Saturday, 10 April 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

The following video is to remind you that in three weeks the mythology will step out of our collective memories onto the cinema screen.

Will it sear our minds?

Nightmare co-written and performed by Tuesday Knight
Video upload by NateyAdams16

The soundtrack was originally played over the opening credits of The Dream Master 1988. The movie opens with a new New Line logo. It’s eye popping. It’s corporate. It’s apropos. For this is a film of blatant commercialism with scant attempt at story telling.

A fourth film marks the end of a trilogy. A fourth film officially marks a franchise.

Had a McDonalds recently? Well supersize you.


Tuesday Knight’s[1] pop track is good enough to distract but what follows the logo is a distasteful use of Biblical verse as epigram. Following that title card are the credits. For the first time Robert Englund gets top billing - Freddy is now the star. All other actors are listed alphabetically. This means there are no name character actors: no John Saxons, Craig Wassons or Laurence Fishburnes.

The $13million budget was the highest to that date and would remain so until 2003 with Freddy Vs. Jason. Ie production decided to spend all their money on special effects and shirk on the actors. It was left to the story to serve the customer viewer.

Brian Helgeland[2] is credited as one of three writers. He would later win an Oscar® (best adapted screenplay) for LA Confidential 1997 but I wasn’t on the jury. Donnie Brasco 1997 should have won. Helgeland was also guilty of 976-Evil 1988 and Assasins 1995. Clearly this man’s talents do not include original screenplays.

Who’s in charge here?

Overseeing budget and production was CEO Robert Shaye and Rachel Talalay. With the likes of Sherry Lansing and Dawn Steel Talalay was the vanguard of this present renaissance of female movie makers. She went on to direct Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare 1991 (more on that in a later post) and Tank Girl 1995. Dawn Steel became president of Columbia pictures 1987 – 1989[3]. She died in 1997. Sherry Lansing is a former CEO of Paramount[4]. Talalay now directs episodic television.

Cream rises. Crap sinks.

Renny Harlin was the stand-in for a director on this flick. Does it matter what sort of (hack) job he did so long as the film made money? More money equals more movies. Ergo Dominic Sena[5]is still working. McG[6]is still working. Eli Roth[7] is still working. Renny Harlin is still working – but thankfully in Russia[8].

What’s the plot?

As became customary for the franchise the movie opens with a curtain raiser: Blonde teen approaches a little girl dressed in white. The child chalk draws a picture of the house behind them – the ruins of 1428 Elm Street. It suddenly starts to rain so naturally the teen seeks shelter in the house. Weirdness ensues. Once she pulls Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) and Joey (Rodney Eastman) into her dream it becomes clear that this teen is Kristen. It’s not Patricia Arquette. It’s Tuesday Knight.

At least the curtain raiser has purpose.

For whatever reason despite the budget the filmmakers failed to lure back Arquette. Maybe they didn’t offer her enough money. Maybe she read the script. This turned out to be the best decision of her career akin to Keanu Reeves bumping Speed 2 1997. The worst decision of her career was Stigmata 1999.

As bad as her performance was in Dream Warriors 1987 compared to Tuesday Knight Patricia Arquette looks like Meryl Streep. Sagoes and Eastman did not mature their talent craft in between sequels. Not a single member of the cast stands out in a good performance. The script hurts but some of the dialogue delivery is like watching badly dubbed porn.

The responsibility of the performances lies with the director. Why did Robert Shaye hire a man who can’t speak English? Or to be precise does not think in English? The language has tone and tenor, inference and intonation in every word written and spoken. Renny Harlin – at least in 1988 – did not understand that. He seems to have let the (young) actors to their own devices. Bad performances induce brevity of sympathy. The worst character has got to be JD Rick (Andras Jones). Watch Heathers 1988. You’ll see.

How bad is the dialogue? The teens don’t talk to each other – they quip (badly) to each other. Some of them – especially Brooke Theiss (the hottest thing in the movie) even sing-song their (bad) quips. Unfortunately this type of teen is now stereotype in Hollywood filmdom. It’s the result of non-talent adults imagining how kids speak. Alas the days of Fast Times at Ridgemont High 1982 are behind us.

The plot makes zero sense. The plot holes are big enough to warrant their own postcode. There is no logic to the proceedings. The non-action scenes exist only to link the set pieces. Freddy is inexplicably resurrected. He immediately dispatches Kincaid, Joey and Kristin - almost as an afterthought. It destroys the goodwill meticulously built by Dream Warriors. Kristin manages to pull Alice into her dream before she dies. Freddy gets to meet Alice. He gets to kill through her (dreams).

Once again (as in Freddy’s Revenge 1985) the filmmakers ignore the world according to Craven. Here once Alice falls asleep Freddy can kill anyone in the conscious world. The idea dispels all tension: Freddy gets to kill his victims at will without having to pray on their weaknesses.

Money shots

However there are some good deaths. Joey’s especially is inventive. It’s both a nod to his coma transition in Dream Warriors and an inversion of the Johnny Depp killing in the original. Sheila (the best performance of a bad bunch) has a good set up and execution though the payoff was a let down. Debbie’s death is ridiculous but the dream transition leading up to it – Alice in the cinema – is one of the best in the franchise.

There are other good moments; Kristin’s final confrontation with her mother (a returning Brooke Bundy) is the best dramatic scene. There’s Alice telling her brother she doesn’t want to look in the mirror and there’s the epilogue. The final shot in Dream Warriors is of a light turning on in the model house Kristen made of 1428 Elm Street. That shot has always disappointed me. Does that mean Nancy died for nothing? The epilogue in this film may be rippled but there is seemingly finality. For the first time in the series. It’s enough.


This film reeks of indulgence. Robert Englund appears in drag and Robert Shaye has a cameo. There’s a lot going on in Freddy’s big budget dreamscape but not much happening. Plus New Line has a soundtrack to hawk so they pepper the movie with music at inappropriate places like it’s the Rocky Horror Picture Show 1975. Before her final battle with Freddy Alice gets to look at herself in the mirror. What should be a tense awakening plays to a generic rock beat. The only thing missing was a product placement and a smile.

Robert Englund receives top billing but the privilege should go to Freddy Krueger. Here he comes into the light. He’s no longer menacing. He’s almost completely unrecognisable from the sadist Craven created. He’s a cartoon. He’s marketable. He’s the harbinger of the TV Freddy[9]. He built the house called New Line.

At some point a man will want to feed his kids. At a later point (some) man will want to buy a private plane. Robert Shaye abandoned narrative art & entertainment with this sequel. He threw a ton of money at the screen and it paid off. This fourth film was the highest grossing in the franchise until the eighth[10].

As bad as this film is it remains part of an anthology.  It’s also a kick start to shared 80s memories: Debbie’s hair. Tuesday’s faux rock song. Freddy Krueger. Reznor[11] likes it. I don’t hate myself for watching it. I don’t hate myself for being conned by New Line.

I will hate them if they fcuk the remake.

Technorati Tags:, , , , , , , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator
blog comments powered by Disqus