It unfortunately draws comparisons to the superior A Nightmare on Elm Street, but it’s handled much differently and at least deserves to be better known. It’s a classic.
Dennis (Jaws 3-D) Quaid stars as a hotshot psychic who’s recruited by Max (The Exorcist) Von Sydow for an experimental process where people can enter each others dreams. He helps a troubled boy battle the sinister and scary Snakeman (That sucker gave me nightmares as a kid!) and falls in love with Kate (Best Defense) Capshaw. Christopher (Dracula 2000) Plummer wants to use the technology to send a killer (the always great David Patrick Kelly from The Warriors) to assassinate the President (Edward Albert). Eventually Quaid enters the Prez’s sleep to save him from Kelly who can fight like Bruce Lee, morph into the Snakeman and kill with retractable fingernails. Of the film’s many dream sequences, there’s an amazing fall off of a building, a sex comedy dream and an eerie apocalyptic dream where Kelly leads an army of zombies (“He did this to you!”).
Director Joseph (The Stepfather) Ruben perfectly balances the film’s scares with its humorous moments and always keeps the audience on its toes (like the shock ending). Quiaid is at his best and he and Capshaw (also in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom the same year) have easy chemistry together (like the scene where he becomes “the man of her dreams.”). George (Cheers) Wendt co-stars. Ruben had earlier directed Gorp, which also starred Quaid.