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Slashed Dreams (1975)

aka Sunburst

Director: James Polakoff
Starring: Robert Englund, Peter Hooten, Katherine Baumann, James Keach, David Pritchard
Rated R Running time: 74 minutes
Public Domain

Oh, what I wouldn't give to see the look on Freddy Krueger fanboy's faces when they brought this one home. In the mid to late 80's, an enterprising video company took a 1975 movie featuring Robert Englund, re-titled it, and slapped it with artwork that would indicate that it was a slasher film, all for the purpose of cashing in on the freakishly successful Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Let's take a look at the VHS artwork for Slashed Dreams, shall we?

So as you can see, we have a scantily clad woman, presumably being threatened by an knife-wielding a-hole. To be fair, the film does feature some homicidal meanies, and if I recall correctly, they are armed with a knife. So technically, the VHS-version of Slashed Dreams is factually accurate. Where we run into trouble, however, is in the tone that the artwork tries to convey. The best way to drive this point home is to show you the original movie poster for the very same film, when it was released under the title Sunburst.

Night and day, my friends, night and day. The latter poster is a much more accurate representation of Slashed Dreams (aka Sunburst) - a hippy-dippy, hairy-legged, feelgood rape/revenge movie.

Fed up with bourgeois society, Robert and Jenny, a couple of idealistic college kids decide to venture out into the wilderness to visit their cabin-dwelling friend, Michael (Robert Englund). After driving for what feels like an eternity, they stop at a general store run by Rudy Vallee, of all people. Rudy uses the occasion to launch into an impromptu performance, entertaining the dopey nature lovers. Things get serious when Rudy insists that they need to take a knife with them. Since that would be against their peace-and-love ways, they decline. Rudy is disappointed, but wishes them a safe journey. After still some more driving, the couple arrive in the full-blown boonies. They walk through the woods, pick berries, and even meet a friendly bear. All is well and good until they run into a couple of oddly dressed ruffians, who clearly are up to no damn good (James Keach and David Pritchard, who both helped write the movie). Rather than high-tailing it out of the area, the couple just blow the whole encounter off. So when the thugs pay them a visit later that night, beat up Robert (Peter Hooten) and rape Jenny (Katherine Baumann), we are want to say "I told you so".

Robert Englund turns up in the final act, just following the assault. He tries to console the couple by making them tea and telling Jenny to "get over it" in a really existential, confusing way. Robert goes off to confront the attackers, and after a clumsily staged tussle and a little bit of mud wrestling, the bad guys run away. Robert, Jenny, and Michael share a laugh and are now free to frolic about the forest without fear of getting raped again.

It's silly, naive, and boring, but Slashed Dreams is not awful. Nothing much happens, the villains aren't scary in any way whatsoever, and the some of the most irritating folk music this side of Joan Baez plays incessantly. This is a very, VERY 70's movie that looks and feels like a hybrid of a nature film and an anti-rape PSA. Kinda hard to truly hate a movie like this when it is so well-intentioned - sort of like stuffing a kitten into a woodchipper. Still, I can't recommend Slashed Dreams to anyone except for maybe Lilith Fair-goers and the eunuchs who love them.

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