A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4

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Movies Paul V Wargelin Review by
Paul V. Wargelin
A Nightmare On Elm Street 4
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SHOULD YOU?
TIP JAR
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
SEQUELS
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: The Dream Master - 1988
New Line Cinema
Rated: Australia, USA: R / Finland: K-18 / France: -12 / Germany, Norway, UK: 18 / Sweden: 15

Robert Englund receives top billing and appears before the title in his fourth outing as Freddy Krueger in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: The Dream Master. This particular entry in the series boasts among the following: more characters, but less characterization; more surreal situations, less horrific encounters; more puns, less plot; more 80s pop tunes, less music score; more inept adults, less competent teenagers, and - because this is a late 80s film - women with bigger hair.

The survivors of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS, Kristen (once Patricia Arquette, now Tuesday Knight), Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) and Joey (Rodney Eastman) have supposedly left their nightmares behind them and have returned to high school suburbia. But as these sequels prove, you can't keep a good franchise monster down. Freddy is resurrected (in a wacky scene involving Kincaid's dog Jason - Hmmm, I wonder who he was named after?), and quickly dispatches the last of the Elm Street kids whose parents murdered him. Somehow, between DREAM WARRIORS and DREAM MASTER, our heroes have lost their super dreamland powers.

Except for Kristen. Her ability to pull other sleeping bodies into her dreams summons her best friend Alice (Lisa Wilcox) into her nightmare just before Freddy kills her. But Alice isn't completely defenseless as she absorbs Kristen's dream powers upon her death. Exposed to fresh meat, Freddy now has a new vessel to torment - and through Alice he hopes to drag in the rest of her teenage friends as well.

Kristen's death is just the latest tragedy in Alice's life. She works double shifts at a local diner to pay the family bills, her alcoholic father (Nicholas Mele) treats her like a servant, and she has unrequited love for the school's top jock, Dan (Danny Hassel). Her martial arts brother, Rick (Andras Jones: THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS) was Kristen's boyfriend. Between Alice's work shifts, brother and sister mourn their loss (it is unclear whether or not Rick works to help support the family). Kristen is buried beside Kincaid, and in front of Nancy and Donald Thompson (both of whom died in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS). Isn't it amazing that all of Freddy's victims share the same religion, and that their family plots are right on top of each other?

In dreamland, Alice cannot control her powers, and soon her stereotypical teen friends - little Junior Miss Brain Sheila (Toy Newkirk) and fitness babe Debbie (Brooke Theiss) - are swept into the nightmare mayhem. But as each teen dies, Alice absorbs their abilities, turning her into the ultimate dream warrior to combat Freddy.

Directed by action meister Renny Harlin (DEEP BLUE SEA, THE EXORCIST IV), the fourth NIGHTMARE doesn't possess the hyper kinetics of his later work, and suffers from a slow pace. Four screenwriters were employed to pen the script including Brian Helgeland (who would go on to write the critically-acclaimed L.A. CONFIDENTIAL), William Kotzwinkle, and Jim and Ken Wheat (credited here as Scott Pierce, the Wheats also wrote THE FLY II, and PITCH BLACK), which explains the disjointed sequences that make up the film.

There are references galore throughout A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: The Dream Master: Alice swallowing a bunch of sleeping pills evokes Alice in Wonderland; swinging chains, dangling from a boiler room ceiling, reminds horror aficionados of HELLRAISER; Freddy's glove, slicing through beach sand like a shark fin screams JAWS; and Rick's kung fu confrontation with Krueger has Bruce Lee written all over it.

There's even a deja vu scene that predates Bill Murray's Groundhog Day by three years.

What makes A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: The Dream Master watchable is Englund, whose zest for playing Freddy increases with every film. At this stage of the series, viewers aren't looking to be scared, but are wondering in what creative ways will Freddy kill his victims. The imaginative, over-the-top, gross-out special effects involving a roach motel, a water bed, and Freddy’s fourth screen death are courtesy of Kevin Yagher (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD), Steve Johnson (SPECIES, SPECIES II), R. Christopher Biggs (ALIEN NATION, EVE OF DESTRUCTION), Tom Chesney (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS, SCREAM 2), and Paul Hettler.

This film gets two shriek girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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