Thursday, April 22

Some quick thoughts on A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

From the IMDB: Following up the previous Nightmare film, Freddy Krueger is resurrected from his apparent demise, and rapidly tracks down and kills all three of the surviving Elm Street kids. However, Kristen (who has the ability to draw others into her dreams) wills her special ability to her friend Alice before her demise. Afterwords, Alice soon realizes that Freddy is taking advantage of that unknown power she now wields to pull a new group of teenage children into his domain.

It's hard for me to discern, out of the Elm Street and Friday the 13th sequel cycles, which I have the most respect for. On one hand, Paramount treated Jason Voorhees like a dirty little secretive cash register to lucratively ride out until the well had run dry by the eighth installment. The studio liked the revenue enough to let the series and the effects meisters behind the camera mostly do their own thing. Then after the given Friday sequel was completed, haul the task of cutting for an R-rating to the MPAA, who seemed to increasingly relish the job with each successive entry. Of course, this "hands-off" approach ultimately screwed the fanbase, as we all know from Paramount's recent dicking about with multiple "decent" yet not definitive DVD and Blu-ray releases of their eight films in the series. Not to mention the cut footage mess...

Then we have New Line's Nightmares which are still being milked with next weekend's debut of the Englund-less remake. The efforts of Krueger have not fallen on deaf ears among the ranks of New Line; the slasher stalwart being greatly responsible for carving out a name for the once faceless studio. While this appreciation is refreshing over Paramount's see no evil, hear no evil bullshit, New Line were also much more involved and aware of boundaries during the creation of Freddy's sequels. The climate of the Regan era pulled Hollywood, perhaps unwillingly, toward the center. The raw, morally fraudulent, and hellishly fun romps both in horror and comedy of the early quickly fell in the later '80s. New Line understood this tide and tempered the Elm Street series over their course with camp and a general sense of being "en vogue" with their teen audiences as opposed to actually frightening them. Can't blame them, but at the same time, all this led to the unusually stale horror slate of the first half of the '90s.

This is going to sound ridiculous, but 1984 yielded both A Nightmare on Elm Street and Revenge of the Nerds. Both films mirror each other on different genre spectrums, with the former being an often terrifying, gritty horror classic; the latter a raunchy comedy classic filled with the kind of risqué material only now coming back into mainstream popularity. By the time 1987 rolls around, a Nerds sequel arrives, but is stripped of all its gratuitous laughs of the original. Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise basically sucks ass. Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors also debuted this same year, and while it's certainly not a bad sequel, both Dream Warriors and 88's Dream Master feel like transitional films of the series. Dimishing returns of the ol' magic are there, but are plastered over with globs of slapstick, hip pop rock, and horrible sunshine-bathed '80s fashion.

But you say, Jayson, through all your like-you-know-something babble, what about the stories? I guess one could argue that storylines save the Elm Street sequels, but not with Dream Master. Honestly, despite sorta being a halfhearted continuation of the third film, this outing gets off to a very rocky start and never quite recovers. Tuesday Knight replacing Patricia Arquette's Kristen is only part of the problem. Instead of retaining the likable survivors of Warriors, Master falls into the familiar sequel annoyance of using their deaths merely as fodder to spice up the first half hour. Then the story nearly starts at zero again with a new set of disposable teens. Master also does something underhanded with Freddy's kills. Instead of the damage imposed in dreams crossing into reality, several characters just die from shock upon waking from their nightmare. Concerning Freddy, how did they explain his rebirth? They didn't, but that effects sequence was great, huh? Blah.

Lisa Wilcox is really the only thing anchoring Dream Master--aside from everyone's favorite horribly scarred child molester from Hell. The whole concept of her character, Alice, receiving attributes of her dead friends isn't well ironed out. Where Wilcox shines is presenting a rather homely, bland girl for the majority of the feature before becoming an utterly convincing Krueger asskicker for the great showdown that seems disembodied from the film that came before. Freddy's climatic, phantasmagorical "soul-ripping" is alone worth fast-forwarding for. Still, it probably wasn't the best idea to lead the viewer into thinking Kristen was the final girl again before unceremoniously burning her alive to begin with. It's the kind of uncaring continuity that might have led this sequel to be the highest grossing of the first seven, but now only hurts the enjoyment in hindsight. Unfortunately that's about it, Elm Street 4 is the beginning of a mess that splashed upon this series's floor only spread further by The Dream Child and Freddy's Dead. Blame Reagan.


Franco Macabro said...

I rewatched this one just the other day! As I rewatched it, I noticed it really is one of the most Immature of the films.

Sadly, this was the movie where Freddy gets "funny", that scene where Freddy's claw is swiming through the sand....what the fuck? It felt so out of place for me? Freddy on the beach...

This is also the movie on which Freddy Kruger switched from Heavy Metal (dokken on Dream Warriors) to rap. Thats right, the theme song for this movie was done by The Fat Boys, and the name of the song: "Are you ready for Freddy?"

The video is hilarious, and the tone of the movie simply shows that by this time, nobody was really taking Freddy Kruger seriously. He turned into a joke with this one.

But like you said, the effects are nifty as hell. That whole scene with the souls inside of Freddy is awesome, ufortunately, its followed by a crappy display of visual effects. But the practical effects, the stuff done with gallons upon gallons of latex and animatronics creations, those really stand out.

Thats one thing about these movies, they never explain just how he comes back. But i guess if you watch the ending of Dream Warriors, they give you a hint that Freddy is still alive when the light inside of the toy house turns on.

This is something that all the Freddy Kruger movies used to do, Freddy always shows signs of life in the last scene somehow. Except maybe for part VI because the whole theme for the movie was that "Freddy is Dead".

Buscemi said...

I actually think this is one of the better Freddy movies. Maybe it was because it was made during Freddy's prime (1987-1988). In fact, I'd probably call it the best one without Wes Craven's involvement.

And speaking about Kristen Parker, I was watching an episode of Medium at a friend's house and I mentioned that Patricia Arquette was in one of the Freddy movies and that it was weird that she was doing similar things on TV now. She refused to believe me.

DrunkethWizerd said...

I liked Freddy on the beach... but then again, I'm from California and basically spent every single day at the beach from age six to eighteen. Plus, he looks badass in those old sunglasses. Alriiiiggghhhttt.... you dare tread upon the staircase?

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