Thursday, September 24, 2015

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

Now, that's a poster that gets your attention! I can vividly remember when I saw that staring back at me on the shelf of our town's video rental store when I was a kid and, combined with what little I knew of him and the images I had seen on the other videos, it made Freddy Krueger feel like the most horrifying, frightening monster ever. Things got even worse when I looked on the back of the VHS box and saw a big image of Freddy with those screaming faces on his torso (making me think that he really did eat people, which I had already thought after seeing that image of the Freddy Snake on the back of the box for the previous film) along with several images from the film, with the shots of Freddy eating that meatball and forcing the barbell, which I thought was some kind of blade due to the angle and lighting, down onto Debbie really sticking with me. Judging from that, I felt that this had to be the scariest of all of them. This was also the first Nightmare on Elm Street that I ever caught a real glimpse of. I was over at my grandmother's one time and my relatives were channel-surfing when they came upon the scene where Freddy imitates a shark fin and screeches through the water and the sand. I can remember them being as perplexed as I was about it, wondering what in God's name it was, but the minute Freddy exploded out from underneath that sand castle, they quickly changed the channel, knowing that this wasn't something that I should see. Nevertheless, that was something else that stayed with me and built up the mystique around Freddy and what he was exactly. I finally saw this film in early 2003 when I bought it on VHS along with Nightmare 2 after having recently seen and enjoyed the original movie. By this point, despite those images that I remembered, I knew that this was when it was felt that Freddy became more funny than scary, with one reviewer noting, "Does Freddy have to make a joke every time he kills someone?" So, going in I wasn't expecting this film to be dark or scary, unlike Nightmare 2 which I watched the day before, but I was hoping that it would at least be entertaining... and it was. Freddy was working the one-liners and it did get excessive after a while but I thought it was a very fun film, with a lot of energy, cool visuals, great setpieces, and nice, memorable music. Looking at it today, I still think it's one of the series' most imaginative and technically superior entries. Now, as to the question I posed in the previous review as to whether I like this or Dream Warriors more, I'll say that I think that's a better movie all-around whereas here, things get a bit muddled, but on an entertainment level, this really rivals its predecessor. In summation, I think I like this film's visual style, pace, and music more than the previous one, but I think that one tells its story better and has better characters, so I can't quite decide which one I would put higher. They're both really good examples of how awesome 80's horror could get.

Kristen Parker, one of the three remaining Dream Warriors, has a dream about a certain, abandoned house on Elm Street and, when she ends up in a boiler room, she panics and drags her friends Joey and Kincaid into the dream, much to their annoyance. The next day at school, after meeting up with her boyfriend Rick and his sister Alice, as well as their other friends Debbie and Sheila, Kristen is confronted Joey and Kincaid, who tell her that they want to live a normal life, that they're tired of her dragging them into her dreams, and that going into the dream the way she does might bring Freddy Krueger back to life. That night, Kincaid falls asleep and finds himself in a junkyard, mirroring the place where Freddy's remains are buried, and watches as his dog Jason plays a part in bringing Freddy back to life. He tries to fight him but Freddy manages to kill Kincaid and, later that night, takes care of Joey as well. The following day, Kristen learns of their deaths and has a brief nightmare after knocking herself out which reveals to her that Freddy has returned. Her friends, even though they don't quite believe what she tells them, try to help her but Kristen's mother, who's noticed that she's again trying not to sleep, puts sleeping pills in her drink at dinner that night and, despite her best effort to dream of someplace fun, which Alice advised her about earlier, Freddy is able to invade her dream. Freddy then forces Kristen to pull someone else into the dream, namely Alice, and ultimately kills Kristen but not before she gives Alice her dream power. Alice, realizing something terrible is happening, heads with Rick over to Kristen's house but they arrive too late, finding her body engulfed in flames in her bedroom. Alice, who has been feeling different ever since she saw Kristen die in her dream, falls asleep in class the next day and inadvertently pulls Sheila into her dream, allowing Freddy to kill her. Realizing that Freddy is now using her as a means to claim new victims since Kristen was the last child of the parents who burned him alive, Alice tries to stay awake as long as possible but is unable to keep Freddy from killing Rick as well. With each death, Alice gains a piece of the victim's personality and their special ability, and soon realizes that she must face Freddy and use these newly gained abilities to defeat him and release her friends' souls.

Renny Harlin has often said that when he went to New Line Cinema to vie for the job of directing Nightmare 4, Bob Shaye was not at all impressed with him, did not want him to do the movie, and when he did get the job simply because they really needed a director, Shaye virtually didn't talk to him for the entire shoot. On the one hand, that may seem like a lot of douchebaggery on Shaye's part but, on the other hand, he had a right to be skeptical about Harlin's abilities to pull the movie off since, at the time, he was this Finnish newcomer to directing who barely spoke English, looked like a Viking with his long, blonde hair and beard, and had only directed a couple of movies at this point, with his first American film, Prison, not being seen by anyone since it got a really bad distribution deal. But, lo and behold, Nightmare 4 would end up becoming the series' biggest hit at that point (it wouldn't be surpassed until many years later by Freddy vs. Jason), making nearly $50 million for New Line, and would make Harlin a very sought after director. And of course, once the film was such a big hit, Shaye decided that Harlin wasn't so bad and drove him around town from one screening to another and spoke to his mother in Finland and told her how talented her son was. Like Chuck Russell before him, Harlin went on to make a number of successful blockbusters and a number of his films I do enjoy, like Die Hard 2 (which I think is a very well-done sequel), Cliffhanger (one of Sylvester Stallone's best films of the 90's), and Deep Blue Sea (I don't care what anyone says, I do enjoy that flick). There are some smears on his filmography, like the infamous Cutthroat Island, which I think still holds the record for Biggest Flop of All Time, Driven, which I've heard was a disappointing reunion between him and Stallone, and Exorcist: The Beginning, a famously turbulent production that resulted in two different versions, with Harlin being brought in to make a more mainstream movie after the studio was unhappy with the more arty film that Paul Schrader made, and he hasn't had a really big hit in a long time, but I think Harlin is capable of making movies that are, if nothing else, entertaining when he has the right material to work with.

Our lead this time around is Lisa Wilcox as Alice Johnson, who is right up there with her predecessors when it comes to being a very likable protagonist and someone that you root for. She goes through an interesting character arc in the film, starting out as a rather shy, introverted person who has little self-esteem due to her turbulent home-life and tends to daydream a lot, often about the stuff she would do if she had more confidence, like ask out the guy she has a crush on or give her alcoholic, verbally abusive father a taste of his own medicine. She has a little knowledge about dreams from the beginning, having been taught by her late mother a nursery rhyme called The Dream Master that tells you to deal with nightmares by gaining control of them and making them into whatever you want, akin to what Glen told Nancy in the first movie. She's the only one of the new group of teenagers who doesn't completely dismiss what Kristen tells them about Freddy, mainly because she doesn't have much time to before Kristen pulls her into her dream and makes her see that he is real very early on in the film. Before she dies, Kristen gives Alice her ability to bring others into her dreams, which she senses right away, feeling that Kristen is somehow still with her, and she also begins to feel different, absent-mindedly lighting a cigarette at one point before remembering that, unlike Kristen, she doesn't smoke, and making a comment that Kristen used to as well. When Freddy kills Sheila as a result of Alice pulling her into her dream when she falls asleep in class, she feels responsible for it and begins staying awake as long as she can, not wanting to sleep for fear of getting someone else killed. She's unable to save her brother Rick from Freddy, though, and after his funeral, Alice decides that she has to face Freddy and try to destroy him, telling her two remaining friends that they have to come up with a plan. Alice then says something that Sheila used to say and discovers that she now suddenly knows martial arts like Rick, which frightens her as she wonders what's going on. When she has another nightmare, she learns that Freddy's going after Debbie next and she and Dan try their best to save her but are unsuccessful, and when they get into a car accident that seriously injures Dan to where he'll need surgery, she takes matters into her own hands and prepares herself, entering the dream and preventing Freddy from killing Dan. She and Freddy have their final battle and even though he has the advantage, Alice uses her friends' collected abilities to hold her own against him and eventually uses one of the verses from The Dream Master as a way to figure out how to defeat Freddy and release the souls of the people he'd killed.

