Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4 The Dream Master

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"Seven, eight, better stay up late "

Oct 11th, 2011

When I was a kid I remember the Freddy flicks taking a bashing when it came to reviews. I could never understand it as I thought they were all great and put it down to critics just not understanding the horror genre. Nightmare 4 was not a film I revisited often as it rarely played on TV and I couldn't find it on VHS (finding films wasn't as easy as it is now). A few years back I bought the complete saga on DVD and was in Freddy heaven… that was until I actually got to watch this entry. This wasn't the film I remembered and I got to thinking mayhap those darn critics were correct.

Nightmare on Elm Street 4 was one of the first times I was disappointed when revisiting a "classic" from my youth. I can't say exactly why opinions change so drastically over time but when it comes to nightmare 4 it's not that hard to define why. I grew up.

Sometime has passed since the last movie and our surviving Dream Warriors have left the confines of the hospital and returned to normal life. Unable to shake the feeling that Krueger isn't really dead Kristen (recast from Arquette for no good reason) returns to the dream world to witness his rebirth (it involves a dog pissing fire – Don't ask). With Freddy back the dream warriors and their new friends find themselves in danger but this time Nancy isn't around to help them.

Now I'm going to have to go into mild spoilers to talk about one of the major failings of this movie. If you have yet to watch this sequel and want to go in completely unspoiled please give this review a skip until after.

The Dream Warriors are nothing more than cameo pieces to tie this film in with the last. While I appreciate the continuity ties (aside from the pointless recasting of Kristen) the speed in which all three survivors are dispatched was quite alarming (the first 15minutes). I get the pass the torch mentality but it really makes the dream warrior's concept of the last film pointless (powers mean nothing in Freddy's world) and finalises Krueger's revenge on the Elm Street kids, Isnt he just sodding about now?

Despite my disappointments I have to give credit where credit is due. The inventive way that this franchise manages to continue the story is impressive with each individual film having an engaging hook. This time out new heroine Alice spend her time day dreaming which allows Krueger to attack this new batch of teens without them falling asleep.

The problem with this film isn't the set up but rather the slap dash way it is presented. Reny Harlin directs (he of Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger) with quite a large budget at his disposal and while the sets and effects remain top notch I can't shake the TV movie feeling.

The cast are terrible and display some of the worst acting I have seen in any B movie feature (Not including student features or the toot you find online). It doesn't help that the actors are given clichéd dialogue which seems more like placeholders from a rushed first draft. "You're sucking on the wrong nozzle", "Hey, yo, needle dick", "No mother, you just murdered me. Take that to your goddamn therapy". I don't think I need to go on. Rather than having the comical cheese of many 80's crap fests the lines are delivered in a serious monotone which saps the fun and keeps the conversations from being so bad there good.

If that wasn't enough the characterisations of the teens fall short of representing believable people. All the characters are giving stereotyped traits that overpower any form of personality for no other reason than to allow Freddy to exploit them in the dream world. The Karate Kid, Girl with asthma, fear of bugs and so on. In fact our collection of kids are so at odds they feel more like they cast of Saved by the Bell, those who would never be friends in the real world.

While the characters hold no interest and downgrade the entire experience there are certain aspects that keep me returning to the film. The fantasy sequences are top notch crafting the most amazing set pieces that are unrivalled in scope and quality. I'm not a fan of C.G.I so such an ambitious practical effects extravaganza really appeals. A sequence which has always stuck in my memory is that of Freddy eating the faces of the teenagers he has dispatched from a pizza; it's sickening and visually impressive at the same time. C.G.I lacks that physical presence and wouldn't have the same effect.

Aside from the brilliant effects work the main if not only reason to watch this is for Robert Englund's performance as Freddy Krueger. Without him on screen the movie seems to be moving at a slower pace but in all honesty by the fourth sequel were here to watch him work more than anything else. This time out Kruger has fully cemented his status as a cartoon villain with his Bondesque quotes after performing a kill (no surprise one of the tag lines was The Name's Krueger...FREDDY KRUEGER in the UK) something we only got hints at last movie.

It's hard not to find enjoyment from Englund's enthusiastic approach and while he nails the character I can't help but feel disappointed that his savageness has been toned down. The death sequences due to this resemble the throwaway teens from the Friday series and transitions the franchise into a full slasher experience. I always liked the Nightmare series because it was different.

Nightmare 4 is always touted as the best entry as it had the highest box office returns before interest in the series began to waver. Personally I don't buy into this train of thought when it comes to franchise films and sequels. I believe the success of this film came from its predecessor (Part 3 Dream Warriors) people watch a sequel because they enjoyed the previous outing and make judgements by what they have already seen. The drop off in profits is because people watched this entry and decided to skip what came next.

With the adherence to continuity and spectacular special effects (many brought up with computer effects may disagree) I can actually place this film a little higher than the second entry which fails to feel like a Nightmare flick. As a Freddy fan I can be a lot more forgiving but I'd never recommend this to casual viewers.

Other reviews in the series

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
Wes Craven's New Nightmare
Freddy vs. Jason
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director:Renny Harlin
Screenplay: Brian Helgeland
Scott Pierce
Starring: Robert Englund
Lisa Wilcox
Andras Jones