The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: DREAMANIAC (1986)

Damon Swindall

by: Damon Swindall
May 11th, 2011

After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. GATW’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

Lovely VHS cover of DREAMANIAC - no that's NOT Clint Howard

With the horror boom of the '80s VHS age, some distributors quickly figured out that films no longer had to play theaters first and they could bring titles, on the cheap, direct-to-video. One of the first companies who capitalized on this is the one and only Wizard Video. They had some “extreme” titles for the home market brandishing a seal touting them as “too gory for the silver screen”. What a gimmick!

There were a few titles in varying degrees of quality in this group and somewhere right in the middle is a film by a young director named David DeCoteau. He got his start as a PA for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures and soon went on to have an illustrious career making films for Charles Band/Full Moon Pictures and many other low budget labels. DeCoteau’s entry into Wizard’s DTV catalog is a strange little “otherworldly” slasher flick by the name of DREAMANIAC.

A young rock star with writer’s block, Adam (Thomas Bern), is spending time alone in a rather normal-looking house working on his next masterpiece. He seeks inspiration from his solitude and by practicing a sort of satanic ritual which ultimately brings a succubus into his dreams to haunt him. This is all fine and dandy until his girlfriend, Pat (future adult film actress Ashlyn Gere), and her sister, Jodi (Lauren Peterson), decide to have a sorority party there. Though not the rager you normally see in films, as this party has only about ten guests, the trouble begins with the succubus crosses over into the real world and makes a pact with Adam. She will give him all the success he wants, be it with women and his career, all she asks in exchange is merely to eat all the visitors in his place.

Jamie: “She’s not a girl, she’s a succubus. That means she fucks men and then she kills them...not always in that order."

Pat is perturbed.

Dreams have very little to do with this film. It starts off with a dream sequence of Adam fully nude (one of the first of many interesting things we get to see) as he goes into a bathroom and begins writhing around with the succubus, who’s covered in blood. Aside from one other dream sequence this is the extent of the commanding dream portion of DREAMANIAC. The movie is steeped pretty high in maniacs, however. Not just when it comes to our evil lady, who’s name is Lily - really what else would a succubus’ name be? - but most everyone in that house is a little off their rocker. If they’re not trying to kill each other, it’s catty bitchiness between the women we have to worry about. Take, for instance, an exchange between Pat and one of the sorority elitists.

Pat: “Do I know you?”
Francis: “I doubt it. I’ve gone to private schools all my life and I’m rich as shit.”
Pat: “Oh, that’s right, you’re Francis. I thought I recognized those small tits.”

Very refined ladies. Unfortunately Pat doesn’t get to take care of the snobby bitch, but she’ll get what’s coming to her.

The deaths in this film range from kind of lame to pretty freaking awesome. Those of lesser quality involve an off-screen knife to the head and a PG-rated straight razor throat slicing. But before you can yawn, DeCoteau throws in coeds impaled by fire pokers, a ski pole to the eye, and even Lily biting a guy’s junk off during some ill fated oral pleasure. Without a doubt the most fun comes from one of the craziest weapons to “just find” in a house. Pat is frantically looking for something to defend her and her sister so she runs to the kitchen. Not a bad idea. There are usually knives and other sharp things there. Hell, I’ve even seen some fatal damage come from a corkscrew. But instead of checking the drawers or counters for a blade she runs to the cabinets and pulls out one of the last things you would expect - a drill with a drill bit about a foot-and-a-half in length! I was not even sure they made those until earlier today when I went to a hardware store and saw one with my own eyes (I’m not the handiest of men) but why the hell would Adam have one, and why would it be in a kitchen cabinet? So random and brutal - I love it!

Now that is a drill!

