Sunday, August 19, 2018

Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, A (1988)

... aka: Le cauchemar de Freddy (Freddy's Nightmare)
... aka: Nightmare 4
... aka: Nightmare 4 - Il non risveglio
... aka: Pesadilla en la calle del infierno 4 (Nightmare on Hell Street 4)
... aka: Rémálom 4. - Az álmok ura (Nightmare 4 - Lord of Dreams)
... aka: Terror på Elm Street 4 - Freddys mardröm (Terror on Elm Street 4: Freddy's Nightmare)

Directed by:
Renny Harlin

The previous entry, DREAM WARRIORS, did things quite a bit differently than the first two films. For starters, the mysterious and ambiguous phantom figure that started the series was given a family history. We didn't know very much about Freddy at all over the course of the first two films but by the time Warriors was over we certainly did. Perhaps too much! To make a long story short, Freddy's mother got tag-teamed by a hundred or so nuts in an asylum and one of those psychos knocked her up and is thus Freddy's father. Part 3 also saw an increase in the amount of witty one-liners Freddy was given. While he'd throw out an occasional dark-humored line in the first two films, by #3 virtually everything out of his mouth was meant to elicit a laugh and he seemed unable to murder anyone without first doing a brief stand-up comedy routine.

Finally, Part 3 added a strong religious angle to the works that was not prevalent in the previous ones. Religion did not factor at all into Freddy's Revenge from what I recall and, while the original features one scene of Freddy being repelled by a crucifix while the heroine slept, he ultimately wasn't stopped by religious artifacts nor divine intervention. It was entirely up to Nancy after learning she could bring him out of the nightmare world (where he's immortal) into the real world (where he's not). But Part 3 piled on the religion thick and heavy to the point where the doctor hero was being coached by a ghost nun about having faith and then filling an empty whiskey bottle with holy water so he could consecrate ground in which to bury Freddy's remains. Seeing how Part 4 opens up with a biblical quote from Job 4: 13-14, I was expecting more of the same. Thankfully, this one backs off that a little bit, though Part 5 would more than make up for it by virtually wallowing in it.

By the end of Dream Warriors, a bunch of beds at the local psychiatric hospital had opened up as the majority of the remaining Elm Street children, descendants of the lynch mob who hunted down and set child killer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) ablaze, were killed. Now only three remain: the still meek but no longer mute Joey (Rodney Eastman), the loud, foul-mouthed and "funny" Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) and the resilient Kristen. All three think they can rest easy now that Freddy's remains have been put to rest on consecrated ground, but Kristen's nightmares have started up again and she suspects Freddy will be back to try to finish the job he started.

Viewers will immediately note the absence of Patricia Arquette. I've read multiple sources state she didn't reprise the Kristen role because she was pregnant. I don't recall Arquette ever saying that herself but let's do a little math here. Filming began on April 4th, 1988. Arquette's son was born January 3rd, 1989. There's a window of almost exactly 9 months between the two. So either Arquette found out she was pregnant a few days after it happened and bailed at the last possible second or someone just made up the pregnancy excuse. Seeing how the Kristen role is much smaller here and it's common knowledge Arquette didn't have the best of times on the Elm Street 3 set, it's far more likely that she simply didn't want to do this. Either way, she's been replaced by another blonde named Tuesday Knight, who also performs the opening credits theme song "Nightmare."

Though he's skeptical of Kristen's claims at first, Kincaid becomes a believer once he's dreamed into the junkyard containing Freddy's remains and his dog pisses fire (?!) on the ground, causing it to crack open and Freddy's bones to reassemble all by themselves. Unfortunately he won't live long enough to pass on this info to his endangered friends. Now back to "life," Freddy kills him and then heads right on over to Joey's house to give him a "wet dream" by putting topless Playboy Playmate Hope Marie Carlton inside his water bed. But Joey's hope he'll get some Hope is short-lived once Freddy jumps out of the water and slashes him to death.

Now with Kristen the last of the Elm Street children alive, she makes sure to pass on some vital information to her core group of friends before Freddy picks her up and tosses her into a furnace. She also passes on her "power" to pull people into dreams to her mousy friend Alice (Lisa Wilcox), who will soon have her hands full beyond school, working double shifts at a soda fountain and filling in for her dead mother by catering to her drunken asshole of a father (Nicholas Mele). Is it just me or are Elm Street parents the absolute worst parents ever?

Not content with just getting revenge against those who killed him, Freddy's now planning on branching out. After all, he's got plenty of vacant space on his soul chest. Alice, her brother Rick (Andras Jones), who was also Kristen's boyfriend, Alice's "major league hunk" love interest Dan (Danny Hassel), big-haired workout enthusiast Debbie (Brooke Theiss) and asthmatic nerd Sheila (Toy Newkirk) all become targets. Each time someone dies, Alice is given a special new talent from the victim, whether that be intelligence, strength or martial arts skills. Where she'd already inherited Kristen's ability to pull others into her dreams is where the problem lies as Freddy just uses that against her to strike out at new victims she lures to him.

The acting is the worst yet for the franchise, most of the characters fall flat (what they attempt to do with Alice is more interesting in theory than in execution) and both the plot and the newly added dream mythos get a bit too muddled, but Harlin's flashy direction and the special effects do their best to distract. Some of the fx highlights include Alice being pulled right off a movie theater balcony into a black-and-white movie, a human face pizza (likely a jab at critics frequently describing Freddy's face as one), a gory bit where a girl is transformed into a cockroach, Freddy sucking all of the air out of a victim and a spin through a tunnel of human souls. The finale takes place in a church for some reason (I guess because the stained glass looks cool), where the souls of Freddy's victims eventually rip his body apart. As usual, the ending is left wide open because they already knew they'd be making another one. Or five.

The cast includes Brooke Bundy (again) as Kristen's bitchy mom, "L.E. Moko" (producer Robert Shaye) as a boring teacher and Linnea Quigley as a soul in Freddy's chest. Among the big names on the fx crew are Kevin Yagher, Screaming Mad George, Howard Berger, R. Christopher Biggs, John Carl Buechler, Steve Johnson and Hoyt Yeatman.

Made on a 13 million budget (more than what it cost to make the first three films combined), The Dream Master became the biggest Elm Street hit yet. It was the #1 movie in America for three straight weeks, broke a record for the biggest opening weekend for an independent production, was the highest grossing horror film of the year and went on to earn nearly 50 million dollars, making it the 19th highest grossing film of 1988 and the highest grossing slasher film of the entire decade. It is also among the Top 10 highest grossing genre films of the entire decade.

Englund / Freddy received his own hour-long MTV special to promote the film and there was also a tie-in Fat Boys music video ("Great Ready for Freddy") featuring Englund as well as a 50-minute The Making of a Nightmare on Elm Street 4 tape hosted by Englund. As soon as this left theaters, Freddy was back on TV again hosting his very own syndicated series Freddy's Nightmares, which would last until 1990.

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