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



*** ½ Out 5

Tagline- Terror Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

Release Date- August 19th, 1988

Running Time- 93-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Brian Helgeland and Jim & Ken Wheat

Director- Renny Harlin

Starring-Robert Englund, Tuesday Knight Lisa Wilcox, Andras Jones, Danny Hassel, Ken Sagoes, Brooke Theiss,

There are some nice homages to Wes Craven such as early in the film in Kincaid’s room a couple of times briefly you can see a poster for Craven’s Hills Have Eyes and the diner Alice works at is called the Crave Inn.

Released in 1988 and by the time A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master was released, Freddy pretty much became a pop culture icon as well as a homicidal Bugs Bunny with silly one liners and a joke before killing his victims. It’s hard to believe only a couple of years before this film he was actually scary and intimidating. I suppose to keep up with other franchises a new angle was needed and plus after so many sequels the villain will lose their mystery and scare factor so even if I prefer dark and evil Freddy in the end I guess it was the right move and despite any flaws Dream Master is a fun movie and my 2nd favorite of the series (excluding New Nightmare, which is by far better, but I view as its own movie).

The original Elm Street was a suprise hit and even though part 2 also turned a profit it wasn’t as well received, but Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors ended up being a massive hit for New Line Cinema and launched the series into superstardom and made Freddy an icon. So with that Elm Street 4 was rushed into production and it also had to be written quickly due to the looming writers strike and all of this does show in the final product, but when all is said and done I’ll admit I have a blast watching this movie. In many ways the horror films we see now stem directly from the Elm Street franchise since they had big effects and I suppose one can view the series as MTV, which is a term people use to knock the newer horror movies, but lets not forget Robert Englund did many appearances on MTV as Freddy and the Elm Street sequels feel very much made for that crowd (but that’s back when MTV was cool unlike now).

Proving you can’t keep a good villian down, Freddy (Englund) once again returns and sets off to finish the last of the Elm Street kids and than turns his attention to Alice (Wilcox) as a bridge to new victims.

The screenplay was written by Brian Helgeland and Jim & Ken Wheat (both Wheat brothers are credited as Scott Pierce). The script won’t win any awards and as a series goes on it does get harder to write a quality sequel since rules have been established and you can’t stray too far from the formula. Seeing as most that can be explored had already been done so, Dream Master doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the series, but with that said it is fairly well written and more importantly has a very fun script and at this point that’s all that really matters. The one thing I’ll give the writers (and even the series) is we get some really excellent characters and while some are just sort of there all the characters have their own identity, which makes up for any lack of depth. As a whole I would say this one had my favorite group of characters.

My only problem is Freddy is far too likable, which does hinder the movie for me in a way since again I really dug the characters. Dream Warriors started the more comedic Freddy and that continues here. In some ways it does make him a bit more ruthless since he loves to torture his victims and he’s quite sadistic in that regard, but with all the amount of one liners rather than feel ruthless it has a camp value to it, which makes the scenes fun and makes Freddy fun. I personally like dark and evil Freddy like the original and had he been like that here I would probably rate the film higher. This was the debut of Alice and I personally like her more than Nancy. When looking at the series as a whole Nancy had the better installments, but I always preferred Alice. The writers give her the most depth and I love how her character develops over the course of the film. Overall the way I feel about the script is sort of the same way I feel about the film as a whole; nothing special and perhaps even a little forgettable, but highly entertaining.

Director Renny Harlin often sparks a lot of debate and while as a whole he isn’t a very good filmmaker, but he did make Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger, which are 2 films that are a hell of a lot of fun in my opinion. Here with Dream Master, there isn’t much in the way of suspense or tension and the film is devoid of any scares, but Harlin delivers a fun paced movie that never fails to entertain from opening shot until closing. By no means is this a greatly directed film, but Harlin again delivers a fast paced and fun film that has a tone more in tune with an action movie rather than horror. The pace of the movie moves at a swift pace and while Dream Master won’t go down as one of the great horror movies again Harlin delivers a fun paced movie that while forgettable never fails to entertain.

Normally I dislike when films recast a part, but in the case of the Dream Master I didn’t mind the change from Patricia Arquette as Kristen to Tuesday Knight. If I’m being totally honest I actually liked Tuesday Knight a little more than Arquette. As I mentioned before I liked Alice more than Nancy; I know I am in the minority on that and Nancy was a great character for sure, but like I said I always preferred Alice. I love how she starts off as plain Jane and by the end of the movie sexy heroine. In the end Nancy had the better installments, but for me its Alice when I think of the women of Elm Street.

The best way to describe The Dream Master; It’s sort of like chewing gum. You chew on it for a while and when it loses its flavor you spit it out. Dream Master is sort of forgettable, but for 90 or so minutes its highly entertaining and this isn’t a great movie, but delivers high on the fun factor and at the end of the day isn’t that all that truly matters?











10 Responses to “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) Review”

  1. Victor De Leon Says:

    Good review, Dave. I always forget that Renny Harlin (Deep Blue Sea and Long Kiss Goodnight) did this entry. I think he’s a capable director and unfortunately he’s fallen by the wayside a bit lately but this is a strong but frivolous entry that is fun to watch. I think he and the cast and crew did an admirable job.

    • Yeah Harlin isn’t as bad as some make him out to be. He’s made some poor flicks but also some good ones. Haven’t seen much of his recent work outside of 12 Rounds which was ok.

      But yeah this was a fun flick. Not great but fun.

      I hope to have some more reviews but for some reason I am always so tired. No idea why honestly. But I can’t keep my eyes open and makes it tough to write.

  2. Yeah, this is where it started to go down hill for me but this one is WAYYYY better than 2. Or I think 8 is the other one I hate. I actually reviewed every single one of these (minus the remake) plus two documentaries about them (can’t remember if you saw those or not). Good review though!

    • I will check out your reviews for sure.

      As for me love the original & New Nightmare. The rest I can tolerate, but I will revisit them once every few years. I don’t hate any but none again besides the original and New Nightmare would rate highly for me.

      I hope to have a review for part 5 coming soon. Will email you a bit later.

      • I love 1, 3, New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason (purely for the cheesy good fun). 🙂

        And cool!

      • I’m not a huge fan of 3. It’s cool but honestly I would rate it towards the bottom. I guess I need to be in the right mood for it. That I guess sums up my thoughts on the entire series besides the first and New Nightmare.

        My 3rd favorite would probably be Dream Master mostly due to Alice.

      • I wasn’t a big Alice fan. I mean she was okay and all but that whole taking on people’s abilities? There’s just so many changes in the mythology throughout that it gets annoying, lol.

      • Nancy was in the better parts but Alice was always my favorite not really sure why to be honest but always loved Alice. I agree on taking other people’s ability. Each sequel seemed to change something.

        That’s part of the reason I’m not a huge fan of the sequels. Plus I liked dark and evil Freddy which is why I love the 2 films made by Craven. Freddy became a homicidal bugs bunny. Sure he was funny but he was actually quite scary in the original. When he became a comedian he lost the scare factor and became to likable.

      • Oh yeah, he totally went cartoonish but I think that was mostly a money making thing because people love a good villain, especially one they aren’t terrified of – after that they could get away with mass marketing him to the kiddies and all, ya know?

      • While all the Elm St movies turned a profit it was the comedic Freddy that grossed the highest.

        Believe it or not the original and New Nightmare are the lowest grossing of the series. Go figure

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