Franchise Friday gets dreamier as 1428 takes a look at the 1988 sequel, Renny Harlin’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. Welcome back Elm Street Children.
Renny Harlin’s ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master – Courtesy of New Line Cinema
Set after the madness of Chuck Russell’s The Dream Warriors, The Dream Master sees Freddy still resting quietly in a junk yard. But when Kristen can’t get the idea of Freddy returning out of her head, she inadvertently sets the knife-fingered phantom back out into the world to wreak havoc on the innocently-dreaming public of Springwood.
Now Kristen and the remaining warriors must fight for their lives before Freddy finishes what he stated at Westin Hills. Only Mr. Krueger is upping his game and he’s set his sights on new prey. In a race for survival, everyone in Kristen’s life must ban together if they’ve any hope of showing up at graduation.
Being a teen in Springwood can be tough. Dreaming of getting out of the small town can be torture. Welcome to A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
I remember growing up and loving the fourth installment in the illustrious Elm Street series. The third sequel has the difficult task of following the beloved Dream Warriors, a film that saved the series from falling into horror obscurity after the dismal Freddy’s Revenge.
Needless to say, I was excited to view the picture again and see how it stood up to a brighter and more film-savvy version of myself. Luckily, The Dream Master more than holds up and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.
So let’s all work out our parent issues, absorb the best parts of our closest friends and crane kick the one they call Krueger as I review Renny Harlin’s 1988 new-wave nightmare sequel, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
Renny Harlin’s ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master Poster – Courtesy of New Line Cinema
The Dream Master features serviceable acting for a horror sequel. While there’re instances of shining achievement, there’re also a few cringe-worthy misfires in what pits Freddy against another master of the dreamland. That said, let’s separate the acting daydreams from the nightmares.
First up is Lisa Wilcox, playing protagonist and eventual dream master Alice Johnson. I was literally floored–the floor can sometimes help the old posture–by her transformation from a meek homebody to an empowered heroine. The transformation is truly remarkable as the narrative hinges on Johnson.
In fact, it’s one of the best performances in the history of horror–sequel or no sequel. Her closed-off nature is highly believable and her butterfly-like emergence from the cinematic cocoon into the take-no-dreamers fighter of Freddy is equally easy to take in. Alice is one of the best protagonists of our genre and Wilcox crushes the role. In many ways, she’s the best heroine of the series and outshines fan-favorite Heather Langenkamp. Yeah, I said it again.
More from A Nightmare on Elm Street
- 31 Days of Horror: ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’ rules!
- Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: A must-see for Freddy fans
- Queer Themes in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
- Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare — A nuanced take on abuse?!
- Robert Englund: Stay awake with his special Nightmare Blend coffee
Then there’s Tuesday Knight. Filling the shoes of Kristen, a role originated by Oscar winner Patricia Arquette, Tuesday does a decent job at making us at home with her portrayal. She’s inviting, believable and engaging as the one who makes every dream a party.
While she’s wooden compared to her Kristen counterpart (extremely difficult for anyone given how great Arquette is), she’s a lot better than I remember. In actuality, I wouldn’t mind had the actress played Kristen in Chuck Russell’s threequal. The continuity and chemistry gains would be worth it.
Lastly is Andras Jones, playing fun-loving Rick. Brother to Alice, he’s probably the strongest of the supporting players. It’s hard not to enjoy to the actor’s charisma, and when he’s on screen, it’s even harder to take your eyes off his performance.
When he makes his unceremonious exit in the film, there’s a much sadder feeling than most side characters in a horror sequel might induce. You generally want him to make it to The Dream Master’s end credits. Too bad he was such a little meat ball.
Now, with much chagrin, I must mention a few bad performances. The last two of the Elm Street children and remaining “Dream Warriors” are Kincade and Joey, played by Ken Sagoes and Rodney Eastman, respectively. Sagoes is better than Eastman, especially in the after credits scene where Eastman is especially bad. While they say an actor isn’t always responsible for a bad performance, The Dream Master isn’t their finest hour..