A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

Directed by: Renny Harlin
Category: Horror

What's funny about these Elm Street films is that after Part 3, they're not even horror really. They kind of become pure fantasy. I mean, they certainly try for "some" horror elements with this one, but really it's not scary at all and try as they might to make it scary, they just don't succeed.

Does that mean it's a bad film? Nope! Not in the least, because it does have a lot of things going for it that surely make it enjoyable. So let's begin.

I have fond memories of seeing this in the theater. Back then my brother and I were die hard horror fans and just ate this shit up. I'll bet I even have some old Fangoria magazine with Freddy on the cover related to this movie somewhere. But when you look at this film with older and wiser eyes, you see how different it is. Your memory remembers the cool shit, all the crazy cool and sometimes odd or hilarious things Freddy does when he pops up here and there, but when you look at it as a whole, it just doesn't make any sense at all. To me, it seems that starting with Part 3, they just started making up the rules as they went along. With Wes Craven's original, he only got to you in your dreams. Yea you could physically pull him out of your dreams, but it always stuck with that simple rule. But now it seems like they just kind of make shit up as they go along because it looks cool and throw all logic in terms of how all this is supposed to happen out the window. But hey! Whatever. It's fun. It's got some killer sequences and some cool 80's tunes.

Unlike the Friday the 13th films which I've been trying to revisit in chronological order, it doesn't seem to be necessary with this franchise. I mean, these films pretty much don't seem to work in any kind of order so when I throw one random one on, it's like watching a horror film all on it's own without the benefit of a franchise to kind of keep you up to speed with what's going on. Nope, not here. All you have to know is he was a child killer, then he was murdered by angry parents, and now he disperses revenge on the offspring of those adults who killed him many years ago. Somehow, in some way he manages to find a way to return after being destroyed in the previous film. He's so slick that Freddy.
Yes, the character of Kristen (formerly played by Patricia Arquette and now by Tuesday Knight) and her friends return in this entry, but they pretty much tell you what happened in the last film during their many talks so if you never saw Part 3: The Dream Warriors (shame on you!), you'll still get caught up pretty quickly.

The Good:
Renny Harlin in the directors chair. You know, once upon a time Renny Harlin was a bonafide badass A-List director. Yes, it's true. For a period of 5 years from 1988 to 1993 he was the hottest director working in Hollywood. Pretty much blowing us away with Prison, "if" you were lucky enough to see it since it was a Direct-To-Video release here in the U.S. But you can see the talent in Prison, and it's what got him his gig here, which led to future big budget projects like Die Hard 2, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Cliffhanger. So here with this Elm Street entry though a lot of what goes on seems to have been made up on the spot with everything thrown in but the kitchen sink, it looks damn good with Harlin giving the film a better-than-it-deserves polished look. Throw in some interesting kills and some decent 80's rock tracks and it's a good time. Now are any of the tracks as good as Dokken's awesome "Dream Warriors" track for Part 3?? Hell No! But it's decent stuff.
Kevin Yagher's Freddy makeup effects. This was the coolest he ever looked and how I'll always remember him when I think of Freddy. I believe this was the last time Yagher worked on Freddy's makeup because in Part 5 he looked completely different and quite frankly, he looked like shit.

The Bad:
Freddy barely comes out in this. Seriously. And when he does, so much of his dialogue was dubbed in afterwards because he'll be standing there and though his mouth isn't moving, he seems to be speaking lines of dialogue.
Tuesday Knight as Kristen. Maybe it's just me, but what a severe downgrade in casting and she just annoys the hell out of me for some reason.
Nonsensical plot. Most of the time it just seems like outside of the written script, it felt like director Harlin and company would just come up with interesting and unusual kills or sequences because they looked cool. Maybe I'm wrong and everything was in the finished script before they started filming, but I'm just sayin'....

Overall, one of the better entries for sure, just not crazy cool like Part 3: The Dream Warriors was. But a helluva lot better than the next one, which was so horrible I couldn't even finish it.


  1. I know what you mean. Part 4 was definitely where they dropped all pretense of being a horror film any more.

    I still like the later films regardless for their amazing effects work and set designs.

    Tuesday Knight was definitely a step down from Patricia Arquette but I love the tie-in song she did for this. "Running from this Nightmare".

    1. I almost always revisit Parts 1 through 4 on a regular basis, so my memory of anything after those is fuzzy. I think I'll give Freddy's Dead a shot next for sure. But this is stylish and inventive enough to be entertaining. Unlike the weirdness and blandness of Part 5!!

    2. Freddy's Dead is still enjoyable man, I actually like it a lot as well, but I pretty much like all of Freddy's films, some less than others, but all have something cool about them. Part five is the weakest one, I agree, but this for some reason is an ailment that many franchises suffer from, the weak part V...Friday the 13th Part V, Halloween V...and so on...

    3. Good deal. I'll definitely be checking out the remainder Freddy films as well as the Jason films after part 8. And it's funny, I never noticed the "Part 5" curse thing before, but you're absolutely right! lol

  2. Harlin also directed the super kick ass action flick The Long Kiss Goodnight which is in my book criminally underrated!

    I'm right there with you Robot Geek, these movies are a lot of fun, I am a huge fan of these, and like you, I know look at them with different eyes and truly see them for how outlandish and crazy and loony they are, but as you say, they are also great fun. Horror Fantasy of the best kind. I still revisit these on a regular basis! This fourth entry is a favorite of mine, after Dream Warriors of course!

    1. The Long Kiss Goodnight is also one of my favorites and I agree, severely underrated. Remember when that came out it was a huge deal because Shane Black's script was the highest ever paid for in the history of Hollywood? And then it didn't do so well at the box office? I love it though. I wiiiiiiish Harlin would go back to making films like that again, with that particular style. He's changed as a director in the last 20 years and I can honesty say I really haven't enjoyed anything he's done since The Long Kiss Goodnight.

      I agree, Part 3 is my favorite, followed by this one. I couldn't even finish Part 5 though. It is terrible.

  3. I recently had a chance to re-watch The Long Kiss Goodnight (for my 90's Blog-a-Thon which is still going on!) and enjoyed it inmensely, the thing is that before Long Kiss Goodnight he'd done Cuththroat Island and that was a huge flop, so audiences didn't exactly flock to see Goodnight. Too bad cause its an awesome action flick, I gave it a very positive review. True, Shane Black got paid four million bucks! And it tanked! After that Harlin's career went down, he never recuperated from that double whammy of failure.

    1. I love Long Kiss. I throw it on every so often because it represents some of his best camera work. He's like the master of slow-mo. lol!

      Thanks for the tip, gonna go check out your 90's Blog-a-Thon!

  4. I've tried to like Long Kiss Goodnight, but I like it less and less each time I catch some of it. I think Renny casting his wife at the time was a mistake. She's cute but not a great actress, and playing tough just looks ridiculous. And coming right after the Carolco-killer of Cutthroat Island too.

    Back to the Nightmare movies, the first two scared the hell out of me back in the day, and the later ones have some terrific practical and other visual effects (I think I always saw Dream Quest Images in the credits).

    1. I have to agree with the casting of Davis. I honestly didn't feel she was a strong lead. She certainly doesn't come off as tough, that's for sure.

      I don't feel Part 2 ever gets the recognition or credit it deserves. It's a pretty solid straight up horror film and really fucking dark compared to all the others. In fact, I'd have to say it's the darkest of the series. Not sure why most people don't dig it.