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Focus on the Frightful: Nightmare on Elm Street 4

I probably won’t delve beyond A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master. There’s just not much to delve into in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (thankfully it wasn’t) and Freddy vs. Jason and Dream Child illustrates many of my same points.

But there is quite a bit to talk about with Dream Master. While watching it with the Kali Krew I realized that for being a slasher movie (in the supernatural realm ala Jason and Michael Myers) it actually breaks a lot of slasher stereotypes.

Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Master

Dream Master has a very obvious Alice in Wonderland theme to it. Alice, our main protagonist, spends her days shyly daydreaming of what she’d like to do or say such as telling Dan, her crush, that he’s a hot stud or telling her father off for treating her like a maid and drinking himself into oblivion.

The movie starts out with Kristen, Kincaid and Joey from Dream Warriors awakening Freddy (via piss from a dog named Jason) and quickly succumbing to him. Before she dies Kristen passes on her power to pull people into her dreams to Alice. And Freddy uses her to get to everyone else.

Kristen, Joey and Kincaid are the last of the Elm Street kids and Alice and her friends are the ‘fresh meat’. Our main characters are Alice, her brother Rick (Kristen’s boyfriend), Dan (the hot jock), Debbie (the rock and roll girl), and Sheila (the science nerd).

Which brings me to my first point about breaking the slasher stereotypes. Alice is our main character but she’s not bold, she’s very shy and quiet but with an obviously active dream life. Ripe ground for Freddy. And besides Nancy, Alice is the only other character that Freddy seems to…enjoy, for lack of a better word.

As Freddy kills her friends she gains their ‘powers’ or what makes them unique and slowly finds herself. Dan is the hot jock but he’s not the arrogant jerk that is typically portrayed in that role in the slasher genre. Rick is Alice’s rebellious brother who is also on the football team…and into kung-fu. Sheila is the only character of colour (after Kincaid dies) and she’s not the Sassy Best Friend. She’s best friends with Debbie and the actresses have a lot of chemistry together. It’s nice seeing a character of colour portrayed well, instead of the usual pigeon-holes. Debbie is a rock ‘n’ roll gal, who’s also into fitness and working out.

What I’m trying to say is that they at least tried to give them a bit more depth than just the Freddy fodder and that’s been true throughout most of the series.

I also like the evolution of Alice’s father. In Dream Master he’s a drunk, bitter over the death of his wife and he treats Alice like a slave. However, between Dream Master and Dream Child, he cleans up and becomes a better man and better parent (and grandparent). He’s a nice counterpoint to all of the sucky Elm Street parents. Particularly in Dream Master where Kristen’s mother straight-up drugs her and consigns her to death at the hands of Freddy.

Our characters are also not punished for having sex, which most horror characters are prone to be. You could make an argument for Tina in the first movie but the few times sex is brought into the movies it seems more of a tool for Freddy to use against the characters, rather than him seeking out lusty teenagers to punish (Michael Myers and Jason are the more well-known poontang punishers).

The Dreams

As always, the dream sequences are where the heart of the movie is and Dream Master and Dream Child have some of the best dream sequences. Kristen and Kincad’s deaths at the beginning of Dream Master are pretty tame but then the insanity ramps up. Kristen gets chucked into a furnace and Kincaid gets the glove to the gut.

Joey gets sucked into a waterbed (which made me terrified of them for years). Sheila, who has asthma, gets a deadly Freddy make-out scene. Debbie, who hates bugs, gets turned into a cockroach, glue-trapped and squished (in one of the more stomach-turning dream deaths). Rick has a fight with Invisi-Freddy and gets a glove to the gut.

They sound ridiculous but there is some very striking imagery in them. For instance, when Kristen accidentally pulls Alice into her dream there’s an eerie mist and Alice walks dreamily into shot wrapped in a white button-up sleep shirt (naturally, would we expect our horror heroine to be wearing anything else?) and it’s a beautiful shot with the mist and the coldness of the boiler room.

My other favorite dream sequence from the movie is Alice and Dan going in circles and when she gets sucked into the movie. It has an eerie quality to it that is just perfect. The eerie, atmospheric shots perfectly compliment the more balls to the wall insane dreams (such as Karate Rick) and goriness.

In all, I think Dream Master gets criticized more for its more chatty Freddy and overblown dream scenes. It’s also beloved for those same reasons. So grab a meatball pizza and have a watch!

Published inFocus on the Frightful

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┬ęSci-Fi & Scary 2019
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