Since I saw this film before Dream Warriors, it was my introduction to the character of Kristen and so, I had no way of knowing that Tuesday Knight was actually a replacement. You can imagine my surprise when I saw the previous film and learned that Kristen was originally played by Patricia Arquette, which, when looking at the films in order, makes it difficult for me to believe that it's the same character. Not only does Knight look nothing like Arquette but she portrays Kristen very differently as well. Here, she feels less like the gifted but frightened girl she was before and more like an experienced, knowledgable person who has an inclination of what could possibly happen and has a real dread about it. It makes sense in some ways given that some time has passed since the events of the previous film and Kristen probably has become more used to dreams and her special ability but, because it's not Arquette, it doesn't feel quite the same or right, for that matter. I know that was a sentiment shared by Ken Sagoes and Rodney Eastman, who found it hard to generate the required emotion since it wasn't the person they had grown close to previously, not to mention that they apparently found Knight to be something of a prima donna. It also doesn't help that Knight isn't as good of an actor as Arquette. While I've seen worse, some of her line delivery is a little wooden, like when she tells herself, "Be calm, Kristen," (I can't see the character we saw before saying something like that) or when she says, "God, I hate dreaming." Combined with those lines, that different way Knight portrays her here makes her less relatable than she was before. I don't like that she smokes now, either. Again, it doesn't feel true to the character we saw before. I know the filmmakers were up a tree with this issue since Arquette couldn't do the film since she had gotten pregnant at this point but I wish they had found a better actor to fill the role. Finally, seeing this film first also made it odd when I finally saw Dream Warriors because all throughout that film, I knew Kristen was going to die in the next movie (the shot of Nancy's headstone in the cemetery here also tipped me off that she was dead meat when I first saw that movie as well) but I didn't find it difficult to get invested in her there. But, even so, her death here has never left much of an impact on me, I think mainly because we got a great heroine like Alice in her place. Maybe if it had been Arquette again or at least a better actor and if she had lasted loner, it would have made a difference but as it stands, I have no emotional reaction to it at all.

Ken Sagoes and Rodney Eastman really got screwed in their return appearances as Kincaid and Joey, getting killed off very easily and rather unceremoniously early in the first act. I always hate it when sequels do this, like when they killed off Rachel Carruthers in Halloween 5 or when Hicks and Newt got offed in a very mean-spirited way in Alien 3, and this is a prime example of it really stinging because, unlike Kristen, you do have the same actors that you grew to love before. When I first saw this movie, I quickly grew to like Kincaid thanks to Sagoes' charisma and energy and his funny lines, like when he gets pulled into Kristen's dream during the opening and goes, "You are one spooked chick," and "You're puttin' one serious dent in my beauty sleep," or, when Kristen shows him where his dog, Jason, bit her on the arm after he got dragged into the dream, "That don't mean dick! My dog is like me. Drag him into your crazy dream and he gets wild." My favorite line of his, though, is when he falls asleep in his room and "awakens" in the trunk of a car, randomly yelling, "You ugly sucker! Damn!" I don't know why but I always laugh at that. It sucks so bad that he doesn't get to put up much of a fight before Freddy kills him, except for pushing a car on top of him, and when I got around to Dream Warriors, it sucked even harder because I got to see how awesome of a character Kincaid really was and it made me wish they at least had him go out putting up more of a fight. Speaking of Dream Warriors, when I first saw it I was really surprised to see that Joey was originally a shy, mute kid because his attitude is much different here. I've heard some say that he's a jerk in this film, with how he rather harshly admonishes Kristen for pulling him and Kincaid into her dream and warns her that she could cause Freddy to come back if she keeps going into the dream. I'll say that it does not feel like the guy we saw before at all, voice or not, but, at that same time, rather than jerkiness on his part, I'd say that it's a guy who, like Kincaid says, wants to live a normal life and wishes Kristen would leave it alone. After talking to her rather harshly, he does say, "We'll help you," and his last line to her is a pretty comforting, "We'll talk later, okay?", so not everything he says is in a mean tone. And originally, I was going to criticize his having a pin-up poster of a sexy woman on his wall but then, I remembered the nurse scene from the previous movie and felt that it's not that far off. I personally didn't think he would go as far as to have something like that in his room, mind you, but it's been show before that Joey does have a thing for sexy women, which Freddy once again uses to attack him and succeeds in killing him this time.

The supporting cast in this film isn't quite as good as that in the previous film but you still have some memorable and likable characters nevertheless. My favorite is Alice's brother, Rick (Andras Jones), who's also Kristen's boyfriend. He's a really fun, energetic guy, and is usually making some funny remarks, like when he says he can tell that it's "Avoid All Contact Day" because his dad is popping pills like candy, when he's about to leave for school and kisses his dad, saying, "I'm off to the club, honey!", and when he's trying to teach Alice some karate moves in her room and she sends one of her shoes flying into the fish tank, with him remarking, "Swish, killed a fish." His big thing is that he's into martial arts, which he uses, along with his sense of humor, to deal with his turbulent home life. He also genuinely cares about Kristen, with some home movies showing how he always made her laugh, and is really upset when she's killed. Like everyone else, he doesn't believe what she told him about Freddy Krueger, feeling that her thinking about it all the time is what led to her death, and is initially unwilling to listen to Alice when she starts talking about him as well. But, when Sheila dies not too long after Kristen, Rick begins to believe that there might be something to it, that he may have been able to help Kristen if he had listened, and stays up with Alice when she becomes afraid to sleep for fear of getting someone else killed. But, when they both fall asleep at school the next day, Alice unwittingly causes Rick to become Freddy's next victim, spurring her decision that this is something that she needs to face.

Dan Jordan (Danny Hassel), the guy who Alice has a crush on and is also the only other member of the main cast to survive the film, is the straightman of the cast. He doesn't have any quirks or anything else that would make him a special character and doesn't have much to do even when the third act rolls around but I still like him because he is a really likable guy. They could have easily made him a jerk or a snob since he's a jock but instead, they make him a nice, easy-going guy who, like everyone else, is rather incredulous about the weird stuff he hears about but doesn't treat Kristen, and later Alice, like crazy people and, despite his disbelief, tries to understand Alice's plight at one point, asking her why Freddy would now be after her all of a sudden. His best moment comes in the school locker room when he tells a tactless guy to shut his mouth when he says out loud that Rick has a dead girlfriend and a basket case for a sister, showing what a great friend he is. Dan starts to believe what's going on when Rick suddenly dies and notices how Alice changes a little bit after every death. I like his line when he's waiting for Alice by the diner at this point and says to himself, "All the towns in America, and I gotta move to the Bermuda Triangle." He does end up getting pulled into the dream by Alice like the others and this gets him sent to the hospital when she drives into a tree, having seen a vision of Freddy in its place. Even then, though, he doesn't have much to do except almost get killed by Freddy when he gets put to sleep for surgery and get slung around in a rotating tunnel along with Alice. He's awakened before the final battle Freddy, forcing Alice to face him alone, although Dan does try to get the doctors to put him back to sleep so he can help her. And after Alice defeats Freddy, Dan becomes her boyfriend, which she had daydreamed about at the beginning of the movie.

I don't have that much to say about Debbie (Brooke Theiss) or Sheila (Toy Newkirk) since, even though they're likable, the only things memorable about them to me are their death scenes. Debbie is the tomboyish, tough girl of the group who, besides having a very 80's hairdo, spends most of her free time working out and watching Dynasty, much to Sheila's annoyance since it often leads to her asking her for answers to homework assignments. I talk about her and Sheila in the same section since they're quite close to each other and I like what Debbie says to this dickhead who makes a nasty remark towards Sheila about her asthma inhaler: "Hey yo, needle dick, I bet you're the only male in the school suffering from penis envy." Tough as she is, though, she has a major fear of bugs, which is what Freddy uses against her in combination with her weightligting. As for Sheila, she's a really brainy kid (a little too stereotypically so in regards to how she looks for my taste, though, especially those enormous glasses and her hairdo) and spends most of her free time at libraries with her nose in a book, which is why Debbie often comes to her for help with schoolwork. They tend to tease each other about their different attitudes towards knowledge, with Debbie feeling that Sheila spends a little too much time reading and doing homework, while Sheila feels that Debbie should read a book every now and then instead of spending her time working out, telling her the addage, "Mind over matter." Her asthma is what Freddy takes advantage of to kill her, literally sucking all of the air out of her body in the dream and making it look like she had a fatal attack in reality.

