So once again we have survived.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

From the Academy Award winning writer of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and MYSTIC RIVER, and the director of DEEP BLUE SEA, and with a story by the guy who did the novelization of E.T., comes a new old name in terror…

or, to put it another way, from the writer of PAYBACK and the director of DIE HARD 2 comes a part 4 that’s not as awesome as that sounds. If you are a Freddy devotee like myself you enjoy watching this crap every once in a while, but it’s the first one in the series that doesn’t advance the story at all.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s kind of nice that they continue with some of the characters from part 3, you don’t see that in too many slasher sequels. This one starts out with Kincaid, Joey and Kristen (now played by Tuesday Knight instead of Patricia Arquette and seeming to have a completely different personality) out of the institution and in a regular high school like the kids in parts 1-2. (I wonder if they all go to the same school Nancy did? I’m not sure.)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream MasterEventually these part 3 survivors all get picked off, as does Kristen’s boyfriend, a karate practicioner who battles invisible Freddy in a dojo and loses due to a dishonorable flying glove move. (Also, I’m not sure because he’s invisible but I bet Freddy didn’t even bow after he defeated him.) But Kristen’s boyfriend’s sister Alice happened to be pulled into Kristen’s dream when she died so Kristen’s dream power of pulling people into her dreams is transferred to her. You know how those dream powers work. It seems that Freddy has killed all of the kids of the people who burned him alive so now he needs Alice to pull her friends into dreams in order for him to get them.

At this point the movies have no scare value outside of a slumber party. There are lots of cool and imaginative special effects to pass the time (I especially like the girl transforming into a roach and the part where little arms comes out of Freddy’s withered flesh and tear his head in half) but the dreams are now art director show off pieces and not anything like real dreams. Instead of nonsensical imagery from your subconscious it’s all obvious “spooky” imagery like little girls jumproping singing the Freddy song in front of the rotten haunted house version of where Nancy used to live. There are maybe two bits that remind me of real dreams:

  1. Alice and her boyfriend Dan find themselves in a loop, doing the same thing over and over again and not able to get to their friend to save her.
  2. Kristen is sinking into sand and Freddy is stepping on her head

But even these parts have a phony Hollywood feel because in 1 she’s running past a ’50s style diner where she works as a waitress (not exactly the typical experience for a suburban teenager in 1988) and in 2 Freddy has just exploded out of a sandcastle and is wearing sunglasses.

In this movie Freddy is what we now refer to as “a complete douchebag.” In most of his scenes he says some asinine line like “Welcome to wonderland, Alice!” or “Why don’t you reach out… and cut someone?” or, when he kills a guy on a waterbed, “How’s this for a wet dream?” Maybe the worst part of all is when he’s eating a pizza with tiny heads for sausages, representing the souls of his victims, and he says “I love soul food!” I mean come on dude. We already hated you for murdering children, now you gotta make us uncomfortable with your lame jokes. Don’t expect a courtesy laugh, pal. You are just the worst.

In the part 3 review I mentioned that it added to the formula the idea of having to expand Freddy’s backstory in each sequel. Well, I forgot that they didn’t do that in part 4 but you almost miss it because there’s so little new territory explored here. About the only addition to the mythology is that Alice defeats Freddy with a poem she knows called “The Dream Master” which is actually just a rewrite of the 18th century children’s prayer “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.” As if we never heard that one before. At least Freddy is defeated in dreams and never comes into the real world.

One funny detail I don’t remember noticing before: Kristen, Kincaid and Joey are all buried on the same plot as Nancy and her dad (John Saxon). There’s a shot that shows all their tombstones together. It would be funnier if they made tombstones for every victim in the series so far. But this is pre-DEEP BLUE SEA Renny Harlin, he wasn’t ready to go that absurd yet.

http://youtu.be/1iqnO8rJnjs

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Friday, March 28th, 2008 at 11:23 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master”

  1. grimgrinningchris

    October 21st, 2013 at 1:18 am

    I’m still not sure how Freddy gets resurrected by a dog pissing fire on his bones? Huh? I mean its awesome and all, but…huh?

  2. I think a dog pissing fire on your bones would resurrect everybody!

  3. I find it amusing/disturbing how a childmurderer like Freddy became mainstream.

  4. It helps that you never see him harm a child at any point in the entire series. The only people he ever kills are 28-year-old teenagers and the occasional negligent parent. Hard to take issue with that.

  5. I remember when part 5 was new, Freddy also became very mainstream in Germany and my sister (who was at her young age much more interested in horror stuff than today) and I kept seeing Freddy’s face everywhere. There were even some audio plays on tape* based on that movie, lying on the shelf right next to audio tapes of ALF or RAINBOW BRITE. And of course every promotional picture we saw had Freddy sporting his nice guy anti-hero smile. So we kept wondering if Freddy was a good guy. The burned face and the long knives on his fingers screamed “BAD GUY!!!”, but he always looked so nice! And most of all, if he is the bad guy, why is he front and center of the advertising? That totally blew our infant minds.

    At least my sister had some friends whose parents rented (and copied) more videos than we did, so we learned about Freddy’s true nature pretty soon.

    *I always wondered how popular these things are in the US and other countries. Here in Germany there is a full subculture based on these things, but apparently the rest of the world seems to be pretty indifferent about it.

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