Just a year after Nancy helped Kristen, Kincaid and and Joey with ridding their dreams of Freddy Krueger, New Line Cinema released the next installment. Jason Voorhees wasn’t the only villain showing up on movie screens nearly every year of the 80s. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master centers around a new set of teens, but does spend some time at the beginning with Kristen and company. Long story short, the kids from the third film are now out of the hospital and living normal lives. Kristen is dating and has friends at school. Just as life is awesome again, Freddy returns to finish what he started.
Most of Dream Master focuses on Alice, the sister of Kristen’s boyfriend. Alice is shy and quiet - certainly not a formidable opponent for Freddy. Kristen is able to transfer her ability to bring others into her dream to Alice, but in the beginning, Alice doesn’t understand the power and inadvertently brings her friends into her dreams. As with all of these films, it’s not a pretty sight when Freddy comes into contact with anyone, and Alice’s friends are no different.
I loved how this film took the plot from the third and continued it, strengthening the franchise. While this film introduces new characters and takes on a different story, the use of the characters and backstory from the third film served as a great transition. Also, Alice turns out to be a compelling protagonist. She may be weak and meek in the beginning, but she evolves with each dream and each death, in part because she absorbs the “special powers” of her dead friends but also because she becomes more confident and stronger. She becomes a character to root for and the audience (even if they love Freddy) want her to succeed in the end.
This film continues to evolve Freddy, giving him even more snappy one-liners and dialogue. My favorite came at the start of the film, as Freddy is resurrected from the auto salvage yard, “You shouldn’t have buried me. I’m not dead.” This line, in a nutshell, is the essence of Freddy. He is a nightmare, not a person. Each film, characters strive to kill him or destroy him, but the genius of the franchise is that he can’t be destroyed because he’s not human. While Jason and Michael defy death at an unrealistic rate, Freddy never truly dies and it’s totally believable. Freddy is the loophole for a horror franchise - he’s a villain that can keep coming back without straining viewers' belief in the story.
The best part of this film was the death sequences. As the story evolved Freddy, the deaths evolved as well. In this story, Freddy uses interests of each of the characters when killing them. For example, one of the girls is a total geek and extremely smart. The dream in which she meets her fate involves the classroom and Freddy writing “Learning is fun” on her desk. Another girl is horribly afraid of bugs and Freddy uses that weakness to his advantage. This allows the story to not only provide exciting and unique death sequences, but it also develops the characters at the same time. For once, the characters possess a depth that few horror films bother with. It allowed me to connect with each of them and feel angered at their demise.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a shorter franchise than Friday the 13th or Halloween, but so far I’m more impressed with it as a whole than either of the others. I’m sure there’s a dud coming my way (I already know I didn’t like the remake much), but each of the films to this point was riveting and original. Freddy Krueger is a foe unlike any other and serial killers lurking around horror island should watch their back... err... their dreams.
If you liked A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, you might also like A Nightmare on Elm Street 5, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare and Wes Craven's New Nightmare.