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“You shouldn’t have buried me. I’m not dead.” — Freddy Krueger, explaining to doomed kids in the fourth sequel why a fourth sequel exists

The Macabre Brothers share an affinity for bargain-bin horror films. It’s actually more like an addiction — hardly a month goes by without one of us wasting $5 on some dubious DVD title. Such impulse buys may not deserve a full review, but like porn, they’re worth a quick and shameful glance. In Basement Ramblings, we answer your most meaningful question: Is this month’s piece of crap worth the price of a Big Mac?

By Phil

Where I found it
The final disc in a $10 Nightmare collection at Walmart, right behind the Wes Craven original from 1984, the bleeding-heart ’80s sequel from 1985 and the badass superhero ’80s sequel from 1987. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Why it caught my eye
I’ve never seen this one and I’ve gotta see it sometime. Oh, and it was made in 1988, the year I was born. That’s always a plus, and it sounds way better than the 1989 sequel, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Woof.

The premise
If it’s possible for one sequel to rip off another, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) should be sued for plagiarism. That, or maybe it’s just a loving homage to the better of the two sequels before it, Nightmare 3: Dream Warriors. Either way, The Dream Master takes a core concept that worked in the third film — teens fighting back against Freddy with the same dream powers he’s used since the start — and tries to recapture that magic-in-a-bottle feeling with no Patricia Arquette, no joyful abandon of its own and, worst of all, no Heather Langenkamp, aka indestructible Nancy of the original and third sequel.

But more on one film ripping off the other as I go along. First, we begin this forgotten horror chapter with Tuesday Knight, the wonderfully named blonde who replaces Arquette as Kristen, leader of the Dream Warriors from the last film. Her friend, young Alice, is back at Nancy’s home on Elm Street, now a dilapidated squatter’s paradise with the mandatory creepy schoolgirls out front. It’s a dream, of course, and visions of Freddy’s razor fingers dance through her head. That’s enough to freak her out big time, and so she pulls her good buddy Kincaid (aka Gangsta Hulk from Dream Warriors) into the dream. The opening sequence is both weaker and more derivative than any before it, with no blood or nothing. Things get better, but not by much.

Anyway, after Kincaid reminds Alice that he, Kristen and Nancy killed that motherfucker Freddy like last year, we’re introduced to the next batch of victims…er, characters. There’s Joey, the guy who learned to talk and someone managed to kill Freddy by doing so in the third film. There’s Rick, Kristen’s kung fu boyfriend with hair straight out of Dragonball Z. There’s Debbie, the workout junkie with killer ’80s hair and no real personality. Then there’s Alice, Rick’s sister and most likely leader for the next generation of dream warriors.

Whether she likes it or not, Alice gets dragged into Freddy’s twisted world of knives, death and body horror when he starts picking off the original Dream Warriors. First comes Kincaid, who dies in a fun callback to the junkyard where he and the rest buried Freddy. Next comes Joey, who gets one of the best death scenes with a callback to the naughty nurse Freddy used to seduce him before, only this time, he’s lured to a watery death by a naked chick in his waterbed. You’d better believe his mom finds his body INSIDE THE BED when she goes to make it. That’ll teach parents to clean up after their kids.

By 30 minutes in Kirsten is the sole survivor. While her boyfriend practices kung fu via ’80s montage, Freddy stalks Kristen through an idyllic dream sequence by the sea. This leads to one of the best scenes of the film: when radioactive fish-Freddy barrels through the water, into the sand and onto the beach, where he promptly puts on a pair of Ray-Bans before ripping open his shirt to reveal a chest of warbling, pulsating souls. It’s creepy and funny all at once, and it’s easily the high point of the film.

This beach encounter leaves Kristen dead and Alice in possession of her friend’s dream powers, just like Kristen in the previous flick, only this time it’s more like Alice inherits weird quirks instead of legit powers, like Kristen’s smoking habit. Something tells me that chain-smoking Freddy to death might not work.

Alice agrees, and soon she’s learning how to fight with nunchucks while Freddy picks off a few more characters, including her brother with the Goku ‘do. Granted, Kreuger picks and unfair fight and beats his ass while invisible, but still, I was hoping for more after all the kung fu montaging. Debbie with the ’80s fro is the final victim to go — you just know she’s gonna die after saying, “I don’t spend hours working out to let this guy beat me” — and that leaves young Alice alone to fight the boogeyman.

What works
The humor. Call it lowering my standards, but by this film Freddy had already become a campy, toothless shell of his former self, and so I guess I’ll come along for the ride. (Imagine if Kreuger was played more-or-less straight, like Mike Myers or Hellraiser. How different this series would be.)

The Nightmare series always features a few of the most creative deaths in the horror canon — not one, not two, but THREE deaths-by-bed at this point — and The Dream Master director REnny Harlin (he of Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and a bunch of ’80s filler) takes full advantage of carte blanche to make the audience laugh and squirm at once. The best is Jane Fonda wannabe Debbie, who manages to survive until the very end, only to get the nastiest (aka most entertaining) death scene. After she falls asleep while working out (guess I’ll allow it), Freddy snaps her arms off with a bench press bar and then somehow forces her to sprout spiny, bug-like arms. Her garage gym turns into a dark hallway that turns into a roach motel, complete with sticky walls to ensnare Debbie the Roach. (Why not Debbie the Ant, like a play on the whole strongwoman thing? No idea.) The camera pans outside of the cave to show Freddy holding a miniature roach motel, which he crushes like a bug with Debbie inside. The entire sequence lasts 5 minutes — about half of Debbie’s total screen time — and it’s just wonderfully bizarro.