This is definitely a film where the teenagers are the stars because the adult actors here, aside from Robert Englund, have very minor roles and don't get to do much significant in the short time they're onscreen aside from once again showing how the parents in these movies usually suck all around. Alice and Rick's father (Nicholas Mele) is an alcoholic, verbally abusive ass who treats his kids like complete crap, particularly Alice for her constant daydreaming, and hasn't handled the death of his wife, however long ago that was, at all. It takes Rick's death for him to realize how horrible he's been and, desperate not to lose Alice as well, doesn't let her go meet up with Dan and Debbie when she had planned to, which, much like Marge locking Nancy in her own house in the original film, prevents her from getting to Debbie before Freddy is able to claim her. Fortunately, he really comes around in the next film and proves to be one of its best aspects, as we'll see. Brooke Bundy returns as Kristen's mother, Elaine, and she's not much more likable here than she was previously. In fact, the one major thing that she does here is get her own daughter killed when she puts some sleeping pills into Kristen's drink after realizing that she's once again avoiding sleep, which is even worse than anything she did or said before. She also isn't very sympathetic towards Kristen when she says that she doesn't have much of an appetite after Kincaid and Joey's deaths, saying that she's just tired. Again, she's a complete bitch, and when she's crying over Kristen's burning body in the bedroom, all I can think is, "Yeah, well that's your fault for being such a lousy mother."

Now we've come to the film where Freddy stops being scary and becomes a wise-cracking, campy villain who is more entertaining than anything else when he's killing people. Some of the dreams and kills do still have a mean-spirited edge to them, like those of Sheila and Debbie, but most of them are played to be over the top and funny rather than disturbing, with Freddy all the while spewing out one-liner after one-liner. And I'm not kidding when I say that nearly everything he says here is some type of joke. Many fans hate this since, even though his humor was there from the beginning, amping it up to this degree does dilute from the original concept of Freddy having been a loathsome, disgusting person who killed innocent children and is able to continue doing so after death. In addition, the portrayal of Freddy that was introduced in the previous film, as a larger than life, all-powerful villain that can only be taken down by someone skilled in the power of dreams, is also amped up here, with the idea of Alice having to use her friends' special abilities to battle him and ultimately using something described in an old rhyme as a means to kill him by having the souls he's collected tear his body apart. That in and of itself also makes it hard to remember that Freddy started out as an undead child killer who was simply getting another chance to keep doing it even after his death and takes him to a more fantastical, mythic level. So, I agree that by this point, Freddy is very far removed from his original portrayal but, like any character who can be characterized in different ways, all that matters to me is if it's well-executed or not and in my opinion, Freddy works here for the most part. His constant one-liners do start to wear a little thin by the third act and it's sometimes difficult to take him seriously as the major threat that everyone else thinks of him as when he's being so silly but, regardless, I find myself smiling whenever he's onscreen more often than not. Robert Englund is clearly having a complete ball camping it up this time around and that fun transcends to the audience. His performance works really well in this type of Nightmare on Elm Street, which is meant to be fun and entertaining instead of scary and disturbing, which Renny Harlin himself said was his intention. This was meant to be him saying to the horror fans, "Let's party," and this particular portrayal of Freddy fits into that vibe. Again, it gets to be a bit much by the end of the film, especially during the climactic battle that's meant to have a lot riding on it, but for the most part, I have fun with Freddy here and, as we'll see when we move on to the later films, I think this is the only time when this campy portrayal of him was done really successfully.

One major question that I have about Freddy in this film (which, interestingly, is not how it came to be that Kincaid's dog urinated fire on his grave and brought him back to life; it's never explained how he came back in the previous films, so I'm not going to even try to question it here) is why he needs somebody to bring him victims. In the film, they say that because Kristen was the last child left of the people who burned him alive, Freddy now needs someone to provide him with new victims, hence why he's targeting Alice who now has Kristen's ability to bring people into her dream. First of all, that doesn't explain how Freddy was able to slip into Jesse's dreams and use him as a way to enter the real world in Nightmare 2 (which goes to show you that they were trying to act like that film never happened). Second, this idea would eventually be discarded so it doesn't matter in the long run anyway. And third, if that's the case, why didn't Freddy keep Kristen alive and allow her to continue bringing him new victims, as she did when she pulled Alice into her dream? Was he planning on Kristen giving Alice her power before she died? If so, that's a lot of faith to put into something that you don't know will happen for sure. If it hadn't, Freddy would have been stuck with no way to continue killing people, making his existence meaningless! I probably shouldn't be thinking about this too hard since I told those who criticize Nightmare 2 for "breaking the rules" to just relax and enjoy the movie and I am able to look past this in order to enjoy the film but it's a question that I had to ask.

I would say that this iteration of Freddy's makeup is my personal favorite. It's one of the most mainstream versions and is fundamentally just Kevin Yagher refining the makeup that he created for the previous film but I really like it because, as with that last makeup, it's the classic Freddy Krueger look, the one that I bet everyone thinks about, and is so because it's really well done. It strikes a great balance between still being hideous but still not as disgusting and disturbing as the makeups in the first two films and, at the same time, not being too mainstream, as I feel is the problem with the makeup designs in the next two movies. It's also lit very well in the film and looks just plain cool to me. I also really like Freddy's voice here. It's much clearer and smoother than the way it sounded before and doesn't sound as demonic, which works well for the more light-hearted portrayal of him here. Speaking of light-hearted, even Freddy's glove isn't as disturbing here as it has been before. I could never put my finger on why it feels that way before now but, upon my most recent viewing, I think it's because, for some reason, everything about it, including the knife-blades, feels rather small. It still does the job when Freddy offs a few people with it but, I don't know if it's the way it's shot or if it's the actual design or what, it feels compact (especially the blades, which seem really thin), keeping it from coming across as the wicked-looking weapon that it used to be. What's more, I've always felt that the crazy ways that Freddy kills people in these latter films make the glove feel useless. When you see him literally sucking the life out of someone and turning another person into a cockroach and squishing them, it makes you wonder why he needs the glove.

What The Dream Master lacks in story and thematic depth it more than makes up for in the visual and sheer entertainment department. As many have said, this can be described as the "MTV" Nightmare on Elm Street movie, with a real energy to the pace, the editing, and the visual style. The film is a mere 93 minutes and it goes by really fast, with only a few sections here and there where things get a little slow, and the cutting is not only quick but it also gets pretty inventive. For instance, like the nightmares, when Alice has her daydreams, be it about having the courage to tell Dan that he's a hunk or telling her father about how she's sick of his drunken tirades, the transition to them is completely seamless and it's only after someone snaps her out of it that we realize what we just saw didn't happen. Another good example comes during the climactic battle when Alice uses a mirror to defeat Freddy by making him see the evil within himself, allowing the souls within him to revolt. The camera flies into his mouth as he yells, rotates wildly as you see a vista of all of these souls stuck within him screaming, and comes back outside through his eye. The film is also very pleasing to the eye in every respect. It's very well photographed, with the scenes that take place in reality having a detectable heightened quality to them, where it feels like there's a subtle haze in the air and shafts of light coming through the windows. The film's color has a pretty rich palette, especially in some of the nightmare sequences where the sets are bathed in a mixture of red, green, and, in some cases, violet lights that really pop (they remind me a bit of the lighting you'd see in Dario Argento's films). Speaking of the sets, they're spectacular. The filmmakers had a lot more money to work with than the past crews did ($13 million) and they used every penny of it very well, particularly in the art department. The rundown Elm Street house looks really good and comes across like a complex maze in the dream scenes that involve it, the boiler room has a more colorful look to its lighting once Freddy is resurrected (before, it looked akin to a set from Hellraiser with all those hanging, clinking chains), the junkyard from the previous film is made to feel like a larger than life place straight out of hell during said resurrection scene, the diner that Alice works at looks a bit creepy in the nightmare scene involving it, the hallway that Debbie runs down when she's being turned into a cockroach looks like it could go on forever, and the best set of all is the Gothic church where Freddy and Alice have their final battle, which is lit and designed to perfection. Even the Japanese dojo set where Rick gets it, which Harlin and the others said they threw together at the last minute, looks cool to me, with all of the mist and how almost everything in the room is pure white. It's a well-made film all-around in the visual sense and that's to say nothing of the effects work, which we'll get into shortly.

