directed by Harry Cokeliss
starring Jemma Redgrave, Timothy Spall, Jimmy Nail
If Dream Demon feels like a British knock-off of A Nightmare on Elm Street, that is exactly what it is. The UK distributors for the Wes Craven horror franchise wanted to do a quick and cheap version of the dream horror franchise. Harley Cokeliss, one time second unit director on The Empire Strikes Back and veteran British horror screenwriter Christopher Wicking (To the Devil a Daughter), teamed up on a script that mixes dream logic surrealism with a heavy dash of social satire on the royal princesses Diana and Sarah, who were omnipresent in the late 1980s. The result is an uneven, but entertaining haunted house movie.
Diana, played by Jemma Redgrave (Doctor Who), is engaged to a Falklands War hero and is being plagued by nightmares and hounded by the press, especially a loathsome reporter and photographer duo played by Jimmy Nail and Timothy Spall. Jenny, (Kathleen Wilhoite, Private School) a young American woman searching for clues about her childhood spent in Diana’s house, crashes into Diana’s fragile life. Diana and Kathleen’s journeys intertwine as both women have to confront their demons as memory and nightmare collide in the house with Kathleen’s repressed memories of child abuse lurking on the top floor and Diana’s fear of the future and her sexuality residing in the basement. Only the ground floor holds a tenuous grasp on the present day reality and even that is fractured with a mirror universe. Both women have to help each other confront their fear in order to survive.
Dream Demon was released theatrically in the UK in 1988 but apart from a brief home video release in the states in the early ’90s, it was essentially a lost film. The film became orphaned during a bankruptcy and disappeared. Harry Cokeliss found the original negative and worked with the British Film Institute to get the film restored. The resulting disc is gorgeous and with the ability to work out better color timing probably looks better than it did when it was made. The commemorate the resurrection of Dream Demon, Arrow Video compiled interviews with director Harley Cokeliss, producer Paul Webster, composer Bill Nelson and actors Jemma Redgrave, Mark Greenstreet, Nickolas Grace, and Annabelle Lanyon. The disc also features a 45 minute scene specific commentary by director Harley Cokeliss and producer Paul Webster is a fun listen as both men breakdown the special effects, the satire and symbolism at work in the movie, and the various influences and homages in Dream Demon including Orson Welles (The Trial, 1962), the art and philosophy of Jean Cocteau and the surreal photography of Joel-Peter Witkin.