn the same way I watch old horror movies, as there’s a lot of interest in this because it was filmed before McKamy had breast implants. I feel vaguely sleazy just from knowing that information, but there you go – in case you were wondering DeCoteau, even at the beginning of his career, was far more interested in the male form than the female.

 

Back to Adam! He summons a demon quite easily, needing nothing but a few candles and a book of incantations, and it’s the same woman he’s been dreaming about, named Lily (Sylvia Summers). I guess there’s a religious thing here, with Adam and Lily / Lilith (Lilith being the name of Adam’s first wife in some very early Jewish texts), but if it is, it’s completely undeveloped. Now this is where the extremely poor sound quality of the VHS rip on Youtube become annoying, because according to the promotional literature, Lilith gives him irresistibility to women, on the proviso she can kill them afterwards, but this doesn’t make the slightest sense when it comes to what actually happens. In fact, I’ve really got no idea why Adam summoned her at all – he seemed to have a decent life, with a big house and a beautiful girlfriend? He is a very very dull character, though, a wet blanket much like the star of “I’ve Been Watching You”, so I’m glad the movie doesn’t focus too much on him.

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What the movie does focus on is the party that is thrown in his house, because Pat’s sister Jodi needs to get into a sorority and decides a sparsely-attended party in the home of a virtual stranger is a good idea, and because this movie was shot in 10 days and it’s a lot easier to film entirely in one location. So we get an assortment of characters – the bitchy sorority leader Frances (Cynthia Crass); the gay guy; and the…undistinguished mass of humanity! I’m seriously struggling to remember any of them, and it was only on a few hours ago. The way it goes is, we see a bit of a party, then Lily murders someone in an escalatingly gruesome fashion; then we get either a view of a naked male ass, or a shot from the front of a chap in very tight white underwear. It’s good to know his interests were front-and-centre (so to speak) from the very beginning, and it makes a refreshing change from most horror cinema.

 

There’s sort of a subtext here, and it’s unhappiness. No-one is happy – the women are all unsatisfied with their men, Adam is just miserable, Jodi seems disgusted at the world she wants to be part of and just gets drunk all the time, in fact the only people who seem remotely satisfied with their lot are the camp guy whose name I don’t remember and Lily herself, and she gets to murder tons of people for no reason whatsoever.

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I almost forgot that a few people come back as zombies later on (another thing it has in common with early Donald Farmer), seemingly picked at random and easily dispatched back to death. And someone gets their head removed with a drill, which is pretty impressive when you think about it. Or stupid, I can’t decide which – okay, it’s stupid. It’s quite nice to see such an unvarnished set of slasher film responses to situations, with pre-marital sex all over the place and cast members having an almost pathological desire to wander off on their own and get killed.

 

There’s one good thread to “Dreamaniac”, the interaction between Jodi and Adam. They don’t spend a ton of time on screen together, but when they do there’s an easy rapport and the nugget of a half-decent film. But that’s literally it when it comes to stuff I enjoyed.

 

First up, it’s called “Dreamaniac”. The first and only dream sequence in the movie is done with by the five minute mark! Best I can guess is, the cover talks about “A Nightmare On Elm Street” and they knew they needed at least one dream sequence to not be sued for false advertising? Talking of the box, there’s the caption “too gory for the silver screen!” on there, indicating its proud straight-to-video status (back when that was pretty unusual), or perhaps they just misspelled “rubbish”. Then, finally, there’s Adam’s motivation. What does he get out of the deal with the demon? She has sex with him a few times, but after that all she does is murder a bunch of people in his house.

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SPOILERS AHOY! No excuse, really, the video is right there at the top of the page to watch. It turns out the entire movie was…a pulp novel that a guy played by the same actor as Adam had written! We see him finishing reading it out to someone over the phone. Screw you, movie! That this other Adam then gets killed by the same demon, the implication being he summoned it with the stuff in the book, is the garbage cherry on the dirt pie.

 

“Dreamaniac” is relentlessly awful. Made solely for the purpose of wringing a few $$$ out of video shop customers, with not a thought given for its quality (although I guess it’s sort of impressive that they made this for an estimated $60,000) or coherence, it’s to be avoided at all costs and I’m now regretting starting down this path. None of the bravura oddness of Donald Farmer, but all the flaws and then some.

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Rating: thumbs down

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