It's best not to overthink things in this particular franchise since anything can happen in a dream, including Freddy being resurrected when a dog randomly shoots fire out of its penis onto the spot where his remains are buried. I still don't understand how that came about, and I'm also not entirely sure how Alice is able to defeat him by making him see his reflection. Is that supposed to mean that Freddy's never seen his reflection and realized how hideous he is? It's obviously very metaphorical and I don't understand it as a result but I can let it and a lot of things go and enjoy the film. One part, however, that has always really confused me is near the end of the film when Alice and Dan are rushing to try to save Debbie but Freddy has them going in circles and repeating the same action again and again. This is where it becomes difficult to discern where reality ends and the dreams begin. Before I could always work out that somewhere along the line, Alice fell asleep and unwittingly dragged someone into the dream with her but here, things really get confusing. Alice appears to awaken from her dream about being sucked into the movie screen in the theater and ending up at the diner she works at and rushes to meet up with Dan, knowing that Freddy is going after Debbie next. That's when they start going in circles and Alice realizes that they're both in the dream, meaning that what we saw before was a dream within a dream and that she's pulled Dan into it too. Complex and it took me a while to get it, but I can wrap my head around it now. Before, I was also confused as to how Freddy is able to appear before Debbie and what he does to her but I guess Alice unwittingly pulled her in when Freddy told her to bring him more victims, meaning she's actually now asleep in the room where she was working out before. But, where my brain begins to sizzle is when, after Freddy kills Debbie and Alice senses this, she thinks she sees him on the road ahead of her and tries to run him down with the truck she and Dan are driving but she appears to slam right into nothing. We finally get back to reality and it's revealed that Alice slammed into a tree and jostled her and Dan awake. Ordinarily, the two of them would wake up back where they fell asleep but does this mean they were sleepwalking and driving in this case? I guess so, since something similar happens to Dan in the next film, but this is where it becomes very hard to figure out when exactly someone fell asleep as well as when we're in the dream and when we're not, a notion that would only become more complex in the following movies.

The people behind the film's extensive makeup and mechanical effects are a regular who's who of some of the era's most talented artists. In addition to Kevin Yagher and his crew, which included Howard Berger, doing the Freddy Krueger makeup for the third and final time, you have John Carl Buechler and his Magical Media Industries, who had worked with Renny Harlin on Prison; R. Christopher Biggs, who had worked on a number of movies like the first two Critters, TerrorVisionTeen Wolf, and From a Whisper to a Scream, among many others; Steve Johnson, who worked with Rick Baker on An American Werewolf in London, David Cronenberg's Videodrome, and Greystoke, as well as John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China and Night of the Demons; and Screaming Mad George (that name immediately caught my attention when it came up in the credits), who'd worked on the previous film as well as part of Stan Winston's crew on Predator. With so much talent involved, it would have been a real shame of the work didn't live up to the potential but, fortunately, all of these guys worked their magic and created the best effects in the entire franchise in my humble opinion. Buechler and his crew did a lot of the really big effects sequences, such as refining the Chest of Souls effect, which I first knew of thanks to the artwork on the back of this film's original VHS box, to be more realistic-looking than it was before, with more detailed, life-like faces and added movement (personally, though, I think the way it looked in the previous film was freakier). They created the "pizza sequence" where the screaming heads of Freddy's victims are meatballs on a pizza served to him. The effects that you see in a wide-shot of the pizza and a close-up of one of the meatball heads on one of Freddy's blades look pretty good, even if the latter does look a bit too artificial, but the use of a real actor wearing a meatball-like appliance, sticking his head up through a gigantic, artificial slice of pizza, and getting poked with a big blade really helps to sell it. They created an effect of a hole in Freddy's chest with a beating heart that you see when Alice blasts him during their battle and while you don't get to see much of it, what you do see does look good.  They also created an "old Alice" makeup for Lisa Wilcox that isn't the best thing ever but gets the job done regardless.

Screaming Mad George handled the memorable "cockroach" scene, which is the most disgusting in the entire film to me. First off, the effect that always makes me wince is when you see Debbie's elbows split open when Freddy forces the dumbbell back down on her. God, that is sick, and so is the way they flop forwards when she sits up. The insect arms coming out of them and the empty shells of them getting tossed aside is also very well done and realistic. Her running down the hall with those insect arms flopping around looks a little silly to me, although I do like the effect of those pieces of the arms sticking out of her shoulders and such, but where the sequence really gets great is when she finds herself in a roach motel. Her face getting pulled off by the paste on the floor, revealing a cockroach underneath, is unreal to say the least, and the same goes for the wide-shot where you see the bug's front sticking out of what's left of Debbie's body (I once saw a replica of that prop at some place in Downtown Disney). Really great sequence, and so is Freddy's death scene, which involves the souls ripping their arms and, in some cases, their torsos out of different spots on Freddy's body and ultimately shearing his face open. Steve Johnson was behind that particular effect, as well as the close-up shots of the souls rummaging around in Freddy's chest after Alice makes him look in the mirror, which was accomplished in an ingenious way by building a big replica of Freddy's chest and allowing a bunch of nude actors, one of whom is Linnea Quigley, to push against the stretchy, flesh-like material in the center. That looks disgustingly real. I love it. Both this and his being destroyed by the power of God in the previous film have to be the ultimate deaths for Freddy. Freddy's resurrection at the beginning of the film is another impressive spectacle, with his bones snapping back together, his organs inflating, and his flesh forming and sliding back into place, a lot of which was done through some creative reverse photography. Freddy kills Sheila by literally sucking the life out of her until she's a mummified corpse and while the shots of her limbs deflating and her eyes sucking in look a tad silly, the end result is quite freaky and the idea behind it is just cruel. The quality of the makeup is so good that even relatively simple ones like the burn one for Tuesday Knight when Kristen dies and the blood effects, particularly when Dan's hemorrhaging in the operating room look really good when you briefly see them. It's just great stuff all-around and proves that CGI is no match for latex, rubber, and creative engineering.

So far in this series, the optical effects have been hit or miss, often hampered by low budgets and the constraints of the times, but here, Dream Quest Images really came through and created some stuff that is really amazing. The only wonky effect in the entire film is during the climactic battle when Alice blasts a hole through Freddy's chest. While the makeup effect for it is good, the optical that you see from the front that Freddy instantly closes up with a wave of his arms isn't the greatest since it doesn't move naturally along with Robert Englund. Other than that, though, the work done on this is very impressive for the time and the budget that they had to work with. One that always gets me is in Sheila's death scene where the figures on her test sheet start swirling around by themselves and the words, Learning is Fun with Freddy!, write themselves in their place. That looks insanely good, and so does the bit afterward where this mechanical arm (I don't know what that is and neither do the filmmakers, for that matter) comes up through the paper and grabs her. When it's not a practical prop, that arm almost looks like it could pass for CGI, it looks so great, and Sheila's arm getting pulled through the paper also looks very well done. I don't know if this next one really counts as an optical but it's so good that I had to talk about it somewhere and that's when Alice gets sucked into the movie screen at the theater. Her heading towards the screen, making contact with it, and then tumbling into the environment there is absolutely seamless, making it look as if Lisa Wilcox really went from a three-dimensional person to an image on the screen. I can't imagine how hard it must have been to get those two elements to line up that well and so, I give them major props for that. Another cool visual is in Kincaid's dream where Freddy comes back to life. At one point, Kincaid gets surrounded by the vehicles in the junkyard and screams, "Kristen, Freddy's back!" as the camera pulls back and back and back until you see a shot from space which reveals that the junkyard covers the entire planet. That was either a matte painting or a model but, however it was achieved (probably the former), it's another well-done image. Even the simplest opticals in the film, like Kristen giving Alice her power, which goes through Freddy's back and out his chest, Dan vanishing into nothingness as he gets awakened before the final battle, the energy beam that Alice fires at Freddy to create that big, gaping hole in his chest, and the freed souls floating through the air after Freddy's been defeated, look really good, and that's to say nothing of the effect I mentioned earlier, where the camera goes into Freddy and you see the souls inside of him starting to revolt after Alice shows him his reflection. And the crazy ways the victims get sucked around inside the dreams and are forced to do stuff like climb along a ceiling or get blown from one environment into a completely different are well done too. I know I've been repeating myself a lot here in these sections but I can't do much else other than praise the absolutely superlative work by the effects artists in this film.

The film opens with a little girl making a chalk drawing of the Elm Street house on the sidewalk in front of it when Kristen walks up to her. After talking to her for a bit, asking her where Freddy is and the girl saying he's not home, Kristen sees that the girl has drawn an image of him in one of the windows and she gasps at it. The girl disappears and it suddenly goes from a nice, clear day to a stormy night and begins pouring rain on her (for a long time, I thought it was raining blood but I think it could be a trick of water hitting the chalk). Looking at the house, the front door slowly opens and Kristen walks towards it very cautiously. When she steps inside, she hears kids singing the Freddy nursery rhyme and turns around to see them playing in the yard while doing so. The door then closes in front of Kristen and she then hears the sounds of kids screaming, followed by a tricycle tumbling down the stairs in front of her. She turns around and tries to head back outside but only runs into a mirrored version of that same room, with the tricycle still tumbling down the stairs. The door closes and when Kristen tries to open it back up, it doesn't budge. Kristen tells herself to be calm and walks into the next room, passing the dining room, and sees a shadow of what looks like Freddy's gloved hand on the wall but when she looks out the window, she sees that it's just that of a weirdly-shaped tree branch right outside. She breathes a sigh of relief when a loud crash of thunder shatters the window with enough force to send her flying backwards all the way across the room and through a doorway. Getting back up and getting her bearings, Kristen finds herself in the boiler room, which is now full of clinking chains hanging from the ceiling. She walks through the room, now even more frightened than she was before, and when she hears what sounds like a metal scrape, she yells for Joey and Kincaid. A cut shows Kincaid hear her cry in his room elsewhere and as his dog, Jason, becomes scared and runs for cover under the bed, Kincaid is pulled through the room, disappears into the wall, and falls through a duct down into the boiler room. When Kincaid realizes where he is and how he got there, he lets Kristen know that he's not at all happy about it. Kristen shushes him when she hears another scraping sound and she then turns around upon feeling a hand on her shoulder but sees that it's just Joey. She's relieved but Joey makes it clear that he's not happy about this either. She tells them that Freddy is nearby and that he's coming back for them but the two of them both insist that he's dead. To prove their point, Joey has her feel the boiler and see that it's cold. Kristen, after looking inside, still isn't sure, and the next thing she knows, Jason comes screeching out of the boiler and bites her on the arm. The shock wakes all three of them up in their respective homes, with Kincaid noticing that Jason has blood around his mouth and Kristen bandaging up the bite on her arm.

Following a scene at the school where Joey and Kincaid confront Kristen about what happened, which ends on a shot of red, glowing claw marks on one of the lockers (which I used to think didn't make sense given that Freddy hasn't been resurrected yet but I stopped trying to figure this series out a long time ago since everything goes), we get to Kincaid dozing off in his room. There's a false scare where the door slowly opens and a shadow comes in but it turns out to just be Jason. Kincaid lets him get up on the bed with him and as they both settle in, Jason suddenly lifts his head up and begins to whine. In a cut, Kincaid "awakens" to find himself in some kind of dark, cramped space and, after a beat, he panics and struggles a bit before knocking the roof off of it. A cut and a camera pull reveals that he's in the trunk of a car on top of a pile in the junkyard where Freddy's remains were buried previously. After yelling for Kristen, threatening to pound her if she's responsible for this again, he sees Jason digging at the ground below. He jumps down and approaches the dog but when he says his name, Jason viciously barks and snarls at him. Jason then lifts his right leg and shoots a stream of fire out of his crotch, igniting a line along the ground. The earth slowly pulls apart, revealing a deep pit that's glowing a fiery orange and houses Freddy's bones on the bottom. Jason snarls and barks as the bones quickly connect back together, forming a perfect skeleton, and the internal organs then inflate back into place and flesh forms over the bones. Frightened by what he's seen, Jason runs off while Kincaid creeps to the edge of the pit and peers down in to see what's happening. He watches as Freddy's glove (missing the knife blades, I might add) appears on his hand in a fiery flash and he takes his hat out of the dirt. The knives shoot up out of the pit and Kincaid runs for it into the junkyard, tripping at one point as he hears a familiar scraping sound. A slow pan starting at his shadow and ending on his face reveals Freddy back in his full glory, telling Kincaid, "You shouldn't have buried me. I'm not dead." Kincaid tries to find somewhere to hide in the heart of the place while Freddy stalks around, looking for him. That's when Kincaid uses his strength to push a car down on top of him, which hits its mark exactly and makes Kincaid think he has a reason to celebrate, yelling happily and shouting, "Take that, motherfucker!" Kincaid's elation is short-lived, though, when the vehicles around come to life, with fire shooting out of one's grill and another's windshield exploding. One on the bottom hits the side of a pile and Kincaid jumps down and runs for it, with the cars exploding sparks on either side of him. He runs into a clearing but he's quickly boxed in when cars block off the paths leading out of it, and as the cars' horns honk repeatedly, Kincaid yells, "Kristen, Freddy's back!" and the camera pulls up to reveal that the junkyard covers the whole planet as his voice echoes. Freddy grabs Kincaid by his shirt collar and jams his knives into his gut. He tells him, "I'll see you in hell," and Freddy remarks, "Tell 'em Freddy sent ya." He shoves his knives in deeper and as Kincaid dies, he pats the back of his head as he laughs and says, "One down. Two to go." He shoves the knives in deeper again, causing Kincaid to wake up before dying on his bed as Freddy laughs maniacally.

Following a quick moment where Kristen appears to sense something and gets up to light a cigarette, the film cuts to Joey's bedroom, where he's using headphones to listen to MTV on his waterbed while looking at a magazine before glancing at a poster of a sexy model he has on his wall. Dozing off, he glances back at his magazine and, after a cut, appears to be asleep when his waterbed starts rustling beneath him. Joey takes off his headphones and pulls back the cover to see what's going on, seeing, to his surprise, the model he was looking at, naked and inside his bed. He looks back at the poster and sees that she's not there now and looks back down at her as she smiles at him. She makes a kissing gesture at him, with Joey desperately trying to figure out how to get to her, when she descends back down and disappears. Joey is perplexed and disappointed, to say the least, when Freddy explodes out of the water bed. He grabs Joey and asks him, "How's this for a wet dream?" before shoving his head down into the water. Struggling, Joey gets his head above the surface and yells for Kristen but he gets dragged back down and Freddy guts him, filling the water up with blood. His headphones get pulled out of the stereo as he and Freddy disappear, leaving only the pillow floating in the now red water. After the next scene, which is Rick trying to teach Alice karate, we see Joey's mother discover his body inside the waterbed when she comes in to pick up his laundry.

When Kristen goes to school that day, she gets a bad feeling when she doesn't Joey or Kincaid and when she goes to class and sees that their desks are empty, she knows that Freddy killed them and begins to panic. Rick tries to calm her down, grabbing her arms, but she fights against him and gets forced backwards against the wall, getting knocked out in the process. She comes to and sees a nurse (Robert Englund in drag) standing over her, telling her that she had a nasty bump. Kristen tries to get up and leave but the nurse pushes her back down, saying that she needs her rest. Kristen tells the nurse, "You don't get it. He's after me!" but the nurse shushes her and walks away. That's when Freddy's evil chuckle comes out of the nurse's mouth and blood pools in the back of "her" uniform. As Kristen watches, Freddy, having completely dropped his disguise, turns around holding a tray of blood-filled test tubes in his right hand and says, "I wanna draw some blood!" Kristen screams while Freddy sprays blood out of a syringe in his left hand and that's when she awakens for real, finding herself in the nurse's office with, thankfully, the real one.

