Alex E’s review published on Letterboxd:
Alex E's A Nightmare on Elm Street Marathon #4
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
"Welcome to Wonderland, Alice." - Freddy Krueger
While the Elm Street series could have ended with Dream Warriors, the movies were making a lot of money for New Line Cinema which led to another instalment within just a year after Dream Warriors. This time we get a fun film in 1988's A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master directed this time by Renny Harlin.
Following up the previous Nightmare film, the dream demon Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is resurrected from his apparent demise, and rapidly tracks down and kills all three of the surviving Elm Street kids. However, Kristen Parker (Tuesday Knight) (who has the ability to draw others into her dreams) wills her special ability to her new best friend Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox) before her demise.
Afterwards, she soon realizes that Freddy is taking advantage of that unknown power she now wields to pull a new group of teenage children into his foul domain. Can Alice embrace her new power to finally defeat Freddy or is it already too late?
While it's a shame the 3 surviving Elm Street kids from the last film get killed here, I didn't mind too much seeing as Kristen is no longer played by Patricia Arquettte and Freddy did kill them in some unique ways. It's a shame Patricia didn't return since she could have been the new Nancy of the series.
Alice makes for a decent enough protagonist and I did care for her, I like how she has some sort of connection to Freddy since she remembers "The Dream Master" nursery rhyme that her mum told her about. Her friends are mostly just cannon fodder since you don't care much for them, and I wish we did get to see more of Lisa's relationship with her father and her brother.
Robert Englund gets some fun lines fed to him here. Some of my favourite Freddy moments in this are when he kills the last 3 Elm Street kids, as well as the new kids that he murders. The Joey (Rodney Eastman) kill in particular was a stand out moment, alongside the final battle that takes place in a church. Aside from a few jumpy scenes I didn't find Freddy all that scary due to the dreams being more creative which includes him on a beach, and you do like Freddy here due to all the comedic one liners he delivers. Then again that's the reason you watch a few of these Elm Street sequels, since Robert Englund is just so good as Freddy.
Steven Fierberg's cinematography resembles Haitkin's work on the Elm Street films, and I didn't mind all that much even if it feels Steven is trying to resemble Haitkin's Elm Street films from a visual standpoint. The film does have more of a dark fantasy feel with some of the colours used throughout, which gives it more of a different feel due to the dream sequences becoming more out there as well as creative.
Craig Safan does some alright work in the music department with some solid flute work, and does keep themes in from the last few films. The 80s music here though is where it's really at, especially with the opening song 'Nightmare' performed by Tuesday Knight and the end song 'Don't Be Afraid of Your Dreams' by Go West.
Renny Harlin does some good work here and keeps the film engaging throughout, I've made it clear in previous reviews I'm not too big on Harlin as a director but this is one of his best films that I've seen him do. He takes the story done by Brian Helgeland, William Kotzwinkle, Ken and Jim Wheats and makes a fun movie out of it. The films main stand out is the dream sequences and how creative they are getting, and gives the formula a bit of fresh air. This isn't one of the best instalments by any means due to the been there done that feel to it, and the Elm Street films are becoming more funny than scary which started with Dream Warriors. In Dream Warriors they still made Freddy scary enough thanks to the effects, and Freddy was killing some of our favourite characters whereas here he's more likeable, but I was still kinda rooting for Lisa to overcome him.
All in all 1988's A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is good turn off your brain fun. I don't mind too much that the movies are getting more comedic, but I'm kind of sad because I miss the more grounded approach of the first three. That being said this one still provides good entertainment throughout.
Continuing A Nightmare on Elm Street Ranked