Original release: August 19th, 1988
Running time: 89 minutes
Director: Renny Harlin
Writers: Brian Helgeland, Scott Pierce
Cast: Robert Englund, Tuesday Knight, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Andras Jones, Toy Newkirk, Brooke Theiss
It’s hard to forget the night of Saturday 25th of August 1990. It was the second to last weekend of the summer holidays and I was starting high school in 9 days. It was warm but the windows were open and a gentle breeze blew the curtains ever so lightly.
The smell of freshly made popcorn filled the air. I crunched and munched as the New Line logo flashed on the screen and then faded to a quote from the Bible in blood red:
The eponymous Nightmare theme song, sung by Tuesday Knight, leads right into the first dream sequence where her character, Kristen Parker (taking over from Patricia Arquette in Part 3), finds herself walking down Elm Street. There’s a little girl in a white dress with a handful of coloured chalk pieces drawing a house. She sits in front of the house she’s drawing and we see she’s made it look less menacing than it actually is.
It’s 1428 Elm Street, Nancy Thompson’s house, now abandoned and run down. Its windows are boarded up and its paint peeling off, even the front lawn and trees around it are dead. Kristen approaches her.
As the little girl lifts her hand from the picture we see the crudely drawn but instantly recognisable figure of Freddy Krueger standing in the window. Kristen gasps as day turns to night; lightning tears across the sky and a storm opens up from out of nowhere onto her, drenching her in its rainfall. The red front door swings open, inviting her in and against her will Kristen is drawn into the house once more. The nightmare’s begun.
I didn’t watch the Nightmare films in order, at that point in time I’d only seen A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), but I was only 5 or 6 at the time. The most I remembered from that early experience was the brutal and chilling scene with Tina Grey (Amanda Wyss) dragged across her bedroom ceiling and torn to ribbons by an invisible killer before splashing back down onto her bed in a bloody mess. In short, I wasn’t yet fully aware of the back story.
Following the events in the previous movie, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (1987), Kristen, Joey (Rodney Eastman) and Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) fought and defeated Freddy and now one year later they’re trying to return to their normal lives.
Kristen, however, can’t seem to move on, believing Freddy is coming back for them and tries to convince her fellow Dream Warriors. She still has her dream power and each time she has a nightmare, Joey and Kincaid are summoned. Kincaid tries to remind her “Freddy’s dead, buried, and consecrated. We won, remember?”
Kristen’s right though, and as Freddy resurrects himself he wastes no time in disposing of the last children of the Elm Street parents who roasted him like a Thanksgiving turkey. Saving her for last, and without her Dream Warriors to help her, Kristen summons her friend Alice (Lisa Wilcox) into her final nightmare and immediately regrets bringing Freddy fresh meat. Right before he claims her soul Kristen passes on her dream power to Alice, knowing that she’ll need it if she’s to survive what she’s about to endure.
Halfway through The Dream Master, with the original Dream Warriors now gone, a new set of lead characters take centre stage as Freddy begins to claim students at Springwood High. One by one Alice inadvertently summons her friends into her dreams, at first not realising the consequences. With those around her dying, something else is happening to her, this shy, quiet, insecure girl begins to take on the strengths of those who die in her dreams. Eventually she comes to understand how to use this power both in her dreams and in the waking world.
Alice’s transformation was something that took me by surprise. Watching her as she inherited the best attributes of those around her, the changes were at first subtle; we first see more of her eyes, she starts to gain confidence and it’s reflected in how she fixes her hair and then dresses, later on we see her with the nunchucks and displaying an incredible aptitude for karate and gymnastics in the best battle against Freddy in the entire Nightmare series.
For an 11 year old A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master was a terrifying experience but it was so enjoyable as well. Never before or since then had I seen a horror film that not only lived on in my dreams for years to come but it went on to have a huge impact on my waking life.
On the morning of Sunday 26th of August 1990 I woke from nightmares about what I had seen a few hours earlier and I was desperate to get it all down on paper. It was the first time I began to write as way to get what was inside of me, outside, rather than just completing a task.
Watching those students at Springwood High come to terms with what was happening to them made me feel much more at ease about starting high school. I could survive anything then because nothing in waking world could be that bad. I would go to bed at night and in an instant Alice, along with the Dream Warriors would be there and we’d fight Freddy and anything else I was scared of. In the morning I’d feel ready to take on anything.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .