Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Scary Movie Month 2015 Day 13: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master 

Here's a pet peeve I have about certain sequels: I absolutely hate it when a follow-up kills off characters in the very beginning that spent the entire previous movie fighting to survive. Friday the 13th Part II and Alien 3 are particularly egregious examples of this, and I always feel like it's a lazy, ugly way to start a sequel. Another movie that engages in this awful trope? This one.

And I don't even care.

Like most fans of the series, I grew to care about Kristen, Kincaid, and Joey as they fought off Freddy in Nightmare 3. Maybe it's a function of Patricia Arquette not returning for 4 (handing over the role of Kristen to the awesomely-named-but-not-very-good Tuesday Knight) or Joey not speaking much to begin with, but for some reason it's never bothered me here that Freddy dispatches the three remaining Dream Warriors so suddenly. At the very least, it opens the door to Alice (Lisa Wilcox, who is still more than welcome to move in with me if she's reading this) to quickly step in and take the lead.

I recognize that this is a bad movie. It's lazily written (as evidenced above) and it's the first in the series in which Freddy is nothing but a comedian with a claw, there's not a single moment of genuine menace in the entire movie (while Freddy quipped plenty in 3, he was also still scary. Here the quips are all he's got). There are more than a few weak performances and there are leaps in logic that would give Spock an aneurysm. So....why do I love this movie?

For one thing, there's an energy to the dream sequences that I love (director Renny Harlin is nothing if not flashy) and the makeup and special effects (courtesy of Kevin Yagher, Steve Johnson, and Screaming Mad George, among others) are imaginative, inventive, and twelve different kinds of icky. Robert Englund was still having fun at this point, as the movie was shot right at the height of Freddy-mania, and his enthusiasm is infectious. As silly as the movie gets (and hoo boy does it get silly) I can't help but get caught up in the goofy, bloody fun (actually the majority of the death scenes are less bloody than one might expect, but I digress).

The other reason I love this movie (and if I'm being honest, probably the main reason) is pretty simple: nostalgia. I was 13 or 14 when I saw this for the first time, just as I was really getting into horror. Being a solidly unscary special-effects showcase made this pretty much the perfect movie to cut my teeth on as a nascent genre fan and every time I see it (which is a lot, it's one I put on in the background fairly often as I'm doing other things) it makes me think back fondly to being that age and learning about makeup, monsters, and madmen. Script issues aside (and they are legion) I just have a blast watching this no matter how many times I've seen it, and sometimes that's all that matters. 

Also, did I mention Lisa Wilcox? Because yowza.


Jason R. Wells, Esquire said...

The Dream Master holds a special place in my heart because it's the first NoES I have memories of watching when I was a kid. That beach scene with Freddy stuck with me.

It also has the time loop sequence, which is one of my favorite moments from the entire series.

JP said...

Yes! The music from the time loop sequence makes me smile instantly.