Any kid that grew up devouring 80’s horror like I did will very likely be familiar with the Nightmare on Elm Street series of films. Freddy Krueger was a staple of 80’s horror, along-side his murderous contemporaries Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Chucky, and Pinhead. Each of those film franchises had their gimmick, and their following, but I wasn’t a very picky horror fan and just appreciated anything that promised some gore and possibly a naked pair of ladyboobs. For the Nightmare series, it started in 1984 with a simple/cool idea that there was a killer that could infiltrate a teenager’s dreams and if he killed them in their dream, oh snap, they died in real life! After that first film blew up (and holy shit do I mean it blew up… Wes Craven’s sweet little baby film cost $1.8 million to birth, and brought in over $25 million at the box office), the studio wanted more, and made A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge just a year later. Now that…was a weird movie. There are some parts in it that I like, but overall, it’s such a strange sequel, probably partly to do with the fact that New Line Cinema was so eager to get the next big paycheck in their pockets, as soon as possible. And heck, it worked. New Line spent $3 million and turned it into $30 million. They officially had a cash cow. In two years, this fledgling studio that had only previously distributed films was practically printing money, and the world was hungry for more Freddy. With a bigger budget possible, and a little more time, New Line released A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors in 1987 and just goddamn killed in the box office, netting almost $45 million domestically. It was in part three that I think they were able to really start playing with the character a little more and the dream elements started to become more ingenuitive. The lead from the first film was brought back, they built up some of Freddy’s origin (coming up with the unforgettable phrase “the bastard son of a hundred maniacs”), and they introduced the idea of some teenage victims not just being regular ol’ hum-drum normies, but SOME of them have POWERS. OHHH SNAAAP. There are some really cool kill sequences in the third installment, which then became a staple of the series. Every subsequent installment was basically a game of “how’s he gonna kill this one?”. I love Dream Warriors for many reasons. I think it did a lot for the backstory of Freddy, it featured one of my early adolescent crushes (Patricia Arquette….hubba hubba) and it was all around a really solid sequel, in every way the second one wasn’t.
This brings us to 1988’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, and the subject of this review. Sorry for all of that back story, but I think it’s a good lead in to where we are by part three. Part four is a true sequel to part three and actually continues where that film left off. The problem, though, is that young Matty’s crush Patricia Arquette didn’t come back to reprise her role as Kristen Parker, which is something that I always hated in sequels. Goddamn get the same actors. How hard is that? You have buckets of money… just… make it happen!
Tuesday Knight is no Patricia Arquette. And yes, that is the actress’s name. Tuesday goddamn Knight. I’m fairly sure that’s a stage name, and a horrible one at that, and in the internet age I’m sure her real name is fairly easy to find, but I’m too offended at how dumb her name is and how poorly she compares to Patricia Arquette that I can’t even bother myself to do it. Anyhoodles, Patricia Arquette was too busy or something, so Tuesday… goddamn… Knight brings the previous film’s Kristen “I can bring people into my dreams with my weird power” Parker back to continue her story. Even though she bested Freddy in the previous installment, she’s still constantly worried about him. Maybe she has PTSD or something? I mean, she only saw her closest friends get eviscerated by a creepy burned up dream murderer. It’s so weird that she’d still be thinking about him every time she closes her eyes, right? Kincaid and Joey are also back from part three, but these two are played by the original actors!
They’re out of the asylum since the last movie and are just regular ol’ high school students… who sometimes get sucked into their friend’s dreams. They warn imposter Kristen that her obsession with Freddy is probably going to bring him back… and you know what? THEY WERE RIGHT!!
At this point, we’re given Freddy’s menu. By that I mean, we’re introduced to the rag tag team of teenagers he’s going to ginzu.
Sheila, the discount Lisa Turtle that is a nerd because she likes to do homework, has asthma, and is able to invent powerful weapons (that can’t at all be a setup for something later…)
Rick, the dollar store Brian Austin Green boyfriend of Kristen who is very scrawny, even though he practices martial arts in his garage daily.
He’s the seemingly incestuously motivated brother of:
Alice, friend to Kristen, and someone who also seems to have some dream powers. Her worst nightmare is working in a diner for the rest of her life. We know that because that’s what she says!
And Dan, the 80’s beau-hunk who is actually a 32 year old father of seven. Alice has a crush on him!
In the third film, the doomed teens bested Freddy by laying his bones to rest. That effectively ended the curse and all was well on Elm Street again. This is until part four when Kincaid dreams about revisiting the junkyard where Freddy’s bones reside with his dog Jason (….I see what you did there…*giggle*…) and the most absurd catalyst for bringing back a villain plays out. Jason the dog lifts his leg and a pisses fire onto the ground, opening up a chasm, and revealing Freddy’s old burned bones.
