Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

"Terror Beyond Your Wildest Dreams," eh? That's not only a bold statement, but a presumptuous one, too. Who knows what is even in my wildest dreams?  Oh, that's right...Freddy Krueger.  Who's Freddy?  Here's a quick recap: Freddy Krueger (played by Robert Englund) is a basically a powerful aspect of dream that can kill people in their sleep.  In particular, Freddy seeks revenge against his murderers by killing their children in their dreams.  In A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, Heather Langenkamp returned to the series (she was the main actress in the original film) to help a group of kids being terrorized by Freddy; together, they managed to find the mortal remains of Freddy, sanctify them, and bury them, thereby "killing" Krueger. Langenkamp and three other kids managed to survive, but they are the sole survivors of the children whose parents killed Freddy Krueger.

One of the survivors, Kristen (played by Patricia Arquette in the last film), is played by Tuesday Knight.  Don't be fooled by her possibly porn-industry name; the girl is a true triple threat.  She is an actor, an amateur smoker (when she pretends to smoke cigarettes in this movie without any that's acting), and a semi-professional singer.  Yes, that is Tuesday singing the opening theme to this movie and, yes, she is probably looking for work as we speak.  She didn't last long in this movie, that's for sure.  Deciding that there was no reason to actually stay dead, Freddy chooses to come back to "life."  The scene involves a dog peeing flames and his bones growing muscle tissue; the logic governing this course of actions is never actually explained.  Well, Freddy makes quick work of Kristen and her two other fellow Dream Warriors survivors, thereby succeeding in his mission to kill the children of those that killed him (although nobody ever mentions Langenkamp for some reason, shouldn't she be considered a survivor?  Okay, I'll shut up).  That's not good enough for Freddy, though; in this film, he branches out from simple revenge to harvesting souls.  It's nice to see a grown man that can change careers so easily!

Oh, before I forget, Kristen manages to use her dream powers to pull a friend into her last dream and transfer the dream powers to this new girl, Alice.  You might wonder why...or how...but you shouldn't.  If there's no explanation for how Krueger returned, you can be reasonably sure that the transference of one-of-a-kind supernatural powers between friends through a dream is not a priority; basically, the writers are assuming that, if you believe in dream-dwelling serial killers, this will not be a hard pill to swallow.

You can guess the plot from here.  Alice uses her new powers to stop Freddy, but not until he has killed most of her friends.  But, right before the end, there's an interesting idea.  According to some ancient mythology, there are two gates to the realm of dream, a good dream gate and a nightmare gate.  Each has a guard.  It's implied that Freddy is the guardian of the nightmare gate, while Alice (and, presumably, Kristen before her) is the guardian of the good gate.  Okay, that's not a horrible way to enrich the history of Freddy's character.  But, of course, that's just an idea that I developed, based on maybe two lines in the actual film.  A teacher mentions the gates in passing and Freddy later says that he's guarded his gate for a long time.  Oh, well, so much for ideas.  Speaking of clever ideas, guess what defeats Freddy this time around.  Go on, guess.  That's right, a mirror.    For a movie about dreams, there's not much creativity here.  I'd like to say that this is director Renny Harlin's worst movie, but that title is owned by The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.

That's really the big problem with this movie.  Doesn't anybody want to think out of the box for this franchise?  Where are all the one-liners?  Where are the cool dream deaths?  Here, we have not one, not two, but three people die from Freddy stabbing them in the stomach!  Another dies by drowning!  Another by asthma!  Really?  Look, I understand that this is the fourth movie in a series, but that means that the deaths and insults should be getting more gruesome and creative.

Oddly enough, The Dream Master was the highest grossing film in the series (until Freddy Vs. Jason).  It was also the only movie to have a video game released in conjunction with it; along with The Dream Warriors, this was the basis for the truly horrible game for the original Nintendo console.  It even had a Fat Boys song on the soundtrack that featured Freddy rapping:

Sadly, this is also the first Freddy movie that doesn't really try to scare you.  It's kind of like Freddy got a horror movie "pass for life," where his scariness is always assumed and never requires proving.  From this film on, Freddy is less of a monster and more of a performer.  So, I guess you could call him "Vegas Freddy" or "Fat Elvis Freddy."  Another weird thing about this film is that there is no direct connection to the "Freddy house" that appears in each movie.  In the first two movies, the characters living in the house were terrorized by Freddy.  The logic in the first movie was because Freddy wanted his revenge, but it's less clear in the second.  In the third, Heather Langenkamp returned and Patricia Arquette dreamed about the house.  Here, though, and in every subsequent movie, the house is abandoned.  None of the kids after The Dream Warriors even recognize the house, much less live on Elm Street.  Why is this house used in every movie?  It's even implied that this was Freddy's house, but it wasn't.  Sorry if I'm paying too close attention to continuity, but it's odd to have a recurring image that has no real relevance.

While there isn't much to recommend this movie, I did like the effects when Freddy died and finding that Fat Boys video made me smile.  I also liked the fact that, by killing all the Elm Street kids, Freddy essentially won.  But, god, it is terrible.

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