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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.

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 skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

28 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.

  6. Man this must be one of Vern’s shortest reviews and I totally get why – there’s not much to say other than this just feels like “Dream Warriors, but not as good”. I mean, Harlin’s trying his damnedest and there’s alot of shots that are actually pretty iconic and would look great in a trailer, but this might be the least ambitious, laziest script of the series. It’s not a bad movie but it’s kind of a chore to watch honestly. It might be better outside of a binge watch.

    I feel like I should kinda be pissed off that the remaining Dream Warriors are unceremoniously killed off immediately, but they don’t feel the same and don’t do any Dream Warrior-ing so I don’t really care. The script takes the time to foreshadow every character trait that will come back later in the most head-thumpiest way, but can’t even be bothered to foreshadow the completely random ending (I’m positive Freddy has come across a mirror at some point in this series without exploding). Alice is actually a pretty decent protagonist even though she has to split duties with faux-Kristen for another Psycho-main character-swap out that nobody asked for. Oh well, at least this has the series’ grossest death with the cockroach sequence and the immortal Freddy line “Sayanora, Rick-San!”

  7. Probably been 10-15 years since I saw this, but I thought there were some fairly inspired kills (waterbed, roach motel, pizza meatball Freddy), and I thought the souls in Freddy’s chest and tearing him apart was a pretty cool effect. Also, honestly, even starting with the original, most ways of killing Freddy were always pretty much just variants on “tell Freddy to go away and you’re not scared of him — really hard,” so, I forgive the “Evil shall see itself and it shall die” womp-womp of this one. I also thought Alice was winning final girl (making up for Tuesday Knight who was fine but not at all right for the Kristen part).

  8. This is my favorite of the series for the same reason Friday the 13th Part VII is my go to From that franchise: it’s fun. Not all of the jokes may hit but plenty do, some creative kills, and it’s breezy. I’m sure purists of both find these two aberrations but if so I’m thankful for that. While Part VII is one I’ll go back to more often for slasher fun this Elm Street is always queued up when I go for a Jason v. Freddy night.

  9. Alright, it’s a dark and stormy night, so I’m gonna throw this on once I get a good buzz going. 3 was my first NOES, so 4 was the first one I went into knowing what to expect and boy did it deliver the goods.

    Clubside, F13 Part 7 has two of the most satisfying kills in the whole series, simply because they are just awful garbage people. I think you know which two I mean, too.

  10. F7 is really great. In the Blumhouse era, I don’t understand why they can’t get their act together and start cranking out a Friday movie each year. They can’t be very expensive to make, built in audience. Must just be rights stuff or something. Every now and again I’ll hear something about wanting to do another one but still haven’t cracked the story or something. It’s like, WTF, — fine, go ahead and work on cracking some really interesting GODFATHER of F13 films ***BUT*** in the meantime don’t stop the presses waiting on that shit. Just keep throwing shit at the wall every year (LIKE THEY DID WITH THE ORIGINALS IN THE 80s — this is not a novel or risky idea) and keep that train going. I do not understand with these films in general what the hell these people are waiting on. In an era where they are pumping out dubious sequels and reboots to every property, it’s like making another F13 sequel is tampering with an unbesmirched legacy of cinematic perfection. This kind of dicking around goes back to FVJ, where they literally spent like 10 years trying to find a way to team these two guys up. That’s the same timespan of every IRON MAN MCU appearance and less than the timespan for every CONJURING FILM. What the hell? I’m not as angry as I sound, just incredulous and exasperated.

  11. I suspect the problem is that nobody making any decisions on this franchise actually likes or understands the appeal of the franchise at all, so they’re just stabbing in the dark at what they think fans might want while also blundering about trying to attract new fans by keeping up with whatever recent trend their marketing-damaged brains think is the next big thing. Problem is, by the time they’re done hemming and hawing and covering their asses so that if it fails they always have someone else to blame, the next big thing has moved on and they have to start the process all over. Like that ridiculous prequel idea where Jason is a lovelorn high school student or some bullshit. They probably saw how LEATHERFACE tanked and now it’s back to the drawing board.

    I believe this is also why Dr. Dre albums take a decade to make.

  12. I’m off work and apparently choking the Vern.com intertubes, b/c I couldn’t get this comment to take. Here’s hoping it doesn’t end up being the umpteenth duplicate if they all go through at once.

    Yeah, overthinking the business shit and not studying their history or studying what Blum is doing right-effing-now. No excuse for that.

