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Film / A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

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Finally... someone's ready for Freddy.

"Now I lay me down to sleep
The Master of Dreams my soul will keep
In the reflection of my mind's eye
Evil will see itself, and it shall die"
The Dream Master rhyme

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is the fourth Nightmare on Elm Street film, released in the year 1988, directed by Renny Harlin.

Despite the Dream Warriors' best efforts, Freddy Krueger returns from his grave to continue invading the dreams of others. After quickly dispatching the survivors of the last film, Freddy makes Kristen involuntarily pass her dream abilities on her schoolmate Alice, so that he can extend his cruelty past Elm Street. Alice now has to find a way to defeat Freddy before she loses all of her friends and loved ones.

Critical reception was mixed, but it did so well on the box office that it became the most successful Slasher Movie of the '80s. It was the most financially successful movie in the Nightmare series until Freddy vs. Jason came out.

This film has the examples of:

  • Admiring the Poster: Joe is seen throwing some loving glances at a blonde pin-up girl on his bedroom wall. After he briefly dozes off, the girl is missing from the poster and appears inside his waterbed... which turns out to be a lure from Freddy, who bursts out and kills Joey.
  • Adults Are Useless: Kristen's mother Elaine, whose uselessness gets her daughter killed.
  • Alcoholic Parent: Alice's dad is a mean drunk. He gets better in The Dream Child.
  • Alice Allusion: Freddy welcomes Alice to "Wonderland" when they come face to face at the church.
  • All for Nothing: What Nancy Thompson's Heroic Sacrifice in the previous film ultimately amounts to, as Kincaid, Joey and Kristen are all dead by the half-hour mark.
  • All Your Powers Combined: Alice can absorb the abilities of her fallen friends, leading to her becoming something of a martial arts-wielding Gadgeteer Genius. This also means she instantly knows when someone's died.
  • And I Must Scream: This film goes a bit more into the idea that Freddy absorbs the souls of the teens he kills. In one scene we're shown that Freddy literally eats them, even comparing them to meatballs. Near the climax, we also see the souls screaming in hapless agony inside of his body. This trope also ends up being his UNDOING, because Alice uses a mirror to force evil to see itself, causing all the children to free themselves from inside him, physically tearing Freddy apart.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Freddy somehow manages to break Debbie's arms at the elbows by pushing her barbell down as she tries to push it up. Since her arms weren't straightened out and were in a bent position, all that really would've happened is her strength would've given out, maybe straining/spraining her elbows at the most.
  • As the Good Book Says...: We open with Job 4:13-14:
    When deep sleep fallen on men,
    fear came upon me, and trembling,
    which made all my bones to shake.
  • Asthma Peril: Enforced. Black and Nerdy Sheila is marked out as vulnerable because of her asthma (and her glasses). After Freddy kisses her in her dream, she dies of an asthma attack in the real world.
  • Badass Boast:
    • When Freddy resurrects, and is shown in shadowed silhouette:
      "You shouldn't have buried me. I'm not dead."
    • After Freddy heals a nasty hole through his chest:
      "I... am... eternal."
  • The Bad Guy Wins: At first, until Freddy snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, and then it's subverted. Freddy finishes killing the last of the Elm Street children by killing Kristen, though he is not content with the achievement he originally set out to accomplish, desiring more souls, and his arrogance ends up empowering a new Arch-Enemy in the form of Alice who ends up overpowering and destroying him.
  • Bequeathed Power: Kristen gives her dream powers to Alice before she dies so that Alice can fight Freddy Krueger.
  • Between My Legs: Shown when Freddy and Kristen meet each other in the boiler room.
  • Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts: Freddy himself does this, but it's a trick. The protagonist attempts to run him down, but he is revealed to be an illusion and she crashes into a tree instead.
  • Big "NO!":
    • This is Kristen's reaction when she gets to school and sees that Joey and Kincaid's seats are empty, confirming her fears that Freddy is back and killing again.
    • Alice lets out a heart-wrenching one that somehow shatters the windows of her classroom after her brother Rick is killed by Freddy. This makes sense if you consider that Kristen was able to add Joey and Kincaid's powers/personality to Alice when her own power passed through Freddy's body, as Supersonic-Glass-Shattering-Scream was Joey's dream power, and Alice's sudden proficiency with nunchakus shows that she's able to use dream powers in the real world.
  • Black and Nerdy: Sheila, who is a very meek, straight-A student. According to her actress, Toy Newkirk, director Renny Harlin thought she didn't sound "black" enough and told her to re-do her lines, which she refused.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Kincaid witnesses Freddy's resurrection and is the first one to die.
  • Bloodstained Glass Windows: The final battle takes place in a church.
  • Boastful Rap: Are You Ready For Freddy, one of the songs playing during the end credits, which features verses from Robert Englund himself.
  • Body Horror: Freddy himself is ripped apart by his trapped souls bursting out of first his chest, then his entire body. What keeps it from being completely horrifying is the sheer karmic satisfaction of seeing him killed this way.
