A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master ★★★

For a franchise almost entirely consisting of 80s movies (at least, the entries that actually have A Nightmare on Elm Street in the title, barring the remake) this has to be the MOST 80s of these films.

Dream Master completely embraces the camp of these movies, complete with even a suiting up montage near the end. It leans into the fact that it’s so evidently been written on Monday, filmed on Friday and has a budget of ten pence by throwing every amusing image and clever kill it can get for its buck at the screen. And on that front, this movie really rules. Even to the point where there’s a number of the effects that even today leave you wondering how they managed it. There’s Cronenberg-esque insect body horror, a water-bed death and a rather laughable beach setting making use of Freddy’s glove as a sharkfin. It’s all pretty imaginative and entertaining, and director Renny Harlin even manages to spice up some of the more overused or less imaginative locations (boiler room, Freddy house etc) with some terrific lighting and bright varied colour palettes.

The characters in this one are also still generally great. After the remaining leftovers from Dream Warriors are thoroughly dispatched, the film returns to giving us your average teen gang vs. Freddy narrative, but the characters themselves are still likeable and have good chemistry with each other which, for a film that could’ve very easily just tossed in more meat for the slaughter, was a nice touch that I generally wanted to see most of them survive.

It is however, still let down by the aforementioned nature of horror franchise filmmaking that the series was at here, where they drop one every year. Following the edit can genuinely be a headache at times, the script and direction seem to contradict each other from scene to scene and really the structural editing leaves several small moments and scenes that feel like they’re going to be important later on but just kind of get left behind. Given a bit of extra time to let itself come into its own I think this genuinely could’ve made for something of a camp masterpiece.

It’s a shame on that front but the movie overall is still a lot of fun, and the fact it doesn’t take itself that seriously does make it an enjoyable watch with some decently written well acted leads.

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