Friday, November 21, 2014

A Freddy Rising: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Robert Englund, Rodney Eastman, Lisa Wilcox

Just as Dream Warriors marked the return of Freddy into the teen-hunting-in-dream-world game after his failed (yet interesting) attempt of supernatural possession from Freddy's Revenge, it also opened the door of opportunity for the burnt boogeyman to be one of America's most sought after modern movie monsters. Now in the franchise's height, New Lines was ready to do more nightmarish deaths (literally) with all the money Freddy was reeling in and so came into production this good yet undeniably cheesier entry to the Elm Street series.

A year (or two) has passed since the three remaining (and original) Elm Street children defeated the dream-world madman known as Freddy Krueger, they're now living somewhat normal lives free of fear of him ever coming back. Save for one Kristen, an Elm Street girl with the power to call and summon other dreaming teenagers into her own dreams, as she can't budge off the feeling that the dream demon is far from gone. And, true enough, Freddy somehow finds a way back into existing and starts to murder off the three, saving Kristen for last. But before she meets her demise, the final Elm Street kid accidentally pulls in Alice, her daydreaming friend with some knowledge of dream logic.

In a last attempt to stop Freddy, Kristen passes her dream-reeling powers to the confused girl. This act, unfortunately, makes it possible for Freddy to reach out to the newer generation of Elm Street teens, more precisely Alice's friends and family. One by one, they fall victim to their own nightmares, forcing Alice to find a way to stop Freddy before he takes her and the rest of the town's children.

With the level of comic one-liners noticeably higher and the deaths elaborately more cartoonish, Dream Master marks the beginning of Freddy's downfall as a horror villain and rise as a global 80s pop culture icon. Take notice that the previous Elm Street entries had Freddy staying in the shadows, his jokes sicker than laughable; here, he takes a lot of the action in the light, his lines streaming across comedy, and his kills lacking a decent amount of blood splash. Yes, the nightmare murders are imaginative, but they starting to get too imaginative and a tad more outrageous, a reason why many hardcore horror fans seem doubtful labeling this franchise a slasher series.

The way I see it, apart from being influenced by the MTV generation (check out the multiple TV spots within the movie), the plot is more Freddy-centered, with only one or two teen characters focused in the entire movie. The first was Kristen, now played by a different actress (Tuesday Knight) as the original was unavailable to fill in the role, spending a decent bulk of her screen time being Krueger-phobic which may or may not have triggered the nightmare man's return. She bites the big one in a manner similar to Psycho's Marion Crane, dying during the progression of the film only to pass the dream killer-kicking torch to her friend Alice, an awkward goody-goody with patriarchal issues (a fact that may have helped giving this character a little more worth to root for), struggling to keep her life in check while dealing with a situation she wasn't too familiar with. This said, the rest of the teen casts are pretty much there just to be meat for Krueger's cutting; while a few of them are properly developed and characterized, some are leaning close to being parodies of the characters they are portraying.

With the plot revolving more around the Springwood slasher's dream haunting and killing, even more interesting that it also resembles a sort of reboot since it now focuses on a new generation of Elm street teens, it's not too hard to have a good chunk of the film with Krueger being outrageously evil in an inviting, near cartoon-villain manner. Whenever he is around, there's bound to be some strange crud going on until the climactic last act wherein Alice hardens up and goes kung-fu punkette against Freddy in one of slasher history's most entertaining mano (lady-o?)-a-monster final brawl, ending on a gruesome (momentary) demise for Mr. Krueger himself.

So, Dream Master's not remotely scary, but its entertainment factor is reason enough to consider this as one of the franchise's strong entries. With top-notch, non-CG special effects backing up the flaws and being more grimly fun with our titular killer stepping out of the shadows and into the spotlight, the movie works for the shallowest of reasons but still considerable with its workable story and tone, comparing it to other titles in the series, mainly Dream Child and, the black sheep of the family, Freddy's Dead. There are some interesting mythos thrown in here, something regarding a Negative and Positive dream gates which may attribute to Freddy and Alice's opposing sides, unfortunately this remained sidelined, seemingly forgotten in the next sequels.

Slipping into a cheesier foray not only in terms of human-faced pizza toppings, Dream Master fairs well as a movie but, as a sequel, it red lights our Bastard Son of a Hundred Maniacs descent into sillier affairs in his later adventures...

1 male stabbed on the gut with a razor glove
1 male slashed with a razor glove, drowned in water bed
1 female thrown into a furnace, burned to death
1 female suffocates
1 male gets a flying razor glove to the gut
1 female crushed to death
Total: 6


  1. It's remarkable how little blood there is in this one... It's gooey, but not gory.

    1. The way I see it, the further this franchise went, the lesser the blood flow...that was until Freddy vs Jason, but arguably, a lot of them blood was by the J-Man.