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ĎA Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Masterí

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 19, 1988


Renny Harlin
Robert Englund;
Lisa Wilcox
Under 17 restricted

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"He's baaa-aack!"

A recurring nightmare to everyone but the stockholders at New Line Cinema, and proof that you can't keep a dead man down, at least in the movies, Freddy Krueger pops back with "A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master." Over the years and sequels, Freddy has become such a juggernaut pop phenomenon that New Line can now take his audience for granted, shrouding him in the thinnest of plots, minimizing the special effects that made Parts 1 and 3 so effective, and letting him toss off what passes in America for wit. Dorothy Parker he ain't.

Once upon a time, Freddy Krueger could scare the wit out of people, but this go-round he seems intent on boring them to death. Three of "3's" Dream Warriors are back -- briefly -- augmented by the new kids on the chopping block. Freddy, of course, is The Exterminator, gleefully stamping out pestilent teen-agers with increasingly tenuous connections to the old neighborhood. Early on you can spot the heroine because one of the hard, fast rules on "Elm Street" is that the meek shall inherit the continuing roles, transforming themselves into worthy adversaries over a 90-minute combination workout and gross-out.

Let's talk basics: body counts and special effects. In terms of bodies, it's a half-dozen, plus a couple of near misses; most of the victims seem to have been enrolled in a Head-Stop program. Special effects? The only real payoff is at the end, when all those tortured souls trapped in Freddy's putrid body break out like rampaging acne. Otherwise, the chills are few and far between, as are the laughs. There are also rehashes from previous "Nightmares" and sly steals or references to other films, including "Lifeforce," "The Purple Rose of Cairo," "The Fly," "Aliens" and "Ninja III: The Domination."

As always, the teen actors are disposable, and even Robert Englund seems to be sleepwalking through Freddy. In the best "Nightmares," Parts 1 and 3, the bad dreams not only made sense, but reinforced the idea of pattern psychosis and brought viewers into the dreamscapes. In "4" they're just cold splashes in the face. Speaking of patterns, it seems that the odd-numbered "Nightmares" are the best, the even ones the worst, which means it's probably worth looking forward to "A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: (Fill in Some Stupid Catch Phrase)." After all, New Line will probably stay in it for dirty money. Isn't that what they mean by Krueger-rands?.

"A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master" is rated R and contains some scenes of graphic violence.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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