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

The fourth entry in the Elm Street series has a pretty cool pedigree behind the camera. A young, up and coming director, who would go on to make some solid 90s action films, Renny Harlin helms the film, and the story was developed by Brian Hegeland and William Kotzwinkle, before Heglenand, Jim Wheat and Ken Wheat penned the final screenplay.

Patricia Arquette elected not to reprise her character of Kristen, so Tuesday Knight took over the torch-passing character. Kristen, Kincaid (Ken Sagos), and Joey (Rodney Eastman) all make-up appearances, basically as the fodder for a resurrected Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) – who has come back (after a dog named Jason urinates fire on his burial site) with even more quips as well as a sense of fun, and less terror, who shifts his attention to Alice (Lisa Wilcox) who, like Kristen seems to have some dream abilities.

In Alice’s case, as her friends are added to the growing pile of carnage, she seems to absorb their gifts, gearing her up for a confrontation with the iconic film monster.

Once again, a young, fresh-faced, not always talented cast is lined up to be cannon fodder for the film, as Freddy continues to dish out new and interesting ways to claim lives.

Englund’s makeup has changed a bit, and doesn’t appear quite so gory as it has in previous films, and while the dream sequences are fun, there’s no real advancement of Krueger’s arc, or backstory, this is more back on line with setting up victims and knocking them down while preparing this film’s final girl, Alice, to vanquish Freddy until next time.

Harlin makes a good effort and while there are some fun ideas in the script, this entry doesn’t stand up to the levels of the previous entries. In fact you could argue this is the weakest of the bunch (so far, there are a couple of doozies coming up).

That’s not to say the film isn’t fun, Englund’s Freddy is having a great time, there’s actually a bit of an empowering message somewhere in there, about believing in and standing up for yourself, and having a support group around you who lifts you up as you do them (though maybe not by dying).

It’s funny, rewatching this one, how it just feels like a bit run of the mill, and how it doesn’t do anything to layer in some more of Freddy’s legend, as we saw in the third film. Not all the entries need to do that, but if they don’t help to advance an overall arc, is it anymore than just standard 80s horror fare? Enjoyable, but disposable. The Dream Master has some delightful effects sequences, and some fun kills with quips to underscore them, but just doesn’t stand up to the previous entries.

That’s okay, I’m sure since Alice survived this film, she’ll be back for the next one. She’ll be ready to take on Freddy again in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child!

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