That is a thing that happened.
Then Freddy’s guts all grow back in a cool old practical effect with reverse footage of a melting body. It’s been done before, but it just always looks awesome. The set pieces and art direction are really showed off in this sequence, and seeing the labyrinthine junk yard via yet to be invented Google Earth makes me smile every time. Kincaid is dispatched a little too quickly, for my tastes, but at least he has a moment where he thinks he beat Krueger himself. But snap, y’all! Freddy is back! For some reason, Freddy is back!
Of course, Freddy wants to get back to business and continue murdering the children of the people that burned him to death, so Joey is up next. Now really, the only reason I enjoy Joey’s death at all is because 80’s ladyboobs. Let’s just be honest. Johnny Depp already died while chilling in his bed in the first Nightmare, so maybe this is a callback to that, but in the grand scheme of the deaths in this film, Joey’s is pretty boring. He falls asleep, looks up at his bikini lady poser, but she’s gone! Then she appears inside his waterbed, with her dirty pillows all naked swimming around. As a young man, this part particularly interested me. Because of those wet floppers. Joey’s all “awwww yisssss” until she swims away, and then suddenly Freddy busts through the water bed, pulls him in and kills him. I think this was really just some setup for his horrible one liner “How’s this for a wet dream?”.
Some punchup writer probably came up with that one and is still patting his own back about it, almost 30 years later. Freddy started as this terrifying concept and later throughout the series just became a one-liner factory, but truthfully, that’s part of his charm.
Kristen is a little upset about more of her friends dying and ends up knocking herself out (which leads to the fan theory that I just made up right now where the whole rest of the series takes place inside of her coma dream from hitting her head!!…. no? Okay, yes. That’s stupid) and is taken to the school nurse. When she wakes up, those of us who are relatively savvy quickly realize that the nurse is none other than Freddy Krueger IN DRAG!
Kristen doesn’t notice because she’s not Patricia Arquette and she’s dumb, and boy oh boy if Freddy doesn’t almost get her! Luckily, the actual non-drag-Freddy real world nurse wakes her up just in time, and now Kristen knows for sure that Freddy is back and lays out the lore on her school chums.
Later, when Kristen heads home from school and sits down for a relaxing judgement free dinner with her mother, she starts feeling a little woozy in the brain meats and realizes that her mother dosed her with sleeping pills. Her mother defends her actions, telling her that she knows she hasn’t been sleeping and that she’s only trying to help. By putting like ten sleeping pills into her daughter’s dinner beverage. Just some A+ parenting going on in this one. I think 80’s movies actually taught me that one does not just take A sleeping pill. For it to work you need to take at least a handful.
Kristen heads up to her room to thrash around and dig through drawers for no good reason before falling asleep. But she has a plan given to her by her ol’ pal, Diner Alice. Just dream of somewhere pleasant! Suddenly, Not-Kristen is on the beach, sunning herself in a classic 80’s bikini. She’s pretty satisfied with her plan, and soaks in a little sun, only to be interrupted by some kinda crazy bladed fish fin swimming its way toward the beach. And wouldn’t you just know it, but it’s ol’ Freddy! In sunglasses!
He blows up a sand castle, because he’s a horrible monster with no respect for the hard work of little girls, and then makes faux-Kristen fall through some quicksand… STRAIGHT INTO HIS OLD PAD. This guy, with his tricks.
Now, Kristen is the last of the Elm Street Kidz (Saturdays on FOX!), and his fun is essentially over once he kills her. New Line Cinema is not going to let that fly, so the now filthy rich studio executives whisper in Freddy’s ear that he should just have Kristen use her powers to invite some of her homies over to the boiler-warming party so that he can continue to invest time and energy into his passion: murdering innocent teenagers. Kristen goes ahead and does this, which I don’t think would have happened if it was Patricia Arquette, because she’s smarter than that… and Kristen ends up bringing her ol’ sweet pal Diner Alice into her dream. Another classic Krueger one liner – “How sweet, fresh meat” – and into the boiler Kristen goes! As Kristen is incinerated, she uses her last ounce of life to curse her friend with her “gift” of her powers. You know, the power to bring people into her dreams. And be murdered. Here Alice, enjoy the ability to be responsible for the deaths of all of your friends. Love and kisses, Not-goddamn-Kristen.