What sucks
The soulless and derivative plot. Now, I know that sounds harsh, especially since I really did enjoy this film more than most late-entry slashers, but it’s disappointing when the best scenes, plot lines and even dialogue is ripped from Dream Warriors: Kincaid’s dream sequence in the junkyard, Joey’s death by waterbed and multiple appearances of the souls Freddy collects, including one where the soul-faces are meatballs on a pizza (more of that weirdly appealing sense of humor).

Who knows, maybe I wouldn’t be so hard on it if I hadn’t watched all three films one after the other. Dream Warriors was fresh in my mind, and so The Dream Master (even the subtitle is a ripoff!) felt like more of the same, only not as new or exciting. Take something menial, like the mandatory cursing of an R-rated flick: When Kincaid gleefully yells “motherfucker” at Freddy, is it the start of a catchphrase or a callback to something that worked in the third film, or just something funny to say? I’m pretty sure Sam Jackson owns that word, even if he didn’t start using it en mass until a few years after Dream Masters, and Sam Jackson always lives — always. It’s like a requirement for a catchphrase, and Kincaid doesn’t last longer here than two measly motherfuckers. He’s disposable, just like the film.

Verdict
Nightmare 4: The Dream Master is a sometimes funny, sometimes derivative rehash of everything that made the third Freddy sequel so damn fun. That’s not exactly a bad thing — I was just hoping for more. Bring it on, The Dream Child.

Ramblings

Nightmare 4

– some pretty hefty 80s title music

– starts with quote about night from book of job

– yet another closeup on hands doing something…

– is it possible for one sequel to rip off another? Cuz this one is ripping off dream warriors hard, right down to a vaguely similar subtitle

— tisk tisk

Kincaid aka Gangsta Hulk is back!

– so it IS a blatant ripoff of dream warriors, right down to bringing back only 2 of the auxiliary characters

– cuuuuz pretty sure the main blonde is meant to be Patricia Arquette from dream warriors

– apparently someone was too good for Freddy after he kick started her career

Holy feathered 80a hair, batman

“Lighten up, no one died” Kung fu boyfriend with the Gundam wing fighter hair, just moments before his first and hopefully only fighting Montage

– only redemptjon: if he Kung fu fights Freddy later on

– and gets beat of course

– dayum dudes even got nunchuck skills

– with impeccable hair that stays in place, even after the sweaty workout

Ooooh drama at home with another DAYDREAM from Alice (telling dad off for his drinking problem)

– bet that becomes a recurring theme, and I’m cool with that. Fun thing

Heh dogs name is Jason

Looks like FREDDY IS BACK

– always a fun birth scene in these movies, like how Freddy first reappears to everyone

“You shouldn’t have buried me. I’m not dead.”

– kreuger telepathically to Kincaid

– who gets that mother fucker good with a junkyard car to.the dome

First dead: Freddy gets Gangsta Hulk

Nice, wate bed boobies, mermaid style…

– until Freddy makes that bed and the mermaid his bitch

– He’s picking em off quick

There’s a lesson here: don’t wear oversized headphones on your bed when Freddy is afoot. That’s like the third guy he’s killed that way, woof

“Alice San, you must have balance” Kung fu boyfriend to Alice, his sister I believe

I hope mom finds him dead in…

YEP CALLED IT, mom finds DEAD BODY IN THE WATER BED

I wonder how the little black nerdy girl fits into all this…

For some reason WASPy jock dude is being brought into all of this…

Obligatory retelling of Freddy legend, courtesy of Kung fu boyfriend

Freddy the fish

– cruises through sand

– wears raybans

– blows up lil Alice’s sand castle

– hmm but he can’t finish kristin, the last elm street kid

Kristin pulls Alice into her dream

– with Freddy

– rude

Alice be a bad bitch

– smoking in the girls bathroom

– “but I don’t smoke…”

– true, it’s cuz she’s part kristin now. Ljke she said something happened when she pulled her into the dream

Oh damn, Freddy French kisses the nerd girl to death

– asthma attack the real cause…clever Freddy

Freddy’s knocking em off like it’s his job

Oh ok, that’s why jock boy is involved:

“Why is it that Freddy is after you?”

– gotta love

Heh teacher even gives explanation of dream master — sounds kinda like the key master or gate keeper or whatever in Ghostbusters

Hell yes, we’ve got a Kung fu showdown

– in a red and white dream dojo no less

– perhaps the easiest fight scene ever to choreograph…guy just spars with himself

Is feathered 80s hair chick gonna live?

“I don’t spend hours working out to let this guy beat me” yep she’s definitely gonna die, thems fighting words

Now Alice is a nunchuck master

– heh funny that kristin have her smoking, Kung fu boyfriend gave her fighting skillz. Which is better?

Think workout girl gets killed by workout equipment?

“I mean 65 pounds is enough to choke you out.” Evan

Ain’t that clever. She just got pulled into the movie

Ha! Freddy gets a pizza with “soul food” meatballs aka faces of dead people on a pizza

Deja vu scenes

– kinda clever, Freddy keeps making Alice go in circles while he kills 80s girl

– loops back and forth

“Fucking a”

– Alice’s reaction after her second 80s Montage of the day, this one dressing in her friends clothing to battle Freddy

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