Then there’s the music. Oh man, is there music. The opening credits are nothing but a black screen with white letters and a seemingly never ending generic rock sounding tune. It sounds like some royalty free background music they might have used on MIGHTY MORPHIN’ POWER RANGERS. There are guitars with distortion but it’s watered down enough to not be too vulgar on the ears of the masses. The worst part is that it goes on for-e-ver, as do the end credits. Actually they count for a pretty big chunk of the running time. Out of the 83 minutes from beginning to end 8:12 are spent on credits! A movie that is, essentially, just under 75 minutes should not have credits that long. Then there is a scene where composer Don Great decided to rip-off one of the greatest horror scores ever. I’m talking about the main theme from Italian prog-rockers Gobin’s DEEP RED score. How dare he? Take a listen and see for yourself.

Here is Goblin's Theme from DEEP RED

And here is some of Don Great's "original" score

There are some characters I really feel sorry for in this film, not necessarily because they die, but because they never had a chance of a good night. I’m talking about all of these voracious young women who are at a party full of gay men. Most of the girls appear to be horny beyond belief and are throwing themselves at the guys but every single one of the men are most definitely not interested. You could say it’s because of the bad acting - and this film is full of some next level bad acting - but that does not excuse some of the things happening aside from speech patterns and mannerisms. One poor girl is dry humping her man of choice like crazy but he keeps coming up with excuses to walk away. First for food and when she’s just about got him ready to do the deed he has to get some punch. What the fuck?! Serves him right to get a knife to the back of the skull. Once there is some actual man-on-woman action between party goers it’s just wrong. One couple kisses so badly and unattractively that it might make you want to become celibate. Another girl manages to get her guy in the sack but he’s such an eager beaver that he can’t hold out for longer than 24 seconds, or 20 pumps. Yes, I counted. She does get him to go for a second round, off-screen, but once it’s over he throws up on her. Go figure.

Poor girls never had a chance

Alright, now I have to discuss the ending, it can’t be avoided, so if you don’t want the spoilers skip the next paragraph.

If there’s one thing that I have to give this movie credit for it’s the twist ending(s). Never before have I seen a film that has two, yes two, cop-out endings. Most everyone is dead, Pat has just killed her slightly possessed boyfriend and now stands face-to-face with Lily the succubus when the front door bursts open. It’s a doctor coming for Lily who is nothing more than an escaped mental patient. “Hope she didn’t cause you any trouble,” he says, before heading to exit with his ward. Then before your mind can fully run through all the things about that which make no sense, like how was she in Adam’s dreams, yet another curve ball is thrown. Suddenly we cut to the same actor who portrayed Adam in different dress in an office on the phone (and wearing IQ point soaring glasses). It turns out that this whole thing is the plot of his latest novel that he wrote over the weekend. HUH?! So, not only was the succubus aspect of the entire film bullshit, but everything was bullshit and never happened. If you’re anything like me you just sat there in shock for a few minutes stammering to yourself. Bravo, DeCoteau, Shyamalan has nothing on you.

So, there’s DREAMANIAC. Very little dreams, plenty of maniac and some good gore to keep you satiated along the way. It’s very cool that Wizard Video had this gimmicky little title for its DTV content, long before the days of the bargain bins at places like Wal-Mart. There will also be at least one more of these “too gory” titles, MUTANT HUNT, playing before the year is out. Hopefully it’ll make a little more sense than this flick but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Until next week - never let a motorcyclist named "Ace" into your home.

Body Count: 7
Scenes of Sexual Activity: 7
Best Death: Decapitation by way of extremely long drill bit!
Time to First Male Full Frontal Nudity: 4:21
Shots of Man Ass: 3
Taco Tattoos Talked About But Sadly Never Seen: 1

Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-5/11/11: THE ABOMINATION (1986)
-5/18/11: HOMEBODIES (1974)
-5/25/11: THE SPIDER LABYRINTH (1988)

What a kick ass logo!

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  • Brian Kelley

    Spoiler alert: MUTANT HUNT makes less sense than DREAMANIAC! :)

    • zombiefreak

      Holy crap! I can’t wait!

    • sleestakk

      That’s true… esp. since they aren’t even Mutants!

  • joe

    lovbeguy inhis underwear

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