Friday, June 3, 2016

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

The answer is flaming dog piss. The question: what brings Freddy Krueger back from the dead in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) after he was supposedly put to rest permanently at the end of the previous movie? A dog, named Jason, walks over Freddy's grave, relieves himself, and that is apparently all it takes for the fedora- and sweater-wearing child killer to resume his child killing ways.

Sometimes, a movie can have a stupid moment or two, but you can still say the rest of the movie was OK. Then, there are such wrong-headed, disastrous moments in a movie, that no matter what else occurs, the entire enterprise is scuttled beyond repair. It's in that vein I present to you A Nightmare on Elm Street 4.

And the scary part is, there's actually something even worse than the dog pee. The problem is deciding which something. Is it when Freddy attacks a girl on the sunny beach, his finger knives breaking the surface of the water like a shark fin, and he jumps out and puts on a pair of sunglasses? Maybe it's the moment he has a pizza with the souls of his victims transformed into toppings, and he takes a bite out of a meatball and goes, "I just love soul food." Maybe it's the rap Robert Englund performs over the end credits.

Nightmare 4 is packed with stupid shit. All the subtext the likes of Wes Craven put into the series has been bled out, and what we're left with is an excuse to see teens getting slaughtered while Freddy cracks a joke about it. Joey, one of the survivors or Part 3, falls for the same, a naked-woman-comes-on-to-me routine that almost killed him in the last movie; this time, Freddy succeeds, killing him in a water bed. "Talk about a wet dream," Krueger cackles. Another characters hates bugs, so Freddy turns her into a cockroach and traps her in a roach motel.

The plot is filled with more contradictory nonsense the writers pulled out of their asses. Freddy is now some kind of evil dream master guarding some sort of gate, and our protagonist Alice (Lisa Wilcox) is his good counterpart, whatever that all means. I haven't a clue. Alice gets the power to pull people into her dreams from the hero of Part 3, Kristen (Tuesday Knight replacing Patricia Arquette), just before Kristen goes under the glove, and now Freddy needs Alice to bring others into her dreams so he can continue killing because all the Elm Street children are dead now. Why he doesn't just invade their dreams, I don't know.

Occasionally, the film demonstrates something of a neat idea. Alice and her would-be boyfriend Dan get caught in a repeating time loop when they try to rescue a friend. The film taps into a fear of hospitals when an injured Dan is strapped to a gurney and placed under anesthesia. When Freddy is defeated, the souls of his victims burst out of his body and pull him apart in a slimy, messy death, even though what caused this is stupid (Freddy saw his own reflection).

Freddy himself is at his least frightening nor is he especially funny, although I can tell he's supposed to be. Director Renny Harlin's direction is slick, but he captures little atmosphere and doesn't create the sense of being trapped in a nightmare. This movie is silly without being much fun.

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