Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Studio Line: New Line Cinema - Pure Evil Never Really Dies…

Proving there's no rest for the wicked, the unspeakably evil Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is again resurrected from the grave to wreak havoc upon those who dare to dream. But this time, he faces a powerful new adversary!

As her friends succumb one by one to Freddy's wrath, telepathically gifted Kristen embarks on a desperate mission to destroy the satanic dream stalker and release the tortured souls of his victims once and for all.

Directed by Renny Harlin (The Long Kiss Goodnight, Die Hard 2) and loaded with killer effects and drop-dead humor, this is a "superior horror picture that balances wit and gore with imagination and intelligence" (LA Times).

Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: Robert Englund, Tuesday Knight, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Lisa Wilcox, Andras Jones, Danny Hassel, Brooke Theiss
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9, standard 1.33:1; audio English DD 5.1 & Digital Mono; subtitles English; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 27 chapters; rated R; 99 min.; $24.98; street date 8/22/00.
Supplements: "Jump To A Nightmare" Scene Navigation; Original Theatrical Trailer. DVD-ROM Features: Read The Screenplay While You Watch The Film!; New Dream World Trivia Game -- Test Your Nightmare Knowledge!; Up-to-the-Minute Cast, Crew, Trivia Info and More!
Purchase: DVD | The Nightmare on Elm Street Collection | Freddy's Favorites: Best of A Nightmare on Elm Street - Soundtrack

Picture/Sound/Extras: B-/B/D-

After the debacle that was A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, the next film, 1987's ANOES 3: Dream Warriors firmly resuscitated the budding franchise with its spark and emphasis on action. The movie didn't live up to the heights of the first film, but it branched out into new territory while remaining fairly true to the series' "rules".

Every Nightmare features a conclusion that makes it really, truly, totally, honestly completely look like Freddy's finally gone. As such, every succeeding Nightmare sequel stretches the lengths of credulity just a little farther to resurrect the character. Granted, when we're dealing with a universe that features a nutbag who kills teens in their sleep, you can get away with all sorts of bizarre activity, but sometimes the material goes just a little too far.

That wouldn't quite happen in Nightmare 4. It picks up neatly where N3 ended. We find surviving teen Kristen and her pals Joey and Kincaid alive, but not all that well, since Kristen's experiencing nightmares again. Kincaid and Joey try to convince her that she's nuts, but she feels certain Herr Krueger has somehow managed to escape his final demise.

I believed her because she managed a tremendous metamorphosis in the year since N3; in fact, Kristen looks and acts like a completely different person in N4. This may be due to the fact she is a completely different person; for reasons unknown, Patricia Arquette didn't return as Kristen and she was replaced by the absurdly-named Tuesday Knight, a woman who bears very little resemblance to Arquette. Let's see: they're both young, female... that's about it! Well, at least N4 proved to be Knight's big break in show business; after that she went on to giddy heights as "Porn Girl In Waiting Room" in The Prom and "Nude Woman" in Calendar Girl. Wow! She played a porn actress and a naked woman? That's range!

All snide comments aside, Kristen's continued involvement with Der Fredmeister causes her other friends to become ensnared in his web; it seems that even if he kills all of the children of the Elm Street parents who torched him - his original motive - Big K just can't get enough of that sweet stuff; he wants new souls, and Kristen and her friends are his path to do so. Key to his plot is Alice (Lisa Wilcox), a buddy who gains Kristen's ability to draw others into her dreams.

Bad move, babe, since Freddy now wants to use Alice to absorb more souls. I don't think it can be considered a spoiler to say that he succeeds to a large degree; if it ruins your enjoyment of the film because I mention that Freddy kills some kids, then you really need to get out more often. N4 continues the development of the wise-cracking Freddy we saw in N3; gone forever is the more vicious, demonic character of the first couple of movies. In his place is this still semi-fearsome monster who nonetheless loses a lot of his scariness due to his wittier personality.

As with N3, this film plays more like an action flick than as a horror movie, especially as it becomes more and more absurd; some of the killings really go for ridiculous effects. However, I thought it worked fairly well. The movie comes across as tremendously dated, and not just due to the various styles we witness; the flick bears the unmistakably glib and flashy essence of the Eighties, and it's this factor that probably harms it the most.

