Mitchell Anderson, Juliette Cummins, Xander Berkeley, Thom Babbes, and a bucket of deer face.
Please Note: It’s not a dream! It’s not a dream! It’s SPOILERS!
X-mas Eve, a while back. In the home of a the wealthy Torme family, young Alex waits for Santa and begs to open his presents as his parents hem and haw over the youngster’s enthusiasm. But ungodly terror disrupts the holiday fun when a killer in a deer mask breaks into the house and shotguns Mom and Dad.
|Rudolph had a very shiny nose...of vengeance.|
The boy survives the ordeal and years later, he grows up to be college student Alex (Anderson). We learn that the killer was a rival of his father who bankrupted his business. Alex still struggles with the memories of that tragic night while pursuing a career as a writer.
|They nailed it.|
But Alex has to deal with pressure from his older brother Jack (Berkeley) to join the family business while he's tormented nightly by dreams where the deer-masked killer hunts him down and …
|Shoots ol' Jack,|
|Slices his throat,|
|And, um, other things.|
Meanwhile, Alex’s jokester pal Danny (Babbes) fun-lovingly pokes fun at his friend’s tragic past.
|Not cool, bro.|
Fortunately, a diversion from bad dreams, tortured prose, and shitty friends arrives in the form of Maggie (Cummins), a cute dancer with a dream and a smile who unfortunately has lousy gift-giving skills.
Things get complicated when Jack accuses Maggie of being a gold-digger and Danny is suspected of secretly drugging Alex to alleviate his nightmares. All of this creates a rift between the four that intensifies Alex’s psychosis further when he starts to see the killer in real life.
|Louis C.K. was right.|
But there’s something more sinister at work within the illusions of Alex’s dreams. Something dirty and nasty and deceitful. And it’s up to Alex to escape this wide awake nightmare and solve the riddle and learn the true identity of the deer-face killer.
|Oh, and get the laundry done.|
Deadly Dreams is a nifty thrifty little thriller, an unexpected surprise found in a box of VHS cheapies. Based on the box cover and the title, you would expect the movie to be a Nightmare on Elm Street inspired flick like Bad Dreams, Sleepstalker, Shocker, and Candyman which – don’t panic – all vary in quality from bad to good to great. But this movie is decidedly not another quippy Freddy Krueger exercise. Despite a TV-movie feel and lead Anderson as the oft-screechy protagonist, the cast delivers solid performances especially the stalwart and always reliable Xander Berkeley (24, Terminator 2, and the classic Magma: Volcanic Disaster) who is as scummy and delightfully repellent as always. They are all amiably directed and keep a thin plotline afloat until the very end. Speaking of the end, it’s revealed that Jack was behind Alex’s torment in order to get to his inheritance which is really messed up, that is until the REALLY messed up surprise ending added a twist to the relative torturing another for money routine. Deadly Dreams is a neat little psychological puzzler that wisely side-steps slasher conventions, delivers some genuine scares, and wraps everything up under ninety minutes.
EL T’S HORROR MARATHON ADVICE:
If you’re doing a Halloween marathon, I’d schedule Deadly Dreams early because it’s engaging enough to hold your attendees’ attention and it’s short enough to allow you sneak away and trick-or-treat, snatch candy bags, or get murdered by a disgruntled employee.