Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (Renny Harlin, 1988)

I've noticed recently that after each subsequent "Nightmare" film has ended, I've gotten into this weird habit of checking to see if there's a sequel (I know they made a lot of them, but I'm not quite sure how many exactly - Eight? Ten? Fifteen? Who knows?). And when I would discover that there was in fact a sequel, I would think to myself: Okay, if this one's lame, that's it, I'm pulling the plug on my self-imposed A Nightmare on Elm Street marathon. As you might expect, when it came time to sit down and watch A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, I thought for sure that my days as a chronic A Nightmare on Elm Street watcher were coming to an end. Well, will wonders never cease. Not only was A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master worthy of my time, it's whole premise is based on the Freddy-stopping power of a magic spiky bracelet. Initially worn by a big haired Dynasty fan/exercise enthusiast named Debbie (Deb to her friends), the magic spiky bracelet is given to "The Dream Master," who proceeds to use it to extract the souls of her dead friends from the body of one Friedrich von Krüger. Okay, maybe I'm overstating the importance of Deb's spiky bracelet. But what happens to Deb the moment she takes off the spiky bracelet? That's right. She gets turned into a cockroach. Now, I can't guarantee that wouldn't have occurred had she kept the spiky bracelet on. However, and most entomologists will back me up on this one, the only surefire way to prevent human to insect metamorphosis is to decorate your wrists and arms with ornamental bands, hoops and chains that sport studs and spikes. It's not only fashion, it's science.

While we get see Deb (Brooke Theiss) talk trigonometry with Toy Newkirk, work the lunch counter at a local diner, attend the funeral of a fellow teen and pump iron in her garage, the film, directed with an unnecessary amount of flair by Renny Harlin, is actually about a twitchy blonde and a daydreaming redhead.

Remember the Kristen/Kirsten character from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors? Well, this film continues right where Dream Warriors left off. Except, Kristen (the twitchiest blonde of the franchise... so far) is now played by Tuesday Knight (Patricia Arquette portrayed Kristen in the previous chapter of the Freddy saga). Granted, it takes a few moments to get used to Tuesday Knight as Kristen. But once I saw her smoking a cigarette by her bedroom window in a leggy manner, I totally accepted her. Gooble-gobble.

The fact Tuesday's aura in this film was eerily similar to that of Wendy Lyon, the star of Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, was also a deciding factor. I love Wendy Lyon in that flick.

Oh, and did I mention that Tuesday Knight sings the film's theme song, "Running from this Nightmare"? Well, she does. And it's great.

Since no one really wants to watch a complete rehash of the previous film, we're introduced to Alice (Lisa Wilcox), the daydreaming redhead. The sister of Rick (Andras Jones), Kristen's boyfriend, Alice does the bulk of her dreaming– you guessed it–during the day.

Worried that Freddy is coming back from the dead... again, Kristen starts to harass Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) and Joey (Rodney Eastman), her fellow survivors from part three, by bringing them into her dreams. Clearly irritated by this unwelcome blast from the past (their attitude is, been there, done that), Kincaid and Joey try to convince Kristen that Freddy's dead. Good luck with that, fellas. This chick sees Freddy everywhere. Seriously, though, she can feel his presence.

Of course, when Kincaid wakes up in the Freddy's junkyard burial ground and Joey is confronted by a topless Hope Marie Carlton in his bedroom, things start to get real. Well, not too real. The deaths of two teens doesn't seem to phase anyone in this movie. Sure, Kristen tries to sound the alarm, but no one seems to be in the mood for some twitchy blonde's bullshit.

Imagine how different these movies would have been had Hope Marie Carlton played Freddy instead of Robert Englund? At any rate, the cool thing about Joey's confrontation with Hope Marie Carlton is that implies that Joey still has a thing for hot blondes (Joey, if you remember, is sexually attracted to the blonde nurse from part three - she ties him to a bed with sentient tongues).

