A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

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

This thing is a hot mess.

I feel like this is a good script hampered by Renny Harlin's disinterest in telling a story over using this universe to make splashy images (literally). It leads to some of the series' best sequences (particularly the theater sequence), and when this thing pops, it's a lot of fun. This is the entry that leans all the way into the fantasy threads laid out in Dream Warriors, which mostly works.

The problem is that it's creating a mythology out of Aristotle and nursery rhymes that is not properly threaded throughout the film and that isn't all that compelling. And because of this, Lisa Wilcox is sort of left drowning. None of the heroes of these films have been particularly great performers, but they at least had a plot buoying them.

The thing is that there is a great idea at the heart of The Dream Master, and it maybe even could have been the best of this series. Alice has the most relatable fear of all as someone longing to get out of their shitty small town. All of her friends have something to look forward to. They're talented and hard-working. By all accounts, they're gonna make it. Alice watches them all slip away. You can read this as them leaving her, or being swallowed up by their surroundings and succumbing to suburban mediocrity. It's that fear of being alone and going nowhere that motivates her to break the cycle. But because Harlin has no interest in actors or character development, the eventual resolution to this arc is totally deflated.

When this thing works, it's exactly what you want from this franchise. But it often feels like it's lost in the weeds, waiting to get from set piece to set piece. Good soundtrack, though.