In Renny Harlin’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (read our retro review here), Freddy Krueger obviously returns. This time, however, he seems oddly less interested in vengeance against teenagers and their families. Instead, he’s more of a wisecracking party animal. And why not make Freddy more fabulous than ever? In a way, it matches his personality type about as well as the hat, glove and iconic, jarring sweater. The dream demon is more like, “I am Freddy! Hear me roar!” and the audience surely did.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is substantially different from Dream Warriors, which we discussed recently. While it has more of a cutesy tone than the latter film, it still plays by the rules a little bit more, all while still inventing some new ones. Freddy Krueger stays mostly in the dream world this time, and Westin Hills isn’t even mentioned by name. In other words, he seems to be a little more confined to the actual Elm Street kids’ minds. However, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master further cements the idea that, to a large degree, Freddy can easily be conjured up merely by people’s fear of him.
Near the beginning of the film, Joey (Rodney Eastman) mentions to Kristen (Tuesday Knight) that the pipes are cold in the boiler room, as a sign that Freddy’s either dead or hibernating. Of course, the status quo seldom stays the same for long, because you know Freddy wants to come back to play… Although, let’s face it: If Freddy hadn’t returned — if the film had simply been about the character’s mundane lives — it would have probably been the best horror prank on audiences ever! But I digress.
Freddy and Alice’s Powers in Dream Master and What They Mean
While this article series is mostly about Freddy Krueger himself, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master does indeed offer a Dream Master named Alice (Lisa Wilcox). The quirky thing is, she somehow has the ability to gather the powers and souls from some of Freddy’s recently slain victims, which makes her a possible threat to the gloved one. If nothing else, she undermines his ability to feed off his kills as well. In some ways, then, this is an interesting expansion on Freddy’s “chest of souls” concept from Dream Warriors, and further suggests that Freddy doesn’t enjoy a monopoly on dream powers. In fact, he seems heavily reliant on Alice to bring him victims after being dragged into Kristen’s dream and her becoming aware of Krueger’s existence. It is a bit gimmicky but somehow works.
Dependence on Alice aside, it’s not like A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master makes Freddy a total weakling. In fact, he dispatches both Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) and Joey with little fuss, and even springs back from getting crushed by a car. In other words, Freddy Krueger is still one tough mother. So this leads to a question: Why is Freddy so brash and cocky in this film? Could it be that these kids fear him more? Or did he somehow gather strength in Hell (or wherever Freddy ultimately dwells)? He does get resurrected in quite an odd way after Kincaid’s dog, Jason AKA apparent Hellhound, urinates on Krueger’s grave. Then again, this scene could just be regarded as some dream babble with no clear, incisive meaning.
There are other weird demonstrations of Krueger’s power. He acts as an invisible ninja against Alice’s brother, Rick (Andras Jones). Freddy conjures up a weird robot arm to attack Sheila (Toy Newkirk), then he “kisses her” and sucks the air from her lungs (for an analysis of the robot arm’s significance, click here). He manages to yank Alice into a movie inside of her incredibly vivid dream (in case you’re curious, that movie is Reefer Madness (1936))
On top of that, Freddy survives having a hole blasted through his chest by Sheila’s bug-zapping device. He certainly is a tough bastard son of a hundred maniacs! Then again, he wasn’t particularly weak in Dream Warriors, as he became a psycho-sexual Freddy snake then and even a giant puppet master. With that background, it’s not too surprising that Freddy could turn Debbie (Brooke Theiss) into a human cockroach. He is also cruel to Alice by devouring Rick as a “little meatball.” Way to keep that edge, Fred!
Let’s Do the Time Loop Again!
Finally, one simply must discuss the dream loop scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. When Alice and Dan (Danny Hassel) repeatedly exit the diner in a loop, it’s undeniably an interesting and memorable scene. There’s a strong suggestion that Freddy is getting a stronger foothold in their reality. What is it about Alice that makes her and Dan uniquely susceptible to this time loop occurrence? After all, if the character of Freddy had such an ability the whole time, he probably would have been making use of it way more often. It must be that, in being the Dream Master, Alice functions as more of a living gateway between reality and dream realms.
Interestingly, this increases the logic behind her ability to acquire slain Elm Street resident’s powers. It’s also clear from the beginning that, while it might offer Alice some strengths, it also has some possible pitfalls (with this just being one of them). However the average person interprets the time loop, Robert Englund himself called it “the most hypnotic, disturbing, and accurate depiction of a dream I’d ever seen.” (Source: Englund, Robert; Hollywood Monster: A Walk Down Elm Street with the Man of Your Dreams. Simon and Schuster. p. 175.)
Freddy Sees Himself and… Dies?
Spoiler alert: Freddy dies at the end of this film, as tends to happen in such fare. Every Freddy death reveals the complex issues of creating a supernatural character. How do they exist and how can they die? When Alice holds a shard of glass up to Freddy and reveals his evil to himself, it’s easy enough to say, “Huh?” However, this doesn’t stray too far from the pattern of characters finding inner strength to overcome the dream demon. There’s also a common thread in his deaths so far: Freddy’s evil is thwarted by exposing his own human side, by making him recognize his own weakness and vulnerability
There’s a psycho-spiritual element to it, if taken seriously, that might make one’s head spin. This is exactly why the Nightmare franchise is interesting. Yes, you have a scary villain who likes to joke around, but there’s also the question of what he means on a deeper level, and why he’s so oddly relatable despite being so blatantly evil. At the same time, these movies can still be seen as silly, which makes them multifaceted as hell.
What are your thoughts on Freddy as depicted in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master? Let us know in the comments!