What follows is a brief scene where Kristen takes Alice, Rick, and Dan to the old house on Elm Street, with Rick telling Dan what Kristen told them about Freddy's backstory. Kristen's mother drives by and yells at her to get away from the house, yelling "Andale" three times in the process. As everyone prepares to leave, Alice sees the chalk drawing on the sidewalk that the girl in Kristen's dream drew but, when she looks away and then glances back again, she sees that it's gone. There's a shot from inside the house as they drive away, which could possibly be Freddy watching them. Later that evening at dinner, Kristen begins to feel woozy and learns that her mother put sleeping pills in her drink. After arguing with her about it, telling Elaine that she just murdered her, Kristen runs upstairs to her room and tries to some stuff together to leave, becoming drowzier and dowzier as she stumbles around. She eventually grabs the phone and tries to call Alice but she succumbs to the sleeping pills and, as she falls asleep, she remembers what Alice told her about controlling her dreams and tries to think of someplace fun. She then finds herself on a tropical beach and, relieved, thanks Alice for the advice. She sees a little girl (the same one she saw before) building a sandcastle and when she asks what her name is, she says that it's Alice. Clearly feeling uneasy about it, Kristen lies back on the beach chair and tries to relax. There's a commotion in the nearby water and Alice turns her head to see a spiny fin break the surface. It zips along very quickly and makes a sharp turn towards the beach. When it gets close to shore, the flesh burns away to reveal knife-blades underneath and it then skids through the sand. Kristen sees it and sits up as it reaches the sandcastle, which explodes to reveal Freddy. She tries to run for it but she hits a spot that's like quicksand and is slowly sucked down. Freddy walks up to her, puts on a pair of sunglasses, and pushes her down into the sand with his foot, laughing evilly as he does so. Kristen goes completely through the sand and comes out through the ceiling of the Elm Street house's dining room. Once she gets her bearings, she finds that she's actually able to crawl across the ceiling and down the wall. She reaches the top of the doorframe and hops down to the floor, closing the door.

Kristen runs downstairs but when she gets to the bottom, she finds herself in the worst place she could be: the boiler room. Freddy then appears on the other side of the room and prepares to take care of, "Elm Street's last brat." As Kristen attempts to hide from him, Freddy taunts her about being all alone and suggests that she "calls" on one of her friends for help. Kristen tries to resist, saying that she's the last, but Freddy then says, "Why don't you reach out, and touch someone?" Kristen screams, "No!", trying to resist, as a furnace nearby explodes, the pipes burst with steam, and the gauges break. A brick wall explodes to reveal an oven as Kristen yells for Alice, who appears in the room, walking in a daze, not sure what's going on. Freddy is pleased, commenting, "How sweet. Fresh meat!", and opening the oven doors. Kristen runs to Alice and tries to wake her up, shaking her and then smacking her across the face, but it doesn't work. Kristen then apologizes to her for pulling her in and hugs her. Freddy tells Alice to, "Come to daddy," but Kristen is having none of it and runs at him. He grabs her and lifts her up, telling her, "Now, no one sleeps," and throws her into the oven. Alice watches as Freddy rips open his sweater, revealing the screaming faces on his torso, telling her, "The souls of my children." Kristen, not dead yet, sits up in the oven and shoots a ball of energy that hits Freddy in the back, telling Alice that she'll need her power. As the faces on Freddy's chest wail, the power shoots out of him and hits Alice, waking her up. Getting out of bed, Alice walks over to her mirror which she has covered in pictures of her friends and finds one of Freddy holding Kristen bridal-style, with a caption that reads, Greetings From Hell! The picture ignites and Alice drops it, hearing the sound of Freddy cackling. She stomps out the fire and after she looks at herself in the empty space on the mirror, Rick walks in and asks if she's okay. Alice says that they have to get to Kristen's house. In a cut, the two of them arrive at Kristen's house and when they see a fiery glow through the window of her bedroom, they run inside. When they reach the bedroom, they, Elaine included, find that they're too late, with Kristen's body engulfed in flames on the bed. The next shot shows that she's joined Kincaid, Nancy Thompson, and Donald Thompson in the cemetery.

At school, there's a brief scene between Alice and Sheila in the restroom where Alice tells her that they have "matching luggage" in regards to the bags under their eyes, something that Kristen told her. Sheila gives Alice a device that she made for Debbie to keep bugs away and after Sheila leaves, Alice absentmindedly lights a cigarette before remembering that she doesn't smoke. Later on in physics class, the teacher hands out a test that Sheila's been preparing for. The test begins and everything appears normal, when the figures on Sheila's paper begin moving around. Not knowing what's going on, she looks around and notices that Alice appears to be asleep. Looking back down on her paper, she sees the words, Learning is Fun with Freddy!, write across it. That's when Alice comes to and sees that Sheila's seeing. Blood begins dripping from the tip of Sheila's pen and after she and Alice exchange frightened glances, Sheila tries to wipe away glob of blood on her paper. Her arm suddenly gets pulled down into the paper and Alice, seeing this, tries to help, but a bar suddenly shoots on her desk's left side, locking her in. Sheila manages to pull her arm out when a mechanical arm comes out of the blood smear and grabs her face. As Sheila struggles with the arm, Alice screams for someone to help her but nobody seems to notice what's happening. The arm goes back down into the paper and tries to pull Sheila's arm down with it but she's able to wrench it free. Sheila panics and tries to get everyone's attention but still, nobody reacts. And that's when she and Alice see who's sitting at the teacher's desk, peeling an apple with his glove. Chuckling, Freddy gets up, removes his hat, and walks over to Sheila. He takes off her glasses and then flexes his hand, putting one of the blades under her chin, while leaning in and wagging his tongue at her, which I find creepy and perverted even in a more light-hearted film like this. Grabbing her head, he asks, "Wanna suck face?" Sheila says no, of course, but Freddy joins their mouths together and literally sucks the air out of her, reducing her to a shriveled corpse, with Alice screaming at Sheila to wake up. Freddy throws what's left of Sheila back down into her seat and quips, "You flunked." Alice yells and then wakes up back in reality, where Sheila appears to be having asthma attack. She gets up and tries to give Sheila her inhaler, with Rick and the other students trying to help, when Alice is hit by some force that knocks her to the floor. Alice asks if anyone else saw Freddy but, predictably, no one knows what she means. Alice picks up the device that Sheila had made for Debbie from the floor as she sees that she is dead. As they watch Sheila's body being taken away, Alice breaks down when she realizes that, as Kristen did with her, she pulled Sheila into the dream, allowing Freddy to kill her.

Sometime later at school, Rick, who's extremely tired after staying up with Alice, goes to the restroom before track (I think that's what he's about to do, anyway), while Alice is in a class where a teacher who looks and sounds like he's ready to shoot himself is giving a lecture on, what else, dreams. The teacher is Bob Shaye, whose attitude here is probably the one he had towards Renny Harlin throughout filming. Alice begins to nod off, as anyone would, and so does Rick in the restroom stall. He's then startled by the stall's door jostling and is doubly surprised when it opens and a bunch of laughing cheerleaders come in, prompting him to pull his pants up to hide his crotch. Alice is among the cheerleaders and she looks just as baffled as he does. They all then leave and outside in the restroom, which is now covered in graffiti when it was spotless before, Rick sees Kristen standing in front of the mirror (he also sees a reflection of himself still asleep on the can). Kristen asks Rick to make her laugh and giggles, which makes Rick smile, but when Kristen turns around, she's now horribly burned and cackles at him. Rick is startled by this and then, the stall door becomes an elevator that closes on him. Freddy's voice goes over the speaker, "Going down!" and he laughs as the elevator descends very rapidly, throwing Rick around as he tries to find a button on the control panel to make it stop. The force flings him into the corner and he tries to brace himself, ultimately getting knocked to the floor by the impact of the landing. The door opens up and Rick walks out to find himself in a dreamy dojo, with the primary colors being white and red and mist billowing along the floor. Rick doesn't seem to notice this but he's also now wearing a green karate uniform. Looking around, he gets an invisible punch to the gut and then two hits to the face, knocking him onto the pillows behind him. Freddy laughs and taunts him, saying that a true warrior needs no eyes. Rick throws three punches at the air but gets another hit to the gut and the face, knocking him up and landing on some more pillows nearby. Rick gets back up and swings again, yelling for Freddy to come out and fight him for real, but he gets clobbered by four more hits, one of which sends him flying through the air and against the wall. Freddy again mocks him, telling him to find his balance, but Rick gets to his feet and says, "How's this for balance?" before laying into Freddy with a kick and several punches, enough to cause him to topple to the floor. Rick gets into position and delivers another kick, causing Freddy's glove to materialize and fly onto the floor. Confident, Rick asks Freddy how he's going to fight him without it but the glove turns itself on the floor towards him and launches itself straight at him and jams into his torso, with Freddy yelling, "Sayonara, Rick-san!" Back in her classroom, Alice wakes up, feeling Rick's death, and screams as an explosion outside shatters the windows, making me wonder what happened to Rick in reality.

