Two men, one war-weary (Miki Manojlovic) and the other an idealistic college student (Ertan Shaban), traverse their own separate but intersecting hells in “Like a Bad Dream.” Croatian helmer Antonio Mitrikeski has even imported Robert Englund from New Line’s Elm Street “Nightmare” franchise for pic, but the reels of dismal imagery unspooled here spring less from the dark night of the soul than from the underlit imagination of the filmmaker. Distrib chances look dim for this Balkan downer.
Pic starts promisingly, thanks to the extraordinary presence of virtuoso thesp Manojlovic (“Underground,” “Cabaret Balkan,” “Criminal Lovers”) striding through the Croatian countryside. A tender lovemaking scene between Manojlovic and his medievally ethereal wife (Iskra Veterova) slowly turns brutal, literally bringing home the dehumanization of war. Manojlovic’s sad/demonic face serves as a fitting summation of what has become of former Yugoslavia. But helmer Mitrikeski’s taste for brooding angst soon bogs down in a garishly dreary Faustian tale of soulless professor Englund (as a gay Mephistopheles) and his innocent young Macedonian acolyte. The soundtrack sounds like one long lamentation.