Welcome to Elm Street: Part Four

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In honor(?) of the new A Nightmare on Elm Street, we're recapping all of the Elms so far. Find more on the Pixel Vision blog.

In the immortal words of the Fat Boys: are you ready for Freddy?

Well, duh. By 1988’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, everyone and their (human-faced) dog was ready for Freddy, whose status as a grinning, quotable pop culture icon would only be enhanced by his latest film. The Dream Master is the first of the Nightmare movies to basically do away with any semblance of a plot; instead, the film exists to provide variously surreal, outlandish, and repulsive nightmare sequences that inevitably end in the death of whatever character is chiefly involved.
And that ain’t such a bad thing. Though the behind the scenes credits are sorta impressive, actually -- Renny Harlin, who’d go on to make Die Hard 2 (1990), Cliffhanger (1993), and Deep Blue Sea (1999), directed; Brian Helgeland, who shared a screenwriting Oscar with Curtis Hanson for 1997’s L.A. Confidential, and was later nominated for adapting 2003’s Mystic River, is among its co-writers -- this movie is utterly ridiculous anytime Freddy’s not the center of attention.

Thankfully, that’s not often. As Louis described in his post on Nightmare 3, the remaining Elm Street kids/Dream Warriors -- now more or less integrated into Springwood’s normal high school population --  are the first to go, and they go fast. But wait, you say! Didn’t Freddy get buried in consecrated ground, etc. etc., at the end of Dream Warriors? Yeah, but no matter: before Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) dies, he dreams his dog, Jason (zing!), turns demonic and pees a fiery stream into Freddy’s junkyard grave. Naturally, Freddy comes back to “life,” except he was already dead, or undead, or something, to begin with, wasn’t he? "You shouldn't have buried me. I'm not dead!" Whatever, he's back.

Before you can sing a slo-mo jump rope rhyme, Kincaid gets gloved, and ever-horny Joey (Rodney Eastman) drowns in his waterbed. Kristen (now played by Tuesday Knight, who’s no Patricia Arquette) meets a fiery end, but not before courteously extending Freddy’s nightmare-entering capabilities beyond the Elm Street circle: she pulls innocent, mousy Alice (Lisa Wilcox) into her fatal dream. (Freddy’s response: “How sweet! Fresh meat!”) Logically, of course, this means Freddy can now terrorize Alice and all of her friends, including her kung fu-fighting brother, Rick (Andras Jones); asthmatic nerd Sheila (Toy Newkirk); bug-phobic workout-aholic Debbie (Brooke Theiss); and letter-jacketed love interest Dan (Danny Hassel).

The death scenes benefit from what appears to be a bigger special-effects budget than previous films, with Debbie’s transformation into a giant cockroach remaining my personal favorite. There’s also a nice bit where Alice gets pulled into a movie screen, and an attempt at near-artsyness when a scene repeats multiple times to slow Alice and Dan from saving one of their imperiled, snoozing friends. I'm also a huge fan of the scene where Freddy visits Alice's workplace, the Crave Inn (zing!) diner. Seems Freddy, in a particularly sassy mood, has ordered himself a pizza. A pizza covered in heads! Screaming heads! Freddy spears a head-meatball with one of his claws and excitedly smacks his lips: "My faaaaavorite!" The chewing sounds are amazing.

Later, Alice turns Perseus and "kills" Freddy by showing him his reflection in a piece of stained glass (but not before Freddy reminds us that "I. Am. Eternal!") And since Freddy has now become not just a slaughterer-of-the-sleeping, but a taker-of-souls (when and how did that happen, exactly?), his captives sail to freedom past Alice in a wash of white light, as if Zelda Rubenstein was showing them the way. Yeah, that's the end of him, for sure! Er ... one more thing about Dream Master is its determined-to-be "hip" soundtrack, with Sinead O' Conner, Dramarama, Blondie, and other artists contributing tunes. But you can't go wrong with the Fat Boys.