Alice grabs her brother, who totally has a weird creepy boner for her (Right? I can’t be the only one who senses this. And it’s not because of all of the incest based porno making the rounds on the steaming sites… I get a real weird vibe between those two every time they share screen real estate) and they head over to Kristen’s house, just in time to find her engulfed in flames! SEE, MOM. YOU DONE DID THAT THANG! THAT’S ON YOU. Sleepin’ pills dosin’ so’n’so.
So, even though a handful of her friends died very recently, instead of taking some time off of school for some grief counseling or something, Alice heads back to class with this neat new power to bring Freddy into her friends dreams. Friends like Sheila, nerdy asthmatic Sheila, who is kinda sleepy because she’s been spending all of her time designing weapons and being sad about the deaths of her friends. Ruh-roh! She nodded off during the big math test and then a scary drill robot arm comes out of her desk! For reasons! Eventually, Freddy lands yet another killer one-liner with “Wanna suck face?” and totally full on does what he joked about. See, that’s his thing. He likes to play with irony. It’s like rain on your wedding day. Except it’s Freddy, and he’s sucking all of the air and insides out of your body until you’re a floppy rubber glove.
In real life, it just looked like Sheila was dying of an asthma attack, but her friends know the truth. “What 17 year old has fatal asthma”, right?! Like, only thousands of them. Literally thousands of teens have fatal asthma, guys. BUT, one good thing came from the death of this stupid nerd! Alice decides that maybe she should hang on to Sheila’s weapon thingy (that she brought to a public high school), because “She would want us to have her dumb nerd shit.” No one really said that. Well, I did. Out loud while I was watching it.
Actually… I just realized that I’m reciting the whole stupid plot of this movie. Why am I doing that? Is anyone even still reading this? Let me just bullet point the next few notable plot points, and I’ll wrap up this round of Matty’s Thought Diarrhea!
- Ermagherd. Every time one of Alice’s friends die, she develops some of their abilities. Like now, she totally smokes like Kristen, and she totally masturbates with a shower nozzle like Sheila! Haha. I made up that last part.
- Death time for Dollar Store Brian Austin Green (Rick). He tries to battle Freddy with his powerful skills of KAH-RAH-TAE, but oh god he sucks so hard and is not cool at all and his moves are the worst. Invisible Freddy makes pretty quick work of him, so now Alice can do stuff with nunchucks.
- Alice has a dream that she works at the diner until she’s old. It’s so mega-scary that I had to turn the movie off for a little while and do some hot yoga to recenter myself to be able to handle the rest of the movie.
- Debbie’s turn to die! This is actually my favorite part of the movie. I think I only ever watch this movie for this one sequence, because it’s goddamn fun. Remember how Debbie is scared of gross bugs? Remember how that was a quality of her personality? Well, ol’ Freddy turns that one around on her, as he is wont to do! She tries working out, because that’s the other part of her personality, and he interrupts her pump to break her arms. Like, crazy compound fractures at her elbows. It’s horrific and gruesome and AWESOME. THEN, her arm skin falls off and she’s got… wait for it…. BUG ARMS! WHAT?! She tries running away, with her awesome new roach arms flailing all over the place, but then she falls down in some sticky stuff and it goddamn pulls her skin off to reveal that she’s a goddamn bug under her skin! It’s such fantastic practical effects and this scene plays out so fantastically. It’s actually designed by my old pal Screaming Mad George (featured in last year’s post I wrote about Society). Just watch this, it’s cool.
- I honestly fell asleep after this point in the movie happened, ironically, for this rewatch. I think I just really wanted to watch that scene again.
- Eventually, it’s Alice, all powered up from her friend’s deaths, versus Freddy for the big battle in the end. She manages to beat him with a lullaby (I swear this was not just my Inception dream within a dream) and some cool practical effects make Freddy tear himself apart.
That, my friends, was not a movie review. I don’t know what that was. A summary? Is that what I was supposed to do? I don’t even know. Honestly, I like this movie for Debbie’s death scene. You could save yourself some time and just watch that part. The rest of the movie is mostly skippable. The DVDs actually have a fun feature where you can just jump to the death scenes, which is really what this franchise is all about.
This installment of the Nightmare series actually ended up making almost $50 million at the box office, holding on to the most successful Freddy movie until Freddy vs. Jason came along. It’s not a good movie, by any means, but it was in the right place at the right time in 1988. There was Freddy Fever. So much so that Freddy teamed up with the Fat Boys to make what is possibly the world’s greatest music video, “Are You Ready For Freddy?”, which I will leave you with. Enjoy.
Matty Field is a standup comedian that performs throughout Wisconsin and Illinois. He enjoys snuggles, tummy rubs, and dumb movies.