A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

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

This one’s a real mixed bag. On the one hand The Dream Master takes the creative production design, elaborate special effects and stomach-churning body horror this franchise is known for to the next level, reaching heights of delirious pop surrealism even The Dream Warriors (still probably the best slasher sequel ever made) couldn’t quite reach. I love the look of this movie; the imagination and variety of its setpieces, the unearthly lighting and set design, the comic-book weirdness of its visuals and mythology.

Unfortunately, where the previous films succeeded and this one doesn’t is the characters – whenever Freddy isn’t around the performances here are shockingly bad seemingly due to a complete lack of directorial oversight. Nobody ever seems to be in an actual conversation with one another, they just take turns delivering their lines as flatly and directly as possible regardless of the attempted tone of the script. Apart from a likeable enough final girl nobody is memorable outside of their over-the-top ironic death scenes; I kept forgetting who characters were, their relationships to each other and whether or not they were dreaming (it doesn’t help that Patricia Arquette’s character from Dream Warriors has been recast with a much less compelling actress). If it weren’t for Freddy being such a genuinely evil son of a bitch, I don’t think I would have cared what happened to anyone in this movie one way or another.

This is also the most nonsensical film in the series thus far (which is saying something considering just how silly Part 2 is) – the rules of the dream world and Freddy’s powers get more convoluted with each new instalment to the point where Freddy can now apparently mess with reality enough to create time loops (not in your dreams mind you, in the real world) and trap people in them. What? How? And why doesn’t anyone from the last movie ever use their dream powers in a meaningful way? If you know that you’re asleep, and know that you have some control over your own dream, why don’t you make yourself 100 ft tall? Or grow wings? Or have lasers for hands? If you ask me, these kids have rocks for brains and Freddy’s just trying to teach them the power of imagination.

Judging this as a film it’s unfortunately not all that great, but if you’re looking for a genuinely creative slasher flick with some excellent practical effects and super gnarly visuals (there’s stuff in here that would be impressive if this came out now, let alone in 1988) then Dream Master will definitely satisfy you. I’ll probably be revisiting this one with the same frequency that I do Dream Warriors even though it’s a significantly weaker movie, mainly to check out some of the iconic dream sequences and watch Freddy put on those sunglasses again, but if the fleshy, larger-than-life trappings of this franchise aren’t for you then there are certainly better ways you could be spending your time.

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