Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, A (1988)
Release Date: August 19th, 1988 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Renny Harlin Actors: Tuesday Knight, Andras Jones, Rodney Eastman, Brooke Bundy, Robert Englund, Toy Newkirk, Linnea Quigley, Ken Sagoes, Brooke Theiss, Lisa Wilcox
his fourth entry into the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise also begins with a quote, but this time from the bible. And it features an upbeat rock song (“Nightmare” by Tuesday Knight), which couldn’t be more ill-fitting. But this extremely unnecessary continuation doesn’t seem concerned with sticking to what worked in the previous pictures; if anything, it appears as if this latest chapter wishes to take the most ineffective aspects from before and redo them – to vastly inferior results (if such a thing was even feasible, considering the faults of the sequels so far).
The familiar Elm Street house has become even more disheveled and covered in blood – and just as frequented by nightmare-plagued adolescents. Kristen (Tuesday Knight, a sad replacement for Patricia Arquette), Joey (Rodney Eastman), and Roland Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) return to school from the psychiatric ward, having been released, apparently, for making a full recovery from the traumatic events of Freddy Krueger’s (Robert Englund) previous killing spree. But Kristen still continues to drag the three of them (and Kincaid’s dog Jason) into her dreams as she perpetually worries about once again being hunted by the monstrous Krueger. They’re also befriended by Alice (Lisa Wilcox), a continual daydreamer who is always the target of harassment by her father, and her brother Rick (Andras Jones), who is now Kristen’s boyfriend – to generate an extra subset of victims.
Quite disappointingly, the immature teen environment that the third film shed has been brought back, now with a fresh assemblage of high school adolescents as fodder. This terrible trade-off includes a slew of pitiful actors and actresses, cringe-worthy dialogue, and poorly designed characters who once more become random dullards to undergo the mutilative torment of Freddy’s bladed butchery. Other than a brief reappearance by Brooke Bundy as Kristen’s mother, there are almost no adults in the film. What this project really needs is some maturity, if for no other reason than to decrease the difficult suspension of disbelief, caused by so many unusually brave or glib or just plain phony youths.
The special effects continue to advance, particularly with a creative waterbed sequence, a giant bug metamorphosis, some stolen ideas from “Hellraiser,” a hilarious human-meatball snack, and increased levels of bloodshed. But Freddy has become quite the comedian, delivering one-liners as if doing a stand-up routine, and playing dress-up more than once – all while scenes containing real scares are increasingly sparse. The look is almost cartoonish and the tone childish at times, supplemented by music-video interludes that couldn’t be more inappropriate in a slasher movie. And, even though it hasn’t become wholly self-reflexive (yet), the level of intentional humor has escalated, even in the violence, which is now something of a joke (no matter how gruesome). What a shame for a monster who used to be genuinely frightening.
– Mike Massie