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Old 10-04-2004, 05:12 AM
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Default Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, A




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: November 15, 2003

Released by: New Line
Release date: 9/1/1999
MSRP: $24.95
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



It happened, Freddy finally became a movie star. It was no longer A Nightmare on Elm Street, it was now "Robert Englund in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master". Dream Warriors was a huge hit at the box office, but The Dream Master hit pay dirt, as Freddy gouged in a cool 50 million in the box office, making it the most popular slasher (unadjusted for inflation) ever. Freddy, at least for the time being, was finally on the A-list, but how about the film? Does it compare with the first three, or is this where the series started to get ugly?

The Story

inline Image Kristen Parker (Patricia...err, Tuesday Knight) is back in dreamland, exploring the boiler room that nearly killed her in Dream Warriors. The boiler is cold, as her old buddies Kincaid and Joey are quick to point out. She senses it though, Freddy is up to something and she knows it is only a matter of time before he returns. Thanks to the urine of a dog named Jason(!), Freddy is reincarnated, and his glove is as sharp as ever.

inline Image With only three of the original Elm Street Warriors alive, Freddy sets out to quickly finish what he started last film. He drowns the horndog Joey, drives Kinkaid into hell, and in a Psycho-esque twist, kills off leading lady Kristen Parker. The movie's over now, right? Wrong, Freddy gets greedy and decides to kill more kids for the hell of it. Enter Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox), the dream master of the title, who as a close friend of Kristen. She comes from a bad family, but has the ability to harness in the powers of Krueger's victims, making her stronger each waking moment.

One-by-one Freddy kills off her friends until only he and her remain. Sheathed in the coven of a church, the two must do battle and see which one lives on to be in the sequel...

inline Image The Dream Master, like Dream Warriors, has some talent behind the camera. Future Die Hard 2 director, Renny Harlin, makes his debut here, and L.A. Confidential writer, Brian Helgeland penned the story and screenplay. Unlike Dream Warriors though, this film seems more as a monetary exercise than an inspired sequel. The creepy and intriguing back story to the ethos of Freddy Krueger from Warriors is abandoned here, and so is any kind of other story development. The film shuffles along, switching between dream sequence, death sequence and cheesy 80's training montages.

inline Image Dream Warriors worked well because it was able to create and sustain a truly nightmarish world, backed by the moody metal ballads of Dokken. Those ballads have been dropped this time, instead being replaced by "I Want Your (Hands on Me)" by Sinead O'Connor. Not exactly the first singer that would come to mind to do the theme song for a Nightmare flick, is she? The movie yo-yo's in and out between nightmare and 80's pop trash, and in so doing any sense of horror or fright is thrown out the window.

inline Image It also doesn't help that Robert Englund is bolting off one-liners a mile a minute, nearly making a farce of what used to be a truly frightening horror villain. As he jumps on the screen wearing a pair of gold-rimmed shades, it becomes clear that Freddy has officially sold out to the majority and become a star rather than a monster. It all goes downhill when Freddy utters "It ain't Dr. Suess!" as he is dressed as a doctor.

inline Image That one quote though, does bring out perhaps the only interesting subtext in the entire film. There are a few obvious mentions to childhood tales. Dr. Suess of course, and the lead character's name being Alice harks back to Alice in Wonderland (which Freddy picks up on later in the film as well). Freddy was a child molester and murderer before his cremation, and these uses of children's tales and references sets up a clever ironic contrast. It ain't Shakespeare, but it is a welcome analogy.

Okay, I am being hard on The Dream Master. It isn't by any means a horrible film, it is just a lifeless disappointment when compared with the previous three entries in the Elm Street series. It sports some stylish visuals, some great makeup effects, and a naked Linnea Quigley during Freddy's climax (har har). It moves along moderately quickly and Lisa Wilcox makes the best of her horribly underwritten lead role. In the end though, the shadow of Dream Warriors eclipses The Dream Master, making it a competent but underwhelming entry into the reigning franchise. The worst is yet to come though people.

inline Image The worst part about The Dream Master though, is its seeming lack of purpose. With all the original Elm Street descendents dead, Freddy really has no motive for his continued killing spree. Evil never dies, sure, but certainly the screenwriters could have brought out some sort of connection between Freddy and his post-Dream Warrior victims. By the final fight, it all really just seems like excess. Why should we care about Alice or any of the other characters? Their development is passed over for soundtrack plugs and rapidly edited montages, making them as lifeless as a Fat Boys concert. Freddy may as well be fighting a couple cardboard cutouts, it would've reduced some acting fees at least.

Image Quality

If I am sounding like a broken record here I'm sorry, but again this 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks great. Although I think Dream Warriors contained an overall better picture and color depth, this one looks nearly its equal. There were some slight saturation oddities I noticed, but that may be attributed to Lisa Wilcox's harsh bright red hair and lips. There isn't a single blemish to be found again, and everything is clear as a button. Talk about being consistent, it's just another super transfer by New Line.

Sound

Freddy makes the jump from mono to stereo this time around, and a Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also included. The 5.1 track was overall much more active than Dream Warriors and contained some nice surround effects, notably a trip through Freddy's open stomach. This is a very loud mix, and everything sounds very sharp and accurate. Freddy's deep laugh works the bass, and the clinkering of his claws couldn't be clearer. The great things about these New Line 5.1 remixes is that they always sound full but never gimmicky. They remain true to the original tracks and end up sounding fuller. You can't ask for more than that.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Like the previous two discs, this one has DVD-Rom supported interactive screenplay, trivia game and web links. Also like the others are the "Jump to a nightmare" and cast & crew bios menus. The trailer is included here on the standalone DVD, but can be found on the encyclopedia disc for those who want the box set. Those who buy the box set rather than the standalone release will get some interviews and in all its cheesy glory, the Fat Boys' "Are You Ready For Freddy?" music video, and much more included on the bonus disc.

Final Thoughts

On its own The Dream Master is a moderately good film, but held in comparison with Dream Warriors or the other previous Elm Street films, it is somewhat of a disappointment. The audio and video tracks are up the New Line's usual top-quality, and the extras included solely on the disc are sparse. Freddy fans will already own this disc, and Elm Street newbies should give the first three films a test run before leaping blindly into this DVD.

Rating

Movie - B-
Image Quality - A-
Sound - A
Supplements - C+

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 1 hour 39 minutes
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English subtitles
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English Mono
Supplements
  • Cast & Crew bios
  • Jump to a nightmare feature
  • Interactive screenplay (DVD-ROM only)
  • "Dream World" trivia game (DVD-ROM only)
  • Theatrical trailer (standalone release only)

Other Pictures

 

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