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Slasher Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

Dream Master movie poster

Written by Josh Brewer, April 14th, 2017, at 3:15 p.m. Tweet to: @theJWBrewer


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

Director: Renny Harlin
Writer: Brian Helgeland, Scott Pierce
Release Date: August 19th, 1988
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Tuesday Knight, Brooke Theiss, Andras Jones, Rodney Eastman, Ken Sagoes

Cliff’s Notes

After being revived by a fire pissing dog (!) Freddy picks up right where he left off. Of course, the new girl on the block has something to say about that.

Lecture

With Part 3 putting the franchise back on track, New Line decided to kick the series into overdrive. A year later, The Dream Master arrives, though the results end up as okay instead of inspired.

Most of the criticism of The Dream Master falls to the fact that Freddy has lost much of his primal nastiness. Gone is the vicious child murderer of the past: he’s been replaced with a type of almostDream Master scary court jester. Freddy has become a punning master of ceremony to a show of special effects and rock tunes. And sure, there’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but as a horror fan, things seems a little light. Sure, The Dream Master rocks a few solid kills, but this puppy contains nothing but BBQ sauce. No meat!

That’s not to say that things go poorly. The effects have always been top notch and most of the cast does what they can with a poor script. However, at the end of the day, the series limps out of its fourth entry and onto a poor showing for parts 5 and 6.

Acting

Englund steals the show, providing one hell of a fun ride. He’s achieved pre-credit goodness and remains the highlight of the series while Wilcox stands as one of the strongest final girls in the series. The extra meat thrown onto her character doesn’t hurt. Hassel, Theiss, and Jones do okay, but the characters they play couldn’t stand on their own. Eastman and Sagoes are wasted, while Knight has to step into Patricia Arquette’s shoes. She does okay, but I’m really missing Arquette.

Directing

Harlin tries to cover his weak script by going balls to the wall with all kinds of style. While it makes the film a touch more bearable, it doesn’t do much for the horror. There’s little to no tension to be found, and what horror shows up seems forced. Harlin moves onto better things- Die Hard 2 for example – but this puppy falls flat.

Dream MasterScript

Pretty weak, even for a slasher. Several of the characters are dumped quickly, Kristen is the only returning character with any legitimate screen time, and the new folks don’t fare better. Alice gets a little development – and we’ll get her in another flick, so she’ll be one of the clearest characters in the series – but the rest of the new folks could be replaced by cardboard. The plot falls apart at the end, Freddy’s murder doesn’t even come close to making sense, and we get a slew of plot holes. Ho-hum.

Effects

The Dream Master rocks a slew of amazing effects, girl turned into a bug for example, and they really lift the flick above the rest of the genre. The SFX guys have always delivered in the ANOES series, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Still though, nice job!

HighlightsDream Master

The Freddy one liners are the best around. Sure, it’s not scary, but Englund sells the whole thing like a boss.

Lowlights

I miss scary Freddy. Bunches.

Final Thoughts  

Not the best, not the worst, The Dream Master suffers from a script that doesn’t really work, a tired rehash of the earlier films, and all of the subtlety that its initials suggest.

Grade: C

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