At Rick's funeral, after daydreaming about him coming out of the casket and saying that his death was just a ruse to fool Freddy, Alice tells Dan and Debbie to meet her that night to come up with a plan of what to do. But, when she tries to go, her father doesn't let her, fearing that he'll lose her like Rick. After we cut back to Alice upon seeing Dan and Debbie waiting for her, with the former at the diner and the latter at her house, she appears to sneak out a window and then head on to the diner. Dan is nowhere to be found and so Alice walks on down the street, arriving at a movie theater that's apparently showing Reefer Madness (an inside joke since that's a film that New Line distributed before it began making its own movies). Buying a ticket, Alice heads on in and sits down in a seat in a balcony, with the sound of an old-timey piano coming from the screen. Quick story about this scene: when I first saw this movie, I had become interested in close-captioning and often had it on when watching something. When it got to this point, captions kept coming up that were meant to be what the characters in the film were saying but I couldn't hear anything, which really confused. I later read that the old home video releases of the film had audio coming from the movie on the screen but the later releases muted it without bothering to change the captioning. In any case, Alice is casually eating some popcorn while watching the film when it suddenly changes, with a camera pull back revealing a rundown version of the diner she works at. This gets her attention and as the wind blowing in the film increases in intensity, a vacuum of air begins sucking Alice's popcorn and drink towards the screen. It becomes stronger and stronger, pulling the popcorn box and the soda cup out of her hands and becomes powerful enough to suck her towards it. Alice grabs onto the back of her seat as her entire body gets lifted up and is pulled backwards but she loses her grip and flies back, managing to grab the edge of the balcony. Alice holds on for dear life, with one of her shoes getting sucked into the screen, but she soon loses her grip again and gets pulled into the film as well. When she stands up and turns around, she's able to see back into the theater, where the audience on the balcony, which is made up of all her friends Freddy has killed (something I never knew until recently since it's a very far-off shot), is giving a standing ovation. Alice backs up into the diner and as its doors close in front of her, she sees herself still asleep in her seat.

Alice walks through the empty, rundown diner and sees a woman behind the counter wiping some butter-knives, their shadows looking like the knives on Freddy's glove. She walks up and takes a seat at the counter, prompting the woman to come up and take her order. Alice, however, is too stunned to say anything since the woman is an old version of herself (she mentioned earlier that a fear of hers is to work there into her old age) and she walks away in frustration. Freddy then appears on the seat next to Alice and quips, "If the food don't kill ya, the service will." Old Alice then serves Freddy a pizza that has the screaming heads of Alice's friends as the meatballs. Alice watches as Freddy pokes the Rick meatball with one of his knives and lifts him up off the pizza. Telling Alice that he loves soul food, Freddy plops the meatball into his mouth and munches on it, which is a really disgusting sight, as Alice watches in horror. Freddy puts his hand on the back of her head and tells him, "Bring me more." The doors then fly open to show an image of Debbie working out at her home and Freddy laughs, knowing Alice has unintentionally pulled her into the dream. He tells her, "Your shift is over," and sends her flying back, apparently waking her up back in her bedroom. Realizing that Debbie's in danger, Alice grabs her shoes and runs out the door.

While Debbie, who's listening to the song I Want Your Hands On Me by Sinead O'Connor, begins lifting a dumbbell, Alice meets up with Dan and the two of them take off to try to reach her. Freddy's reflection appears on one of the weights on Debbie's dumbbell as Alice and Dan arrive at her house. Alice gets out, runs around the edge of the house... and ends up back at the diner and meets up with Dan again. Back to Debbie, she grabs the dumbbell again to reveal Freddy holding it. He lifts it up with her, surprising her as he laughs at her. Debbie tells him she doesn't believe in him but Freddy says, "I believe in you," and begins forcing the dumbbell down onto her, while she tries to lift it back up. Debbie isn't strong enough to lift it and her elbows bend backwards to their limit, with Freddy commenting, "No pain, no gain." He forces the dumbbell down hard and Debbie's elbows split open as she screams in agony (again, that is just sick). With Alice and Dan still trying to reach her, Freddy pulls the dumbbell off of Debbie, who sits up and her arms flop forwards. Insect arms then tear their way of the ripped elbows and Debbie's real arms fall to the floor like empty flaps of flesh. Now sporting enormous, cockroach arms, Debbie stands up and runs screaming, while Freddy throws the dumbbell at a mirror. Debbie runs down some sort of long hallway and runs into the next room, as Alice and Dan appear to once again arrive at her house. But, when Alice runs around the corner, she and Dan end up back at the diner and drive off again, with Dan telling Alice that he feels like they've done this before (I was so glad he said that because I thought the VHS I first saw this on was messing up in some way). Debbie rounds a corner and finds herself in a room with an opening revealing her workout room. Confused, she turns around and tries to go back out but is unable to move, seeing that the floor is a sticky paste. The room begins moving, causing Debbie to lose her balance and fall face-first onto the stick floor. She lifts her head up and screams, with her flesh getting jerked off to reveal the head of a cockroach. In a cut, Alice again meets up with Dan at the diner but this time, he anticipates what she's going to say, making her realize that they're both dreaming and Freddy has them going in circles. They again take off to try to save Debbie, who's struggling to get off the paste when she sees Freddy's eye look in through the opening, revealing that the room is a roach motel. He says, "You can check in, but you can't check out," and squishes the motel in his hand. Alice is hit by the force of Debbie's death, with Dan having to take the wheel as she explains what happened. She takes the wheel back as the headlights of another car blind them and when it clears, they see an image of Freddy on the road ahead. Alice hits the gas, trying to run him down, but they crash into apparently nothing, with a cut back to reality revealing that they hit a tree.

Fuckin' A.

Dan is severely injured in the crash and Alice rides with him in the ambulance to the hospital. When he's taken into surgery, Alice tries to go in with him to make sure they don't put him to sleep but when her father stops her, she takes matters into her own hands and drives back to her house. She arrives back at her house as Dan is put to sleep for his surgery, despite trying to keep them from putting the mask on him, and prepares herself for the battle ahead in an epic montage where she takes some sleeping pills, straps on all the items belonging to her friends along with some tougher clothes, and takes all the pictures off her mirror (the latter two could have possibly happened after she fell asleep). It ends with her sliding everything off of her nightstand and looking at herself in the mirror, ready to take Freddy on. Dan, meanwhile, awakens in surgery and sees Freddy standing over him, dressed as a doctor. He rips the gas mask off and yells, "Krueger!", to which Freddy says, "Well, it ain't Dr. Seuss." Dan yells for Alice as Freddy laughs and Alice, seeing this through her mirror, smashes through it feet first and lands in the operating room. She finds that Freddy has disappeared and helps Dan off the table, telling him that they need to get out. The two of them run into the outside hall and when it brightens up, they see that they're in a rotating tunnel like in a funhouse (doesn't the lighting of this place make it look like something out of one of Joel Schumacher's Batman movies?) They run down it but come across Freddy, who spins the tunnel, quipping, "Out for a spin, lovebirds?" Alice and Dan run the other way, stumbling over themselves before crashing through a painted glass window on the other end, landing inside a large, Gothic church. When they try to get up, Dan tells Alice that it's too late and she sees that blood's pooling beneath his shirt. In reality, the doctors see that he's hemorrhaging and decide to wake him up. In the dream, Dan slowly disappears into nothingness, leaving Alice alone. When he wakes up, Dan tells the doctors to put him back under but they simply reassure him that he's going to be fine.

