Based on an outline that Roger Zelazny wrote, his novella “He Who Shapes” and the novel The Dream Master, this wasn’t made with any other input from the author. At least he got paid!
The story is credited to David Loughery, who wrote the fifth Star Trek and I still wonder why God needs a starship. The script is from Chuck Russell, who would go on to make A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and The Blob. Director Joseph Ruben made The Pom Pom Girls, The Stepfather, The Good Son and Sleeping With the Enemy. He knows how to make entertaining trash and I say that in the kindest of ways.
Alex Gardner (Dennis Quaid) might be a psychic, but he doesn’t want tested any more. Not after all the poking and prodding in his youth by Dr. Paul Novotny (Max von Sydow). But when Novotny saves him from some low level goons who want to use Gardner’s psychic powers, he starts listening to how he’s now involved in government-funded psychic research. What really gets Alex on board is one look at Dr. Jane DeVries (Kate Capshaw).
The goal is to send people into the dreamscape. There’s some exposition about the Senoi natives of Malaysia thinking that the dream world is as real as our own and you know me, I’m always here for movie BS.
Tommy Ray Glatman (David Patrick Kelly) is the only person who has entered the dreamscape, but he’s a daddy and old lady murdering maniac, so luckily Alex can get in and help little kids get over their bad dreams. Horror novelist Charlie Prince (George Wendt) — who wrote a book called Stab, so is this Scream universe canon? — tells Alex that he’s just a weapon to be used by Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer) to kill the President (Eddie Albert) and preserve the military industrial complex.
Yeah, a lot happens.
The end of this movie is wild. Alex is inside the President’s post-nuclear terror dream, as mutants hunt the President and Tommy Ray has nunchuks and can also be a snake man before Alex takes the form of Tommy’s dad, tells the final boss that he loves him and then the leader of the free world stabs the bad guy from behind, killing him, because even the most hopeful of Presidents still ordered drone strikes. Then our hero goes into Blair’s dream and straight up kills him so he can be with Kate Capshaw.
The second PG-13 movie ever released — after Red Dawn — this is also the second movie that Kate Capshaw would be in in 1984 where a man’s heart is ripped out of his chest.
You know, I love this goofy movie. The effects are dated, there’s fog everywhere and the poster is totally trying to make you think Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s one of the first movies I ever rented and watching it again, it made me so happy knowing that I can just put it on at any time.