A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master
After the success of Dream Warriors it was inevitable that we would be getting another sequel. In the horror genre if a movie makes money, it’s almost a guarantee that a sequel will be made. Given the fan response to the third entry, it was not a matter of if, but rather when. Also, given the rather definitive death that Freddy received, the question of how he would be brought back also needed to be asked.
New Line hired Renny Harlin to helm the next installment, about a year before he broke out as one of the action genres go to directors. Given that knowledge, the fact that the film is less scary and more cheesy is expected. When people think of the jokester that Freddy became, The Dream Master is really the film that put that into place. While Freddy has fully entered wisecracker mode, there is still a feeling of evil emanating from the dream spectre, something that would be completely lost in the next few installments before Wes Craven would return to revitalize the series. If you were to poll fans of the series on which sequel is their favorite, it is more than likely to be either Dream Warriors, New Nightmare or The Dream Master.
The film begins with our heroine from Dream Warriors Kristen (played by Patricia Arquette in the previous film, but recast and now portrayed by Tuesday Knight) having dreams and being paranoid of Freddy’s return from the grave. She ends up pulling the other survivors from that film, Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) and Joey (Rodney Eastman) into her dreams, much to their chagrin. Of course, it turns out that Freddy is on his way back, and he is resurrected in quite possibly the silliest fashion possible. Kincaid’s dog, Jason (subtle reference there) literally pisses fire breaking up the earth that houses Krueger’s remains. How this plays out and who thought it was a good idea is completely beyond me. It is almost like they aimed for the most ridiculous notion possible, and just ran with it. Regardless, Freddy takes his vengeance on Kincaid and Joey, before setting his sights on Kristen. However, Kristen attempts to be prepared, letting her boyfriend Rick (Andras Jones), his sister Alice (Lisa Wilcox) and Alice’s secret crush Dan (Danny Hassel) in on the curse of the Elm Street children. Understandably, none of them really believe her, but when Kristen pulls Alice into her dream and passes her dream powers to her before Krueger kills her things become more real for our new heroine. Given that Freddy has now taken care of the last of the Elm Street children, he sets his sights on taking out any other teenager living in Springwood, but realizes he must first eliminate Alice and her newfound powers. From there, Freddy picks her friends off one by one until the final showdown between the Nightmare Demon and the Dream Master.
As I mentioned Freddy becomes even more of the joking prankster in this film. There is very little left of the truly evil dream demon from the original film, but he still hadn’t become the caricature he would become. At this point however, you can tell that Robert Englund absolutely relishes being under the makeup and playing the role he was born to play. The rest of the cast is quite capable as well. In fact, I’d say the only Nightmare movie with a stronger cast is Dream Warriors. Lisa Wilcox is phenomenal as Alice, who goes from the timid mousy little girl at the beginning of the film into the strong defiant Dream Master who is able to go toe-to-toe with Freddy. Obviously the nerdy girl coming out of her shell is a rather standard trope for any teenager based film, but in this case it works because she doesn’t become overly different, and she is coming into possession of the various dream powers as the film progresses. The relationship between Alice and her brother Rick is also very believable, something that can be credited towards the chemistry between the actors. The weakest roles actually belong to the two returning characters from Dream Warriors, Kincaid and Joey. But as is the case with any returning characters in a slasher series, they are not long for the world.
The kills remain a mixed bunch, and it would be understandably difficult to try and top Tina’s death from the original film, or any of the great kills in Dream Warriors. Possibly the most ridiculous death scene belongs to Rick, which involves him in essentially a karate duel with an invisible Freddy. This is actually a notable death in the series, as is pointed out in Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, as it is the only death in the series that doesn’t have Freddy on screen in some way. Apparently they had run out of budget and were actually going to have Rick live through the end of the film, until they realized that they had already shot his funeral scene. Apparently, it was kind of a mixed-up production.
Sadly this would be the last time that A Nightmare On Elm Street would fall on the enjoyable side of the spectrum for quite a few years. The direct follow up of The Dream Child would be lightly referred to by even the staunchest of defenders as a mess, and Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare would be similar to a PG rated neutered version of the series. It would take the return of Wes Craven to his most famous creation to set the ship right once again. But we shall cover all of that in the remaining Survivor Series articles.
Body Count: 6
Best Kill: Debbie in the roach motel, as it is one of the most disgusting kills the series would ever accomplish
Stay tuned for the next installment of Survivor Series, covering the much-loathed A Nightmae On Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child.