If they won't listen to Kristen, maybe they'll listen to Alice, who, like Kristen, seems to have strange powers. Fat chance. I mean, if Kristen's mom won't listen, no one will (unless she wasn't paying attention to what happened in part three). Which reminds me, Kristen's mom is yet again played the gorgeous Brooke Bundy, whose milfy allure is just as milfy and just as alluring as it was in the previous film.

Did any of what I just wrote make any sense? No, not the Brooke Bundy part, her milf-appeal is pretty straight-forward. I'm referring to the part of about Kristen and Alice's strange powers. Ah, it doesn't matter.

One of my favourite things about this franchise is how the police are hardly ever involved. Featured in the first film, the police, since then, have obviously found better things to do than spend their time solving a series of murders involving teens. Truthfully, they would just get in the way. Of course, knowing my luck, the next movie is most likely going to be crawling with cops.

No, I like how the adults, other than Fred Krueger himself, rarely ever effect the trajectory of the plot. And because of this, extra pressure is put on the film's youthful characters to put a stop to Freddy's murderous ways. You could view these films as a cautionary tale about the dangers of vigilantism. After all, if it wasn't for the actions parents of the dead "Elm Street" teens from the previous movies, all those kids would still be alive.

Yeah, I understand that Fred Krueger would have continued to murder children had they (the parents) decided not to set him on fire. But... Actually, why was Fred not in jail? I remember hearing something about him getting off on a technically, but still, that doesn't make a lot of sense. It just proves my point that the police in this town are completely useless. Maybe the films aren't a "cautionary tale about the dangers of vigilantism," maybe they're pro-vigilantism. They were filmed during a time when vigilantism was all the rage. And it's probably no coincidence that the first film came out around the same time Bernhard Goetz was gunning down muggers in the New York City subway (late 1984).

On a less profound note, I thought the scene where Deb is turned into a cockroach was freakin' sweet and the part where Rick practices martial arts to Dramarama's "Anything, Anything" was oddly inspirational.

Even though I'm probably only halfway done with these movies, I think I can safely declare that the Nightmare series to be the best horror franchise in movie history. I know, that's a bold statement. But I can't find anything to complain about. Whereas, the Friday the 13th movies are filled with stuff to complain about (to be fair, the Friday the 13th films are downright awful). The Freddy movies, on the other hand, seem to be brimming with creativity. And they're well-directed and they fully embrace the spirit of the 1980s (the fashion, music and culture of the decade are always on display... at least they are in the sequels).

Of course, I probably should have waited until I'd seen a couple more of the sequels before making a statement like this. Nevertheless, I just wanted to point out that A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master are some of the least annoying horror sequels I've ever seen. Oh, if you don't see any reviews for the nightmare sequels that followed part four posted in the not-so distant future, it's probably because they sucked. Either that, or I choked to death on a sausage roll. Happy Festivus!


  1. As silly as the sequel was,it was quite the mega popular film that it was back then(when it was released). My brother stated that this film is merely like a Troma film without the massive amounts of bad taste/high sleaze factor elements.

  2. I found your blog while trying to google what horror film Aiden Quin was projecting during Desperately Seeking Susan (still havent figured that out btw. It featured a bunch of bald men--maybe Michael Berryman?--hitting each other with axes). Looking forward to digging into more of your posts esp. with your front page appreciation for Anne Carlisle in Liquid Sky. I remember that Nightmare 4 was sneered at by the "serious" horror press (ie Gorezone) back in the day but I have been nostalgic for 80s horror lately, the campier the better. And I recently enjoyed Harlin's ultra goofy Mindhunters with Christian Slater, Val Kilmer and a bunch of Will Graham-style serial killer profilers being Jigsawed on a training island. I mostly agree with your Friday assessment though both 4 and especially 6 are great. You still have "New Nightmare" to look forward to which is highly meta and is up there with nightmare 1 and 3 imho.

    1. According to the Desperately Seeking Susan trivia section on imdb, Tuesday Knight (star of Freddy 4) auditioned to play Susan.