You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe...
'Beyond Dream's Door' - 1989, Directed by Jay Woelfel
This film has been called, by various sources, a masterpiece and a piece of garbage. I would say it lies somewhere between those two points, but probably closer to masterpiece than the latter. It is definitely flawed, and there's no doubt it's an amateur affair, but the ambitions are lofty and Jay Woelfel is a man who has studied his cinema history.
Coming somewhere from the depths of the Ohio State University media program, this is kind of like David Lynch directing 'Nightmare on Elm Street,' and he decides to take out the Freddy character altogether. What you're left with are bizarre, fragmented and dreamlike scenes, and a whole lot of uneasiness.
The plot concerns a Psychology student named Ben Dobbs who is having strange nightmares. He writes them down, and allows his professor to read them. Why, I'm not sure, because the professor seems to be kind of a nutjob. At one point, he plays a trick on his TA where he pretends to be a failing student, and threatens to blow out his brains for getting an 'F' to gauge the TA's reaction(??).
Ben's nightmares (of being pursued by a faceless monster) get worse, and the line between dreams and reality is steadily blurred. There are a few scenes where it was unclear if he was supposed to still be dreaming, or if the production team just made an error in editing. It can be tough with some of these low-budget features to tell what's intentional and what's not, but I'd like to think that Mr. Woelfel knew what he was doing in this case.
So, pretty soon other characters, including the professor and the TA, are being sucked into Dobbs' nightmares, and those who succumb are basically wiped off the face of the earth...their houses disappear, as well as anybody's knowledge of them.
The reason that all this is happening? Ben has ignored his dreams since he was a child, and they are mad at him. Yep. The dreamworld is waging a war on people who don't pay attention to dreams.
This is favorable review of this demented low-budget flick, if you couldn't tell, but I think I need about three more viewings to make sense of everything, because it's a very dense film.
Regardless, it's something all fans of horror and experimental film should check out.
VHS photo by Toby Hudson.