Back in the dream, Alice hears children singing the nursery rhyme and looks up to see them on the balcony above, watching. The big double-doors at the other end of the aisle swing open to reveal Freddy, who welcomes Alice to "Wonderland." Alice does a flip into the air and lands in the aisle, where she and Freddy charge at each other, with Alice doing somersaults as she goes. When she gets to Freddy, she gives him a kick right to the face, which he just kind of shrugs off. She then kicks and punches him repeatedly but all he does is laugh after each blow, not even flinching. Even after he invites her to do more and she complies with a myriad of blows to the face, he still just laughs at her. He then swings at her with the glove but she does a flip over him, landing right behind him and kicking him twice, which catches him off-guard. He climbs up on top of the seats and tells her that she has her friends' power and he has their souls. He tells her to come up and fight him there, which she does. They stand off and circle each other before Alice whacks Freddy twice with her fist and then kicks him down behind the seats. Saying, "Banzai" as Rick would, she steps down and backs up, keeping her on where he fell, when he pops up behind her and grabs her shoulders. Telling her that he's been guarding his gate for a long time and then throws her into the table below the painted glass window. He then jumps down in front of her but she very easily leaps back to her feet. They stand off again, with Freddy flexing his knife blades, with Alice responding by doing the same with the fingers on her left hand. She then whips out the device that Sheila came up with, pulls an electric cable out of the wall, attaches it to the device, and blasts Freddy in the chest, burning a gaping hole all the way through him. Freddy looks down at it, seeming shocked, but then chuckles and closes it up with a simple motion of his arms across it. He tells the shocked Alice, "I.. am... eternal" and smacks her into the corner. Freddy slowly approaches, flexing his blades in anticipation of the kill, when Alice hears the kids above reciting the Dream Master nursery rhyme and, getting an idea, grabs a piece of stained glass nearby and turns it on Freddy. Forcing him to see the evil within himself (I guess), the souls trapped within Freddy begin a violent revolt, their arms ripping their way through his flesh in various spots. Two come out and grab his right hand, trying to stab him with his own glove, and after he struggles with it, Alice blasts him backwards against the wall with the mirror. More and more arms burst out, including out of one of his buttocks and the back of his head, grabbing onto the wall. The souls then begin pushing themselves completely through his flesh, with some around his head grabbing his mouth from both the top and bottom jaw and ripping his head completely open. Spiritual energy flows from the gap as Freddy's body stumbles around before falling limp. The now free souls fly out of the window, thanking Alice, who then tells Freddy to rest in hell, kicking his glove and walking out the doors.

The film ends on a question mark like the previous film, with a flash-forward to some time later where Alice and Dan are now dating and they stop by a fountain, with Dan telling Alice to make a wish. He tosses a coin into the water and Alice sees Freddy's reflection in it for a brief moment, it disappearing with the ripples. When Dan asks her what she wished for, she simply answers, "If I tell you, it won't come true," and the two of them walk off.

In my review of Dream Warriors, I said that the music score was fairly good but the songs on the soundtrack were much more memorable; when it comes to The Dream Master, however, both are truly excellent. I love Craig Safan's score for this film. It has a texture and sound to it that I really like, a purely electronic score that has hints of Asian-style music, which makes sense given that it's been said their style of filmmaking had an influence on the film, particularly the movie A Chinese Ghost Story. I especially like the menacing, rolling piece that you often hear whenever Freddy's nearby or something bad has happened, often accompanied by some electronic pinging sounds that I also enjoy. There are some other electronic pieces accompanied by what sounds like vocalizing voices that are really eerie when heard by themselves. Freddy's resurrection scene has a nice beat to it with a sound behind it that builds and builds in pitch as he comes back to life and the same goes for when he stalks Kincaid through the junkyard. The part of the score where they go purely Asian is the scene with Rick in the dreamy dojo and while it is a bit on the nose considering the nature of the scene, I don't mind it since I like Asian music. One of my favorite themes is what you hear when Alice and Dan are going in circles, a theme that has an innocent-enough, high-pitched beat to it but is rather eerie when heard out of context (it was put to good use on a special feature about dreams on the Infinifilm edition of the original Nightmare on Elm Street). The sequence that accompanies that part, with Debbie becoming a cockroach, has a really freakish sound to it, with screeching sounds and a constant, low "durn" sound, with an occasional, electronic pinging bit to mix it up. Alice getting ready for the final battle has an awesome theme, with an electronic beat accompanied by an electric guitar that really starts to jam near the end (if you want to hear it outside of the movie, go to Ramboraph4life's YouTube page and watch the introductory video). And the final battle between Alice and Freddy has an interesting, fun sound to it, again sounding a little bit Asian in its texture. There are uses of some of Charles Bernstein's music again, with Safan notably adding some extra notes to the main theme.

The film's soundtrack has a number of songs on it and a lot of them I really enjoy. It opens with a song called Nightmare that's sung by Tuesday Knight herself and it's a great way to start the movie off, with a dark sound to it, a nice beat, some good lyrics, and some really good vocals, with Knight proving that she's a better singer than she is an actor. One song that you only hear the very beginning of is Back To The Wall by Divinyls but I heard enough to know that I liked the sound of it and, after listening to the whole song on YouTube, I think it's a nice enough song. I really like Dramarama's Anything, Anything, which you hear a couple of times in the film, first when Rick is practicing his martial arts and later on after his death when Alice suddenly realizes that she now knows it herself. I especially like the lyrics, "I'll give you candy, give you diamonds, give you pills. Give you anything you want, hundred-dollar bills." It makes me smile for some reason. Billy Idol's Fatal Charm, which you hear when Joey sees that model in his waterbed, is okay but the sound doesn't really appeal to me. I think I heard Joe Lamont's Pride and Joy playing in the diner at one point and after listening to it by itself, it's not bad at all, with a country sort of sound to it which I'm fine with. I also really like Sinead O'Connor's I Want Your Hands On Me, which is one of the songs that first comes to mind when I think of this movie's soundtrack. It's probably not a song meant for guys but I think it has a great sound to it, again going with the kind of Asian theme to the score, and I wouldn't be above working out to it at the gym (I'm totally serious). The song that I couldn't believe when I first heard it over the ending credits was Are You Ready For Freddy? by the Fat Boys. When I heard Freddy rapping, I almost dropped my teeth, especially when he said, "Yo mommas too." I thought, "Freddy Krueger just said 'Yo mommas.' That's surreal!" I have also seen the music video to it, which has to be seen to be belived, and when Freddy did whatever that arm-rolling gesture is called, I thought to myself, "Wes Craven probably saw this at some point and was like, 'God. You sons of bitches.'" The song is cool and memorable but hearing Freddy rapping just blows my mind. And if you really want to laugh, listen to the extended version, where Freddy says stuff like, "I'll admit the sweater's a little dirty, but the hat's just fine." And finally, you have Don't Be Afraid Of Your Dreams by Go West, which is the last thing you hear over the ending credits and I think is a great one to end on. It has a nice, upbeat sound to it that I really like and I enjoy the lyrics as well, particularly how it incorporates Sheila's motto of mind over matter. Great song.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master may not be the franchise's deepest or scariest entry but, when it comes to pure entertainment, it really hits the nail on the head. It has a very good, energetic pace with very few slow spots, characters who, while not quite as good as those in the previous film, are still likable and memorable, awesome visuals, very creative nightmare sequences, inventive uses of editing and camerawork, excellent makeup and visual effects all-around, and a great score and soundtrack. There are some problems, like the three remaining Dream Warriors getting killed very easily and unceremoniously early on, the story becoming pretty muddled at points, and Freddy's comical portrayal starting to wear a little thin by the end and making it hard to take him seriously as a great threat sometimes, but I can easily overlook that and just have a real good time with the flick. Dream Warriors may be a better movie in many respects but this is still a good one and, in my opinion, except for Wes Craven's New Nightmare, is the last really good entry in the franchise.

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