    I can’t resist the chance to talk about Dr. Dre, because he’s a great case study in wasted talent. Yeah, there is this mythology around Dr. Dre’s perfectionism, too, and people kind of romanticize that shit with him, but I tend to think it’s just creative legacy paralysis or something. Parkison’s law – work expands to fill however much time you give it. There is this “we need the time to get it right” energy that I’m not convinced leads to a superior result, just a lot less result. Romanticizing over-thinking shit, basically. I much prefer the Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen (yes, Woody Allen), Buckethead, rap mixtape era, MCU energy that says “fuck it, let’s just keep it going, keep putting shit out, some of it’ll work, some of it won’t” ethos. I mean, sure, if it’s all shit, then you got a problem, but I feel like these kinds get caught up in over-thinking, disappear up their own creative legacy/ego asses, and then it’s over. They start believing their own ego bullshit or feeling like slave to the pop culture mythology when they could just be doing shit and getting over themselves. I mean, I realize they don’t owe me anything or whatever, but just from the psychology of it, I think the myth of the tortured non-prolific genius is just a self-protective feeback loop of overthinking that results in less net awesome shit in the world. It’s not a necessary component of the process or a thing to be celebrated or mythologized — it’s just being stuck on a loop.

  13. Yeah, but just imagine, if artists didn’t overthink, the world would never have been blessed with CHINESE DEMOCRACY!

  14. Checkmate!

    Ironically, Buckethead was the highlight of that album and then he’s gone on to produce only a couple hundred EPs (of varying quality but some true gems) since then. Hey Axl, while you bloat out and be a genius I’ll be recording and releasing material


    Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube.

  15. Serious response: I agree with your stance. Part of my journey as a creative type individual was learning to get out of my own way. I used to agonize over every sentence I wrote, and as a consequence, I never fucking finished anything. I’d worry about how best to employ a dependent clause to ease into a sentence or something when I should have been worried about the content of that sentence.

    What helped was when I started making music (I am not a musician, but I make hip-hop remixes with samples and loops). There are two reasons for this. 1. I had no idea what I was doing when I started (still kind of don’t), so I just used my intuition to figure out what worked and what didn’t. In creative endeavors, intuition is a far more reliable barometer of effectiveness than calculation, and I found that I really enjoyed going with the flow. I never have any set idea of what a song should sound like when I start it, and it’s very freeing to just sit back and allow the song tell me what it wants to be. (Today, for instance, I sampled “Hyperactive!” by Thomas Dolby to remix a Big Daddy Kane song simply because they have the same BPM, and was delighted to realize that, since the Kane track is all about reminiscing about back in the day, I could use that little insert from the Dolby song where somebody says “Tell me about your childhood” as a segue between verse and chorus. Totally unplanned, completely serendipitous, and utterly delightful. I live for shit like that.) Relying on intuition and inspiration is the opposite of how I used to write, but I’m much more productive now that I bring a little of that freewheeling spirit to my fiction. 2. I make songs while I write, which is totally not what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to clear your mind of distractions, but I find that I NEED distractions. Multitasking supposedly dilutes overall productivity, but I’m most effective as a writer when I do not allow myself to fully focus on the words, lest I overthink them. Making music while I write gives the obsessive, worrying part of my brain something to chew on, leaving the subconscious free to do its job and tell the story that it instinctively knows how to tell. I spent more years than I care to admit creatively cockblocking myself because of indecision, and I’m happy to say that I’ve finally found a process that works for me. I write stories and I make songs and it’s all part of the same creative alchemy that has very little to do with what my conscious mind does or does not want the end product to be. It’s gonna be what it’s gonna be and I am happy with that.

  16. Axl seem to have mellowed quite a lot. He took what was essentially a journeymans job to replace Brian Johnson in Ac/Dc.And honestly his voice sounds a million times better now singing stuff like Back in Back and Whole Lotta Rosie than whatever that cacophony CHINESE DEMOCRACY was.

  17. Majestyk, could you please try to space your text into paragraphs? It looks less like amadmans stream of conscouisness that way.

  18. Oh, and I’ve never heard of Parkinson’s law, but I’ve always said that work is like a goldfish: It grows to fit the bowl it’s in.

  19. Majestyk, that resonates a lot and has to be a corollary or close cousin of the the those-who-can’t-do-teach idea — not that I actually buy that idea in any strict sense, but the point being that there is a difference in being a master of deconstructing and reconstructing the grammar and mechanics of something vs. flowing with something truly inspired and novel. Another business-speak cliche, but the perfect really can be the enemy of the good.

    Shoot, yeah, here again, I think I have a thing against divas like Axl, but I do think you’re right, and I thought it was pretty cool him taking over for that AC/DC tour. I keep hearing current GNR members someone (generally not Axl, though!) threatening to record new material, and we’ll see. Somewhere between impulsivity and over-thinking is the sweet spot of healthy creative risk and not taking oneself so damn seriously. Thumbs up!

