Beyond Dream's Door
beyond dream's door | jay woelfel | nick baldasare | rick kesler | susan pinsky | drama | fantasy | lovecraftian | surreal | united states | monster | monsters | creature | creatures | cosmic horror | witch | norm singer | daniel white | john dunleavy | darby vasbinder
Film: Beyond Dream’s Door
Director: Jay Woelfel
Writer: Jay Woelfel
Starring: Nick Baldasare, Rick Kesler and Susan Pinsky
This is an odd movie. I first heard about it when Mr. Parka brought it up on a podcast. From what I heard; this was a wild movie from the late 1980s. I put it down as a potential movie to watch for the Podcast Under the Stairs’ Summer Challenge Series for 1988. I lucked out that the Gateway Film Center was showing it as part of their Mammoth Monday so my first watch was on the big screen.
Synopsis: Ben’s (Nick Baldasare) nightmares come back to haunt him and his friends.
So, I’m going to be honest. This is a hard movie to talk about. It feels like a dream. What I mean here is that we jump into the middle of scenes and then switch to the next much like you do in a dream. It can be a bit jarring at times, but it also feels natural in a way. Even though I tend to start with recapping the movie, I wanted to give credit to writer/director Jay Woelfel, as well as the editors of Susan Resatka and Randy Spears. I’m not normally a fan of dream sequences, but what they do here works.
With that out of the way, we follow Ben. He is trying to study when his younger brother of Ricky (Lucas Simpson), wants to play hide and seek. He tells him he can’t, but Ricky gets him to change his mind. Ben goes to hide and ends up in the basement. He sneaks past a shelving unit to a crawlspace. While there, he is attacked by a monster. Ricky watches as this happens.
We then shift to Ben back in his room where he is enticed by a character credited as Witch (Darby Vasbinder). She beckons him to join her in bed, but he stands his ground. If you can’t tell, this is all quite surreal. Ben then wakes up and writes up his dream on a typewriter.
The movie then introduces us to two teaching assistants. There is Eric Baxter (Rick Kesler), who just got this position, and he is joining Julie Oxel (Susan Pinsky). We get an interesting meeting with Professor Noxx (Norm Singer). In their class is Ben. He gives the professor the papers detailing his dream, asking if he will read it. Professor Noxx gets to them that night and wants Ben to come over to discuss at once. Things aren’t as they seem though. The lines between dreams and the real world are blurred. There is also a creature that is trying to get into our world through dream’s door. This is also where horror lies.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap and fleshing it out. I think that should be enough to give you an idea of what we are getting here. Now I’ve already commended the filmmaking. This is a low budget movie but being able to convey the atmosphere of what they’re going for was great. This feels like it is Lovecraftian. We never get to know what these creatures are, but it feels like ideas Lovecraft would explore. There are ancient ones that we could call demons. We are blurring the lines of reality with the supernatural. Despite the jarring nature of how things play out, I was invested to see where this would go. If a character is killed, they’re not necessarily gone. In the dream world, things don’t work in the confines of reality.
Going beyond borrowing from Lovecraft, this does feel inspired by A Nightmare on Elm Street. I think this movie does well in getting that same type of atmosphere with using sleep and dreams. We are getting a different style of dream demon than you would with Freddy Krueger. This movie isn’t a slasher film though, so I do want to temper expectations there. Again, much like how this is difficult to recap, it is also tough to classify. We get a creature, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a creature feature, as that isn’t the focus. I’ve already used the best sub-genre that I think with cosmic horror.
That should be enough there, so where I’ll go next would be the acting. Baldasare isn’t great, but I think he works here. From what I was able to find about him, he did some theater and was in other movies as well. He is a bit stiff here, but I’m going to partly say that is with the writing. I don’t think he is bad by any stretch. Being that most of this is in a dream, there is a surreal feel to it that his performance fit. Kesler, Pinsky, Singer and the rest of the cast fall into this as well. They work for what was needed. A bright spot I want to include is that we see Vasbinder nude a few times, so if you are looking for that.
The last things then to go into would be the effects and the soundtrack. For the former, they were a solid. They were done practical and even though at times I could tell they were fake; I still appreciate it. There is blood with aftermath of kills that look good. They also do some interesting things with characters after they die. We are seeing the aftermath, but they’re still able to move around which is creepy. It also adds to the atmosphere. Speaking of which, I think the soundtrack helps there as well. Not a score that I would listen to outside of the movie. It does work with what they needed for sure in building an eerie vibe.
In conclusion, this was an interesting movie that I’m glad I got to see. We are getting a film that blurs the lines of reality with dreams. It can be jarring at times, but I think that adds to what they’re doing here. I love the Lovecraftian vibe I got from this. The acting can be a bit stiff, but I can be forgiving there. The effects we get are solid. They were at least done practical which I can appreciate. I like what the score does to help build the atmosphere here. Do not come in expecting a lot. This movie has a lower budget, which impressed me with what they did with it. I’d say that this is an above average movie for me. I’d only recommend it if you like regional cinema or low budget horror movies.
My Rating: 7 out of 10