Renny Harlin did for the Nightmare series with Dream Master, what his Cutthroat Island did for pirate movies. The fourth movie in the series is the worst of the bunch by a mile, and Renny Harlin needs to not make another movie. Ever. To say I dislike Dream Master is an understatement. I loathe it with the intensity of a thousand burning suns. However, I can’t pin all the blame on Renny, he was a hired gun after all, and there’s enough blame to go around, namely the screenwriters, whose names won’t sully my article. Why the rabid dislike? Come down the rabbit hole, and we’ll explore it all. Dream Master opens with an homage or rip off if you like, of the previous movie. Instead of Kristen making a house from papier-mâché, we see a little girl drawing the house on the sidewalk in chalk. It is a nice little bit of bringing things full circle I suppose, and to be honest, the opening scene is my favorite part of the movie. It’s spooky, creepy, has the village of the damned kids rejects, and a dilapidated Elm St. house. Caught in a nightmare, she somehow summons Kincaid and Joey, the only other survivors from Dream Warriors.
Understandably, they’re not very happy being drawn into her dream and ignore her warning that Freddy’s coming back. The next morning we meet her friends (ie: the next ones to die), and again like the previous sequel they’re all pretty much stereotypes. There’s her martial arts-loving boyfriend (and Alice’s brother), Rick, her best friend Alice, an asthmatic black girl, and a leather-tough girl who hates bugs. Oh, and then there’s Dan, the football player who Alice lusts after.
The next day not heeding her premonition, both Kincaid and Joey die. Kincaid dreams he’s in the auto yard where Krueger’s bones were buried, and his dog pisses fire on the grave which brings Freddy back. Yeah, let that sink in for a bit. Well not long after he’s resurrected (in a bit of special effects that was done much better in Hellraiser), Kincaid gets a glove to the pudgy tummy, and then it’s Joey’s turn.
Kristen panics at school the next day when neither friend is there. She passes out and is taken to the nurse’s office where she is tended to by Freddy in disguise (and a nurse’s uniform). She then goes home, only to be drugged by her mother so she could sleep. At first she’s on a beach but the pleasant dream doesn’t last long as Freddy shows up in Jaws fashion, and then it’s back into the nightmare house again. She brings Alice into her dream for help, but it’s too late and Freddy throws Kristen into the boiler.
Who’s next to die? Who survives? Will Dan and Alice get together? Will Rick use some bomb ass moves on Freddy? Will anyone care? I suppose it all depends: if what I’ve mentioned thus far sounds interesting, you might care, but probably not very much.
Tuesday Knight replaces Patricia Arquette as Kristen, and while she does a fine job, let’s face it, she’s not in the same league as Arquette. There’s a real darkness to Tuesday’s portrayal that seems against character and really makes her a different person. Given that, however, I can’t fault her performance, and is really one of the highlights of the movie.
Rodney Eastman and Ken Saggoes reprising their roles as Joey and Kincaid, do a fine job, for the very short time they’re even in the movie. You almost wonder why they even bothered having them in, in the first place. Eastman having had a growth spurt now sports long hair, and talks, though he’s not given much, or anything important to say. Saggoes seems to have the opposite problem and is as loud and crude as ever. When Freddy finally sinks his blades into Kincaid you almost do a little cheer.
Much like his near death in Dream Warriors, Joey’s problem starts with a buxom blonde, who he sees trapped inside his waterbed. And yes, Krueger utters the inevitable wet dream line.
The one real adult in the movie, or the one who gets the most screen time, is Alice’s father, a raging alcoholic, who is mostly unsympathetic, and I really couldn’t care less about. Yet, he gives a good performance, it’s just wasted on an unlikable character.
On the other hand, Andras Jones as Alice’s brother is genuinely likable, and a more interesting character than Alice. He brings a true warmth and an honest humor to the proceedings that the corny one-liners can’t even hide. Lisa Wilcox as Alice is a surprisingly strong character and think she would have made a better Kristen. Her relationship with her brother seems quite genuine and when the two of them are onscreen together, you can almost forget, they’re surrounded by crap.
Robert Englund, by this point, seems to be phoning it in, or really couldn’t be bothered, because it was a rather uninspired performance. I can attribute some of that to Englund, but much has to be blamed on the writers who gave him some of the most ludicrous, cheesy lines in any of the films. Dream Master is where the series jumped the shark, and Freddy became a caricature and not the scary villain of the first two. It’s a shame Englund didn’t have any say in the script because Freddy is simply embarrassing here.
It’s really hard to say what’s worse, the Freddy nurse, the Freddy Jaws, Freddy in the sunglasses, the invisible Freddy vs Rick fight, or the godawful one-liners. All of that is enough to make me want to pluck out my eyes and jab sharpened pencils in my ears. I suppose if there’s one good thing to come from this, it’s that, it doesn’t get any worse from here.
It doesn’t get much better, either, but hey, those are the breaks.