  20. Isn’t there also some rights issue about the F13 franchise going on for years? I remember hearing about that once in a while, without remembering details. All in all it seems like they can use Jason for video games and comics, but not for movies.

  21. This is an interesting question about creativity and vocation and such (actually, a series of questions). I’ve always been more on the receiving end of art and have not done much creative writing or anything else with the arts. The job I work is basically to pay the bills, and I don’t have a great emotional or identity investment in it, and so, if I won the lottery, I’d definitely quit or scale way back and do something else with my time (probably be on the internet too much). For better or worse, I never found a “one thing” that I felt like I was made to do and only happy doing, etc., etc. That is kind of depressing for someone who was raised with hero’s journey narratives in both film and popular self-help culture, where you are expected to find the thing you love doing and do only that. That’s a story for another day, though.

    In contrast, when I think of Dre, Axl, Inspectah Deck, Vern, Ebert, Stallone, or any of these other artists, I think of them as people who are always going to keep doing what they do, because it really is what they love, and it’s like they were made to do that. Yes, most of them work really hard, they are also doing what they love doing and are uniquely gifted to do. For that reason, I can only look at Dre and his beats or Axl and his $100M-earning legacy tour and feel like it’s a waste. This is the same thing I’m getting at in the TERMINATOR and RAMBO V threads. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally here for a lot of this. I’d much rather have more RAMBOs than fewer, and more Arnold theatrical releases than fewer, and I’m glad Dre’s doing good off of his Beats and whatnot, and I’m really glad that GNR is sort of re-constituted and on good terms and out there playing and sounding pretty good. But I also want to see these guys creating new-new shit. An example is Inspectah Deck on those CZARFACE albums. Those are good albums that are fun and feel effortless. Dude is sharp, still has it, and what he’s doing on those albums sounds better than anything he ever did as a solo artist and better than a lot of late-period WU-TANG output. Same with Ghostface’s first 12 REASONS TO DIE album and SOUR SOUL. I just look at Dre shilling his Beats or doing whatever the fuck he’s supposedly doing with Apple, and I’m like, you have the platform and freedom and the resources to do whatever the fuck you want, and you’re a creative person, so stop counting your money and do some creative shit.

    I guess I should take that advice for myself more and maybe spend less time virtually browbeating these dudes, but there are poeple out there who keep creating and pushing instead of or in addition to just milking the old shit or just sitting on their 1%-er money bags while the rest of the world gets is dystopia on.

  22. CJ, I think you’re correct re: rights (didn’t know that!), but these guys have had “thumb-up-ass” syndrome for years w/ this (surely before the rights issue) and also w/ ANOES and going back to FVJ.

  23. As I understand it, the rights issue with FRIDAY THE 13TH is that screenwriter Victor Miller was paid off a small amount at the time but did not share in a cut of the millions of dollars the movie made, let alone what the franchise has made over the years. Apparently U.S. copyright law gives you the right to challenge for the rights to something you sold off after 35 years. I think he deserves it, and he won the lawsuit, but I think it’s still being appealed.

    It’s too bad Steve Miner and Ron Kurz, who kind of created the franchise by doing the first two with Jason, probly don’t get anything out of this.

    But yes, I would be down for ten more FRIDAYs as long as Platinum Dunes doesn’t make them.

  24. I watched Friday 7 last Friday the 13th. I hadn’t seen it in decades so I was expecting to like it when I saw it younger. Nope. I think it stinks. Couple of issues. The kills are lame because the MPAA cut everything. It’s the least graphic by a wide margin. The climatic fight is such a missed opportunity. They do some fun stuff but literally her plan is to pick up Jason and drop him. This is not creative and makes her seem stupid. Ugh I hate it.

  25. I’m more of a fan of the even numbered entries in the Friday the 13th series myself, particularly 2, 4, and 6.

  26. Yeah, I know it has that bad reputation for over-censoring it, but I still kind of love it. I think it looks great, Tina is great, her boyfriend guy is likable, Bernie from WEEKEND AT BERNIE’s is a great manipulative and vaguely sinister authority figure, and I love Jason meeting his match. The light fixture smacking him in the face and Tina squeezing his mask around his face til it pops off revealing an awesomly gnarly blackened Jason face is an all-timer for me. I also enjoyed can-magically-teleport Jason, and I think this was his first appearance.

  27. One of these days Skani and I will agree on a movie. Lol

  28. One of these days Skani and I will agree on a movie. Lol

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