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  Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, A Adventures In Slumberland
Year: 1988
Director: Renny Harlin
Stars: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Tuesday Knight, Andras Jones, Danny Hassel, Rodney Eastman, Ken Sagoes, Brooke Bundy, Nicholas Mele, Toy Newkirk, Brooke Thiess, Jacquelyn Masche, Hope Marie Carlton, Richard Garrison, John Beckman, Linnea Quigley
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kristen Parker (Tuesday Knight) finds herself outside on the street before a boarded-up, abandoned house and a little girl is drawing in chalk on the ground beside her. When Kristen sees the figure that the child has drawn in one of the windows she has sketched, she begins to worry once again that the nightmare character from her dreams is making a return, even though she and her fellow Dream Warriors managed to dispatch him successfully - or so she thought. She has the ability to bring people into her sleeping life, and draws her two comrades, Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) and Joey (Rodney Eastman) to see what she is seeing: that Freddy Krueger is back...

Robert Englund finally got top billing in this third sequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street, and it turned out to be the most successful of the series until Freddy met Jason Vorhees fifteen years later, but only financially. Artistically, it may have taken its cue from its immediate predecessor, but was a step back in quality that was more reminiscent of Part 2. The formula was now that the script (which future blockbuster talent Brian Helgeland had a hand in) assembled a collection of young folks and had the baddie terrorise them for the next ninety minutes, picking them off one by one in elaborate sequences until the survivors turned the tables for the finale.

Here the victory of the remaining Dream Warriors was shown to be very much a hollow one, as about half an hour into this they were all dead, including the one who should have been the lead character, Kristen (now played by singer Knight seeing as how Patricia Arquette was pregnant at the time this was filmed). So we needed a new final girl as per the conventions of slasher movies, and she was Kristen's reserved schoolfriend Alice (cue the Alice in Wonderland references), played by Lisa Wilcox. Her battle with Freddy was intended to represent her own battle with self-esteem issues, although not many go to such lengths to improve their self-image as Alice does here.

But this is a horror movie, and Alice was the audience's surrogate, so you can see where the filmmakers were heading with this: beat Krueger and you can get that life you always wanted. Oh, except that most of your friends will be dead, but you can't have everything, eh? Not to mention that he'll be back for the inevitable follow up, but that's where the business side of things entered into it, as this series continues to be mightily lucrative, a fact you cannot escape that makes every plot of each instalment seem ever more pointless. As long as there are nightmares to be had, Freddy will be there, brought back ad nauseam - literally, as those effects were meant to leave you feeling disgusted, if in an indulgent manner.

Actually The Dream Master was one of the mildest of the series, with one victim killed off by failing to kung fu an invisible Freddy, one of the cheapest deaths they ever attempted. They were obviously saving cash for the more involved creations, such as the scene everyone recalls, where fitness fanatic Deb (Brooke Theiss) is transformed into the thing she hates the most: a cockroach. On its level of ingenuity, stuff like that is very clever, but it's also too cartoonish to work up much of a sense of dread, which was the case with the Freddy villain by this time. Nothing wrong with Englund's performance, which was exactly what the film surrounding it needed, but even for a two-dimensional bogeyman they were pushing the limits of what we were expecting, and there were still more films to come. Music by Craig Safan.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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