Nonetheless, N4 offers some fun comic book thrills with Freddy. The story isn't as deep or as clever as that of N3, and I think the filmmakers knew that; as such, they took the film into a more superficial style that strives to hide the movie's deficiencies. And it does so fairly well. At least they had the good sense to make the plot and characters fit within the Nightmare universe; that sense of continuity helps make the movie appear more coherent than it actually is.

A Nightmare On Elm Street 4 isn't a great movie but it provides a reasonably entertaining little experience. It resides firmly in the middle of the series, as it is neither as good as some of the others but it also avoids the pitfalls of the crummiest entries.

The DVD:

A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master appears in both its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen edition on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the letterboxed image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the widescreen side was rated for this review.

Visually, Nightmare 4 represents a bit of a step down compared to the first three DVDs. Overall, it looks decent, but it lacks the sharpness of the previous films. The image often seems vaguely soft and hazy; it's definitely watchable, but it didn't seem as detailed as it should have. Colors generally appear accurate, though the picture has some trouble with reds; the lettering during the opening credits and some scenes that featured red lighting tended to bleed a little and they looked oversaturated.

The print used for the DVD of Nightmare 4 looked pretty clean; I didn't see any indications of source flaws. Some digital artifacts appear briefly; these don't make a major impact upon the experience, though. Black levels seem okay, though like the rest of the image, they're a little muted. All in all, Nightmare 4 is a good but flawed visual presentation; it's a more-than-acceptable image, but I found it somewhat disappointing after the strong transfers of the first three movies.

On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 remix of Nightmare 4 offers a definite step up from the audio of the first three movies. This probably is the result of the fact that the producers of the film finally made the move from mono to stereo sound, and it was about time! I can excuse mono for the first film, but considering that surround tracks were pretty standard during the mid-1980s, it's pretty weak that all of the movies through 1987 only offered single-channel sound. It's not a tremendous upgrade that they went to stereo forNightmare 4, but at least it was a move in the right direction. (By the way, the original stereo track also appears on the DVD.)

The increased fidelity found in the original track comes through in this new 5.1 mix. It definitely displays greater range and separation. This is easily the most active surround track of the first four; while it won't compare to newer films, it makes very good use of all five channels and provides a nicely immersive environment. Sounds pan well between channels, and the dimensionality adds some punch to the viewing experience.

Although the audio is an improvement over the first three films, it still has some weaknesses. The quality of the track continues to be fairly drab; it's a little more natural than the first three, but speech, music and effects still sound somewhat stiff and flat. The mix does add some good low end, however; the effects benefit from this extra bass most of all, and they can sound quite powerful at times. Distortion is occasionally a problem, but not too frequently. Nonetheless, it's a pretty nice track and it offers some positive improvements.

Once again, we find very few supplements on this DVD. We get biographies from the 1988 press kit (nine cast members and six crew members) and the "Jump to a Nightmare" feature. The latter allows you to skip directly to any of Freddy's scenes.

Nightmare 4 includes some DVD-ROM content as well. It features the screenplay - which can display corresponding scenes as you read - and gives us part six of the "Dream World Trivia Game". The latter provides 20 questions about the movie; if you correctly answer at least 13 of them, you get a congratulatory message but nothing special. (The games found on the boxed set's discs provide a code that you can use to access a final contest on the eighth DVD, but that feature disappears here, for logical reasons.). I found these questions to be pretty tough, but not impossible. They vary from try to try, so while you'll probably encounter some of the same queries each time through, the roster of posers isn't set in stone.

Finally, the DVD contains web links to New Line's Nightmare On Elm Street home page and to "up to the minute" details on the film's cast and crew. That means if you click the link, it'll send you to IMDB's facts.

Nightmare 4 marks a definite decline from the heights of its immediate predecessor, but it still offers a fairly interesting and exciting experience. It should be regarded as pretty much "middle of the road" for ANOES films. The DVD provides decent but unexceptional picture and sound plus scanty extras. Freddy Krueger fans may want to give this one a rental.

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