Pop Culture Princess

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Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Year of Freddy Fear battles The Dream Master

Welcome to the latest installment in our Year of Freddy Fear series as the horrifying spotlight falls on Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. This film came out about a year after Dream Warriors(it was a late summer release) and until Freddy Vs. Jason, was considered the most financially successful film in the franchise.

A good deal of that success is due to director Renny Harlin,whose inventive visual sequences for this feature even impressed creator Wes Craven himself. This is a film that was made for the MTV generation(there's even a few MTV promos playing on a TV in the background of an early Freddy kill), not only for the overt visual story telling but the amount of music featured throughout the movie,starting with the opening credits that have a song contributed by newly cast leading lady Tuesday Knight(replacing Patricia Arquette as Kristen):

The main thread of the loosely woven plot has Kristen and the other two surviving Dream Warriors Joey and Kincaid(both played by the original actors from that film) being stirred up by  lingering doubts about Freddy's demise and yep,Kristen was right as Kruegar is reborn via the fiery leg lift of Kincaid's dog(named Jason,nice twist of irony there).

Now I know that some NOES fans were less than happy that the remaining Dream Warriors were knocked off here but that is the standard for scare sequels,not to mention that in order to continue with the films, it stands to reason that there would be a finite number of  Elm Street kids whose parents torched Freddy and that "fresh meat" would be a necessity.

Plus,at this point in the series,most of the fans were more invested in seeing Freddy in action. I base this on my actual experience in seeing Dream Master when it first came out in theaters and during the sequence where Freddy rises from his newly opened grave, someone in the audience shouted out "Freddy got a new sweater!" To which, one of his friends replied "It's about time!" As much as some of us wanted to root for Kristen and friends, Freddy was the superstar of the show and Renny Harlin knew that all too well.

Harlin has stated that he set up certain Freddy moments(such as the Jaws entrance during Kristen's deadly dream scenes) to showcase him as "James Bond", granted a darkly evil one but still a sinister smooth talker nonetheless.

Freddy's persona in this film does have swagger,particularly as he haunts the new girl on the block Alice(one of my favorite NOES heroines),who is given Kristen's dream walker power and is forced to be Kruegar's conduit towards the new generation. He does get a little more jokey than before but strongly possesses an aura of true menace as the dream stalking becomes more vividly vicious than ever before:

While the creative kills(such as the infamous Debbie morphing into a bug trapped in a Roach Motel bit) are what quickly come to mind when Dream Master is discussed, my instant go-to is Alice, the sweetly shy sister of Kristen's boyfriend Rick whose talent for lucid daydreaming earmarks her as the Chosen One to face down Freddy.

Lisa Wilcox brings a lot of earnest energy to the role(which she continues in the follow-up,Dream Child) and is easily relatable as a reluctant heroine called to action. A nice touch added to her dream powers is that she takes on the positive traits of her friends once Freddy has taken their souls,making her a worthy adversary for the final show down.

 Out of all the Elm Street ladies, Alice is the most potent due to the gruesome journey that her character takes in becoming the hero of her own story. If this had been a Joss Whedon tale, you could say that Alice went from Willow Rosenberg(complete with the reddish hair) to Buffy the Dream Slayer in one fell swoop:

 While the plot line relied heavily on the visual effects, some of the concepts surrounding the Dream Master can be credited to screenwriter Brian Hegleland and early story contributor William Kotzwinkle(best known for his novelization of the movie E.T.).

However,filming occurred during the writer's strike that year, causing many of the revisions and scenes to be pulled together on the fly. Yet, the Dream Master set-up works out well and certain creative touches(like Alice and her potential boyfriend Dan being caught in a dream time loop) allowed Renny Harlin to stretch his imagination wings out to their fullest for the delight of us all.

One of my favorite sequences in the film is when Alice goes to the movies during her dream and as she sits in the audiences, the images on the big screen change and bring forth a powerful wind that literally draws her into the movie. Seeing that scene while actually being in a movie theater is a pretty damn sweet experience and I'm happy to have that fearsome feather in my cap. It's so damn meta, in such a good way.

Tune in next time,folks, when we babysit The Dream Child and for our last dance with the Dream Master, let us put on Dramarama's "Anything,Anything",which plays in more than one important scene. Yes, The Fat Boys did put out a special song and video for the movie but anyone who knows this film well will be humming this particular tune instead,trust me on that!:


Thaddeus said...

Well, well. We're at kind of a turning point for this series, as the offerings have less quality - at least until New Nightmare came out.

This movie did have some great scares and kill scenes, but it's hard for me not to look back on the 1st and 3rd installments more fondly. One thing I can definitely give credit to is them moving along from one protagonist to another so neatly. It recalls the 2nd Friday the 13th so much.

I also have to say that Freddy's focus on the souls he's harvested is quite creepy, and I do like the scenes of people falling asleep. Quite scary, and the effects were well done.

Nice writeup, lady t!

lady t said...

Thanks,Thaddeus-true,the quality does start to slide from here on out(much worse by the time the sixth film arrives,as I will detail this August for Bad Movie Month) but a few thrills are left to be had,at least for Dream Master and even Dream Child,which was very controversial in it's time.

I do agree that making Freddy more of a soul feeding demon who's evolving(so reminding me of the Mayor in S3 of Buffy!)was a good direction for the character to be taken in.