A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Director(s): Renny Harlin
Writer(s): Brian Helgeland, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, William Kotzwinkle (story), Wes Craven (character)
Starring: Robert Englund Lisa Wilcox, Andras Jones, Tuesday Knight, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman
I’ve always been more of a Jason guy.
Yeah, I SAID IT; What? You want to rumble?
Apologies FearTASTIC fans, I get a little touchy whenever the topic of who truly wears the crown atop the Everest of the Slasher/B-movie era that shaped horror movies forever. Both Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street series) and Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th series) have easily secured their place in the Mount Rushmore of modern horror flicks but still, the debate will rage on amongst fans everywhere. In my perspective, the horror fans win regardless. Simply choosing one over the other is like choosing between two burgers from your FAVORITE restaurant; you WIN either way. The choice is just based off subtle nuances and personal preference. Seeing that I am one for gruesome (yet entertaining) kills, both are artists in their craft where Jason uses more raw brutality (which I slightly prefer, see HERE), Freddy takes the extra step in creating terrifying chaos based off the fear of his victims.
No matter what origin you choose to follow, Freddy Krueger is a God in his own right. A demon God that was bestowed the powers of invading dreams and killing his victims by manipulating the reality around him. In an era where the horror icons consisted of silent, stocky killers that lurked around in the darkness, Freddy Krueger was basically presented as a maniacal slasher that became more cartoonish as the series progressed and I truly mean that in a GREAT way. Of course, there are arguments to be made when the character became a little TOO flamboyant but the reason I chose the fourth movie in the franchise, Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Master, is because this was the perfect balance between genuine horror elements that make slasher movies successful and a clever performance from horror icon Robert Englund that made Freddy Krueger more sinister than silly.
The Nightmare on Elm Street series was always focused on a slasher’s natural prey: Teenagers. In this case, Freddy Krueger was the result of an angry (and stupid) mob of parents that decided to take the law into their own hands and kill the local child molester themselves. As a result, the demon of dreams was born and he’s been terrorizing the children of his hometown since. Fast forward to the fourth movie and the story finds itself picking up where the third one left off; a group of teens who defeated Freddy in the last flick find themselves being picked off one by one and it just so happens that the ultimate defense against Freddy Krueger is in the form of a new ally who was given the gift of pulling others into her own dreams which pits her against Freddy in a battle for who truly rules the dream world.
What’s great about this entry in the series is that this was the pinnacle of the series right before it goes a little haywire. Every Nightmare flick after this one felt more like a horror parody than a genuine entry, not a terrible thing, but you sometimes forget how scary Freddy Krueger actually is as a conceptual character. I don’t feel that he loses that cred in this movie but there are still entertaining sections that is lacking in most slasher flicks of that era; a type of humor and satire that makes you enjoy watching this flick with a big group of friends that are genuinely entertained and not just being snarky A-holes. The kills still have the sense of classic gore but you find yourself acknowledging that they are derived from a silly place (the pizza scene makes me cringe and crack up at the same time to this day). This flick also contains one of the best/worst/best scenes in the whole Nightmare on Elm Street series; the heroine of the story has a brother who practices martial arts. So how do we portray that part of his character that fits organically into the story? It’s the 80’s so OF COURSE they do it via training montage (to the tune of Anything Anything from Dramarama)!
Any Nightmare on Elm Street flick is worthy for group watching but this FearTASTIC Vault Keeper HIGHLY suggests you view the fourth installment. The entertainment and humor will have a good balance while you rewind that karate montage at least 2-3 times for all to enjoy!
No matter whom you choose as the most iconic horror figure in an era full of worthy candidates, you can never take away the fact that Freddy Krueger is the most sadistically creative killer in horror movie history.
But Jason Voorhees can still kick his ass…if he’s not dreaming that is.
This is my 20th entry in our Horror-RIFIC journey together that I call the FearTASTIC Vault, so thanks to everyone that read/shared the articles!
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.