A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

a nightmare on elm street 4 the dream master

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

The Scoop: 1988 R, directed by Renny Harlin and starring Tuesday Knight, Robert Englund, and Ken Sagoes

Tagline: Terror Beyond Your Wildest Dreams.

Summary Capsule: The torch is passed to a new batch of Freddy fighters.

Justin’s rating: Can we get Pyro Dog on the set, please?

Justin’s review: At the beginning of Elm Street 4 there’s a character practicing his martial arts almost fanatically. This is movie script lingo for “He’s going to use this on the bad guy in a similar, later scene”. Yet things are mostly the same in Freddyland. We’re back in the ‘burbs, and the other two survivors from The Dream Warriors haven’t noticed that Kristen has changed from Patricia Arquette to a completely new person. Fashion-wise, we’re reaching the height of the ’80s spiky-hair, scooter-driving, spandex-slapping crowd. But I assume the most important development of the series is that Freddy Krueger is brought back to life with the aid of flammable dog urine.

You heard me right. A dog pees fire on Freddy’s grave, and that’s enough excuse for one dead child murderer to come back and do what he does best: Serenade people with folk music. I feel really bad for all the characters in the Elm Street series, because their maximum life expectancy is two films, max. Unlike Scream, where the horror series revolves around the heroine instead of the villain, it’s basically useless to root for recurring characters in the Freddy movies. Remember the survivors of part 1? They’re killed in part 3. Remember the survivors of part 3? Slaughtered in part 4. Remember leg warmers? Shudder… wish I didn’t.

I suppose I could break to comment more on the history of slasher flicks. The genre pretty much died, at least in its classic form, in the very early nineties. Nightmare on Elm Street 4 comes in at the peak of the 15-year slasher run. The horror movie rules are in effect, gratuitous nudity is used, and deaths are a complicated, special-effects laden, pro-gore affair. It became a inter-movie game to see which horror series could top the other in sheer body count and FX. Teen characters become a tad bit more flamboyant and sassy but still not smart enough to avoid the obvious deaths.

Brighter than the previous Nightmares, Dream Master seems filmed almost entirely in the day. The atmosphere is so cheery its almost impossible not to feel happy when people are getting butchered. I mean, hey, fluffy white clouds! A girl gets murdered on a palm beach! There’s so much light streaming through every window that it wouldn’t be too off to think there’s a nuclear war going on somewhere in the background. More series continuity errors present itself, namely, why would the ugly, haunted, boarded up house on Elm Street still be there, even when all the houses around it are upscale and extremely classy? Does anyone notice that their property value is pretty low? How do you explain that to visitors?

“Well Ted, over there is the Johnson house, we play squash with them every Saturday. And next to them is the derelict mansion where an undead child molester keeps coming back to slaughter the children of those that originally killed him. But we can’t tear it down, it’s a local landmark!”

Anyway, before she dies, Kristen passes on her powers to Alice, a Calista Flockhart-lookalike. Meek and mild, you just know that she’s the only one to be able to conquer Freddy, because the quiet ones always have super inner strength. Okay, I can accept that, but they’re also dull as dirt to boot.

Freddy, on the other hand, is well on his way to morphing into a full-blown extrovert. He’s downright punchy!

This is probably the only movie you’ll ever see where a girl is turned into a cockroach (and before she does, she really looks like Sigourney Weaver’s sister), which is a good thing, I think, to do to annoying actors. At least Freddy is innovative.

So the kids go, one by one, into Freddy’s domain. These movies keep showing funeral after funeral to reiterate, “Hey, people are dying!” It starts to seem like half the Nightmare series takes place in a graveyard with a low voice intoning about the valley of the shadow of death. Yay, go Alice! Kill Freddy and get yourself a law practice where people can make fun of your anorexia!

Kyle’s rating: Alice 2.0 doesn’t even look good in a bikini, so we don’t even have that going for us

Kyle’s review: Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master looks very stylish, but is pretty awful. I knew what was going on and all that, but the whole thing just seemed way too cheesy and ridiculous to be a great horror movie. It actually looks like a crappy neon horror film that Joel Schmaucher might churn out, but even he produced The Lost Boys, so I don’t know what Renny Harlin’s excuse is.

Nightmare 4 is disasterously bad in a way that offends me, because it seems like there is so much potential here that just gets wasted. But the acting is horrendous, Harlin’s cinematic style doesn’t communicate any kind of thrills or carry emotional resonance, and the story is best described as “dull.” So instead of a horror classic, we get horror garbage.

Watching the series in order, as I have been for the purposes of a F13/Nightmare MRFH week, it’s amazing how much the series vacillates in quality between installments. I haven’t seen anything yet to dissuade me from thinking that the entire Nightmare on Elm Street film series exists solely to provide Freddy vs. Jason with an acceptable villain and film clips.

Well, I take that back. Nightmare 3 was pretty good, and it probably required a couple “good” movies to turn Freddy Krueger into a worthwhile pop culture villain. But Dream Master doesn’t do much except pad Freddy’s series numbers. As I’m watching this one, all I’m feeling is impatience: I have to get this one over with so I can start up on the next one, which isn’t supposed to be much good either. Great.

There are just too many idiotic questions here. What kind of girl lifts weights with long, fake fingernails? What kind of moron, horny or otherwise, asks a girl he likes “Are you okay?” at her brother’s funeral? Why doesn’t Freddy just get to it in murdering “his children” instead of playing around and allowing them to get away? Why do they have to give Freddy immortal characteristics instead of allowing him his grittier, less cosmic origins?

Yep, the credits are rolling and this is officially bad. The special effects of Freddy’s demise (spoiler!) were interesting, but overall the frigid stoicism of all our “heroes” effectively robbed the film of any kind of tension. Were people really freaked out by this back in the day? How depressing.

“Sausage AGAIN? Sometimes I think the only reason you invite me to Mr. Pizza King is because I can slice up pies.”


  • Freddy likes pizza!
  • The two gravestones visible behind Kristen Parker’s and Roland Kincaid’s are for Donald & Nancy Thompson, characters from A Nightmare On Elm Street and A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
  • The name of the diner where Alice works is called the “Crave Inn”, a reference to series creator Wes Craven.
  • Director Renny Harlin is a student in a classroom.
  • Another standard rule in horror films: if a character is shown to have a weakness early in the film, it will be exploited to kill them later (asthma, for instance).
  • The highest-grossing entry in the Elm Street series (not counting Freddy vs. Jason). It earned $49 million in the US.
  • Not only did actor Tuesday Knight co-star in the film, she performed the theme song.

Groovy Quotes

Kirsten: We have matching luggage again: the bags under your eyes.

Rick: It’s avoid-all-contact day.

Freddy Krueger: You shouldn’t have buried me. I’m not dead.

Kincaid: I’ll see you in hell.
Freddy Krueger: Tell ’em Freddy sent ya.

Freddy Krueger: Welcome to Wonderland, Alice.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • A Nightmare on Elm Street
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street part 2: Freddy’s Revenge
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors


  1. I was about 9 when this came out and even by this point, it was more black comedy than horror. Freddy didn’t scare nine year old me and my 13 year old sister was laughing at the talking meatball. It became a joke whenever we had pizza after that. So to answer your question, no, it didn’t scare us back then. Freddy was the pop culture hero we cheered for like in New Nightmare.

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