Macabre Movie Mausoleum: The Dream Master

This is a bitter/sweet post gravediggers and undertakers. It’s the final Macabre Movie Mausoleum of the month, but today also starts Halloween weekend! Huzzah! I hope you’ve gotten everything in order, and have watched your prerequisite gore-fests. 

But before any of that, the festivities continue with Geekade’s 31 Days of Halloween and the final installment of my A Nightmare on Elm Street chronicalization, with Dream Master. Read on to find how the doctor stacks this movie up among the others that came before it. 

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Director: Renny Harlin

Starring: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, and Danny Hassel

It’s long been understood that sequels are generally inferior to their original counterparts, especially the curse of the sophomore slump. However, the Nightmare series not only turned that belief on it’s head by giving us a serviceable Freddy’s Revenge, and possibly better than the original Dream Warriors, it put the inevitable fourth installment in the unenviable task of trying to continue the trend of defying expectations. 

Several warning flags from the outset of the movie;

  1. This was only Renny Harlin’s third movie, second American movie
  2. Returning character Kristen Parker was played by a different actress, never a good sign when an actor won’t return to a role, and
  3. The up-beat, poppy opening music. "What the hell was up with that?" you may be asking yourself. The answer? The song “Nightmare” was sung by Tuesday Knight, the actress who took over the role of Kristen Parker from Patricia Arquette. That should say something about the priorities of the filmmakers.

With all of that out of the way, I will say the movie starts in an interesting way. Kristen, Kincaid, and Joey, the three survivors of Nightmare 3: Dream Warriors, who have since been released from the psych ward, are introduced as the main characters of this movie. It's at this point that we learn not-Arquette-Kristen is still having nightmares, and is bringing Kincaid and Joey into them, although they have tried to move on.

In a bold move, and possibly the smartest of the movie, they are killed off in a relatively quick fashion. Kincaid and Joey go first, and Kristen is practically doomed by her mother, who still somehow doubts Freddy's existence, and Kristen's nightmares, so she slips her sleeping pills in her water. Using her ability to pull others into her dreams, she forces one of her new friends, Alice, into her nightmare just prior to Freddy killing her. 

Although Freddy finally achieves his goal of killing all of the children of the people who killed him, Kristen's soul passes into Alice, who then discovers that she has the ability to absorb other dreamers' powers.

Along with Alice, another whole group of teens are introduced; her martial artist brother, a geeky science nerd, and a gym rat. One by one these friends are killed off and Alice gains their powers because she is, as the title implies, the 'dream master.' She uses these new found abilities to fight Freddy, but unfortunately none of it works and Kruger still has the upper hand. That changes when Alice remembers a dream rhyme her mother taught her as a kid. For some unexplained reason showing Freddy his reflection is the key to defeating him.

Following Dream Warriors and its incredible death scenes, expectations were impossibly high, and ultimately those expectations were dashed with this movie. There were exactly two interesting death scenes. Deb the gym rat was turned into a roach and crushed in a roach motel. It made no sense, and it leaves you wondering if there was a missing scene that explains the few odd references to her fearing bugs. 

The second death scene of note is Freddy himself. The effects used during it were incredible, and the visuals were so remarkably visceral. It dragged on and began to feel over the top, but it all somehow felt necessary for such an important death.

This was the first of the movies that didn't end with a tease of Freddy surviving somehow, it makes you wonder if the filmmakers actually intended this to be the final nightmare. However, we here in 2016 know that wasn't the case. Still, it's a curious thought.

Rating...

In my opinion, this was the first real misstep in the franchise. The story largely felt like a rehash of the previous movie with not enough originality, and this is most clearly felt in the unimaginative deaths and nightmare scenes. 

The production of the movie occurred during the 1988 writer's strike, and this could very well explain the glaring plot holes. On the other hand, no amount of rewrites can fix bad acting. Honestly, as a horror fan, I've grown accustomed to bad acting, but this was the worst of the series so far.

The biggest takeaway from the movie is to not sleep on a waterbed. Much like Johnny Depp in the first, Joey dies a watery death in his own bed, even if his death was bland in comparison.

For more from the author, check out AzarRising