The very first scene of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) gives you a good insight into the 90 minutes you are about to endure. As the credits roll an utterly horrific 80s power ballad thunders in the background. I am quite confident in stating that it is the worst horror film credits track of all time. Actually, to say that the horrible credits sequence is an accurate taste of what is to come is a little harsh… on the horrible credits sequence. Because despite the miserable song choice, there is something worthwhile in it, namely the very creepy and cool images that the song is doing an excellent job of ruining.
Seeing the film you are checking out is directed by Renny Harlin is never a good sign, and a Nightmare on Elm Street 4 proves that adage. In an attempt to seamlessly connect this film with the excellent A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), the film brings back Joey, Kristy and Kincaid. Bringing back beloved characters is always a good move. But bringing back characters that no one really gave a shit about first time round (speaking as a massive fan of the third film) smacks of desperation and the fact you couldn’t afford the decent characters. Not only that, this is a connection with the excellent third film on a superficial level only, with no connectivity in terms of tone, theme or quality. Also, if you are going to bring characters back, at least do something with them. Don’t just kill them all off un-climactically in the first act of the film. Unfortunately this narrative choice is reflected throughout the film as the plot is teen slasher paint by numbers of the highest order. Plenty of people have told me how the series descends as it becomes more and more comedic, especially the character of Freddy. There were hints of that in the third film, but the balance between humour and horror was more or less spot on in that film. Here though the Freddy character is too far gone into the realm of comedy and he lacks totally in menace. This got me thinking actually that in none of these films, even the better ones, the audience is not particularly aware that Freddy is a child murderer. I’m not so sure that is a good thing.
The major problem with this film is not that it is bad (it is though), but that it just feels utterly and irredeemably unoriginal. Every sequence feels like it is some amalgam of parts of the first three films. Not only that, rather than combining and improving on the aspects it borrows, it all feels worse, somehow like a ‘lite’ version. Not content to rip off earlier films in the series, the film is also a raging success at ripping off parts of basically every big film from the 1980s – The Karate Kid (1984), Back to the Future (1985), The Fly (1986) and Ghostbusters (1984). Not only is this painfully obvious and cheap, it also makes parts of the film feel totally out of place and like they belong in a completely different film. The part that borrows heavily from The Fly is especially guilty of this. Thankfully though it dispenses with the 80s-ness of the second film. Aside from the power ballad at the start. And then continually repeating the line “major league hunk” in one scene. Oh and absolutely every single thing about this film which is one of the most 80s of the 80s. Time has not been kind to you A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Warriors. Not that you were any good to start with.
I think I have made myself abundantly clear on this one. It even pales in comparison to the first sequel which was no fun at all. It is silly and lacks any of the charms that this series has brought so far. Any film that manages to make a ‘final girl’ letting fly with the phrase “fuckin A” after suiting up for the final battle sound utterly lame, deserves neither your respect nor your support.
Verdict: Schooner of Tooheys New
Another Nightmare on Elm Street review will be coming your way next week. If you have missed any of my earlier reviews, be sure to check them out: The classic first film, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.