Renny Harlin’s ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master German Poster – Courtesy of New Line Cinema
Renny Harlin directs The Dream Master with inspiration and jaw-dropping perfection. Dreamers, it’s not only one of the best directed entries in the series, often besting Wes Craven’s classic, but one of the best directed sequels in the history of cinema. I’m in awe of the Finnish filmmaker’s composition, camera movement, and overall cinematic language in one of the last great entries of the Nightmare saga.
In fact, the cold open of the film is probably the best shot sequence in the entire Elm Street series. Harlin, who also directed the 1992 icy-thriller Cliffhanger and the 1999 open-water tale Deep Blue Sea, shoots The Dream Master so well it’s extremely difficult pointing out every amazing direction in the film.
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Among many examples, we get a between the leg shot showing protagonist Alice as she faces Freddy (the camera is between actor Robert Englund and the outline of his walking sticks can be seen), and a shot from the backseat of Kristen’s car showing the actress in her rear-view mirror (the camera pans the reveal the eventual scene setting and then back to her reflection in the mirror) and so many others.
The great direction comes as you like that big boulder chasing Indiana Jones — better get out that whip Dreamers. I honestly wasn’t ready for the brilliance of Harlin’s work in the sequel, but it’s changing my perspective and admiration of The Dream Master.
Not only is Harlin using the camera like a thick water hose in a dangerous fire fight, drenching moments of film and leaving the audience relishing in the damp perfection, the tone of the picture is fast, fun and frantic.
One of the first of the MTV generation, the films trades the classic “Nightmare” atmosphere for a more hip style and humorous approach. Only, the film isn’t overly choppy or hastily edited, Which just shows the discipline of the Director Harlin. It’s a huge reason why The Dream Master is a highly re-watchable thrill ride.
Renny Harlin’s The Dream Master is one the strongest entries in the iconic slasher series, and in many ways, is better than Dream Warriors. Sure, the script has flaws but the film so masterfully directed, faults are easily forgivable. The sequel boasts one of the strongest heroines in horror history and is brought to life beautifully by Lisa Wilcox. I can’t recommend the film enough to fans of the series or to anyone needing an example of how to take a slowly dying franchise and make it fresh. Now go out, get some sleep and join your friends–you’re gonna need ’em.
THE GRADE: B-
Join us next week for another edition on Franchise Friday a look back at the fifth film in the ‘Elm Street’ franchise, Stephen Hopkins’ The Dream Child.