Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

I thought, with it being Halloween week, I'd write about a movie that I've always thought was the biggest influence on my writing for the WILD RPG. No, not Inception, though that's the one that really got me writing the game itself...

No, I thought I'd write about a scary movie that completely opened my eyes to dreams as a game device - Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The UK Movie Poster, which was also the cover of the VHS I bought back in the 80s (I still have that somewhere)...
The only problem is, I started to look into Elm St... It was a long, long time ago, and I noticed that it came out the same year as another movie that was a huge influence on me as well... Dreamscape.

And now I can't remember which one I saw first.

So I'll credit them both with being the biggest influences on WILD.

There's a good chance I saw Dreamscape first as I was a massive Indiana Jones fan (Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first VHS tape I bought as it was one of the first VHS movies to come out at a retail level immediately - and I ended up buying Temple of Doom as a new Rental VHS which cost a fortune... saving, paying for it in advance instalments at my local video rental store... yes, I was that big an Indy nerd). Anyway, I was a big fan of Indiana Jones, and there was this movie coming out that had Kate Capshaw in it - the underrated Willie Scott from Temple of Doom. You could tell someone in the movie's marketing thought "you know, that actor from Indiana Jones is in this movie, let's market it like one of those films..."

Jump on that Indiana Jones bandwagon why don't you?
The amazing Drew Struzan again. I miss movie posters like this...
Original UK VHS Cover
Dreamscape is far from being an Indiana Jones movie. Dennis Quaid plays Alex Gardner, a psychic who is brought into a research project to project himself into the dreams of others to try to help them overcome night terrors. He stumbles upon a plot by Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer), a government agent using his psychic agents to implant dreams of nuclear terror into the mind of the President, and aiming to assassinate him in his dreams. Gardner sets out to stop the plot, save the President, and aid the nuclear peace process.

Sure the special effects have dated a bit, but the plot's great. It was a revelation at the time for me, and I found the idea of going into other people's dreams fascinating.

If you haven't seen it, I'd definitely recommend checking it out.

Then, a matter of months later, the TV channels in the UK started running ads for A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The ads were really creepy, and had a lot of the iconic imagery that you expect from Elm St now - Johnny Depp getting swallowed by the bed, Amanda Wyss spinning around in the air, Freddy walking through the cell bars... I was very intrigued. I managed to rent the VHS the day it was released. I have a weird memory of watching it around at one of the game group's house, Milo's I think.

I was mesmerised. Genuinely scary, but when the line between dreaming and reality blurred - when Nancy falls asleep in class but class continues as a weird dreamscape... And the concept of grabbing something in the dream and waking, pulling it into the waking world... I loved it.

I mentioned before on this blog that I attempted to run A Nightmare on Elm Street as a Call of Cthulhu game for my unsuspecting players, but I don't know if it worked. I seem to remember it not going so well, once characters started dying...

Thirty-plus years later, and I'm still fascinated by dreams, and, along with Inception, these movies continue to be an inspiration for my game writing.