  • Bond Gun Barrel: Parodied on one of the British posters. It even includes The Name Is Bond, James Bond line.
  • Bring It: Freddy does this to Alice.
    "You've got their powers. I've got their souls. Come on!"
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • Alice fantasizes about doing this to her father during one daydream.
    • Kristen does this to her mother when she realizes she's been given sleeping pills.
      "No, Mother, you just murdered me. Take that to your goddamn therapy."
  • Chekhov's Gun: Alice tells Kristen that reciting the Dream Master rhyme helps you control your dreams, but she herself has forgotten it. In the climax, the spirits of Freddy's victims help her recite it to defeat him.
  • Climactic Battle Resurrection: Freddy kills people. He gets their souls, but Alice gets their powers. Alone, the victims were unable to defeat Freddy, but with all their powers combined, Alice is able to lay the smackdown on Freddy to the point where all of the souls inside of him revolt and tear him apart.
  • Continuity Nod: During a graveyard scene, viewers can clearly see the graves of Nancy and her father.
  • Cool Shades: Freddy puts on a pair during the beach scene.
  • Cradling Your Kill: Mocked by Freddy after he guts one of his victims with his claw. After wishing the victim off to the afterlife, he holds him in his arms and pats him on the back of his head.
  • Create Your Own Hero: Freddy's greed and gluttony for more souls after killing the last of the Elm Street children and not being content with his victory leads to him using Alice as a gateway to reach more victims. With each new life he claims, she gains their strength and powers, becoming powerful enough as the Dream Master to challenge, fight, and defeat Freddy, thus freeing all the souls he claimed in the process, which proceed to tear him apart.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Series producer Robert Shaye appears as a teacher.
    • Director Renny Harlin appears sitting in a classroom.
  • Creepy Cockroach: Debbie, who hates roaches, is turned into one in her nightmare and gets trapped in a roach motel.
  • Daydream Surprise: Some of Alice's fantasies are not revealed as daydreams until she snaps out of it.
  • Dead Star Walking: Despite Tuesday Knight getting second billing after Robert Englund, Kristen dies just under forty minutes into the movie.
  • Death by Irony: In Debbie's first scene, she's shown to hate cockroaches and squashes one under her boot. Later on she gets turned into a cockroach by Freddy, who then crushes the roach motel she's trapped inside.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Kristen.
  • Destination Defenestration: Alice and Dan enter the dream-church by being dropped through its stained glass windows by Freddy.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Freddy can teleport people within the dream world, as he does to Alice when she brings Debbie to him. With that in mind, Freddy feeling the need to fight Alice at the end instead of just teleporting her away is a major Villain Ball moment. If he loses, it's all over for him, and if he wins, there'll be no one to bring him any more victims.
  • Disguised in Drag: When Kristen falls asleep in the school nurse's office, Freddy disguises himself as the nurse to mess with her before reverting back to his nightmare form.
  • Divide and Conquer: Freddy disposes of the Dream Warriors this way.
    Kristen: We beat you before!
    Freddy: And now you're all alone!
  • Do with Him as You Will: At the end, Alice uses her powers to awaken all of Freddy's devoured souls, who rip him apart from within.
  • Down in the Dumps: Freddy's grave resides in the junkyard, and that's the place of his return.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Alice sees a reflection of Freddy on a fountain waving at her before the surface is disturbed.
  • Epigraph: The film opens on a quote from The Bible, specifically from Job IV, 13-14:
    When deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake.
  • Erotic Dream: Joey tries to have one, but is interrupted by Freddy bursting through his waterbed.
    Freddy: How's this for a wet dream?
  • Final Girl: Alice Johnson. Though this is more thanks to Freddy's keeping her alive to bring him new victims than any power, since Alice never uses or displays any dream power other than teleporting people into her dream until the very end.
  • Forced Transformation: Freddy turns Debbie into a giant, helpless cockroach and then crushes her.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: During the beach scene, there is a half-second frame when the sand castle briefly turns into the Elm St. house before exploding.
  • Future Me Scares Me: More like Future Me Depresses Me, when an aging Alice who's worked in a diner her whole life appears in Alice's dream.
  • Girl of My Dreams: Variation. Joey has the hots for a pin-up model on his wall, then she appears to him inside his waterbed, fully nude. Of course, it's just Freddy messing with him (again) before going in for the kill.
  • Give My Regards in the Next World: Upon his death, Kincaid tells Freddy, "I'll See You in Hell." Freddy's response?
    Freddy: Tell 'em Freddy sent ya.
  • Going in Circles: Freddy has the Final Girl running in circles as he stalks another victim, which gives the Final Girl's boyfriend a sense of Déjà Vu.
  • Ground Hog Day Loop: Freddy traps Alice and Dan in a looping dream so that he can kill their friend Debbie undisturbed. They eventually catch on, but it's already too late by then.
  • Happier Home Movie: After Kristen is killed, Alice takes comfort by watching a video of them and their friends all together.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Attempted. Kristen realizes that if she dies, Freddy won't have anyone left to victimize, which is why he makes her bring Alice into her dream, so he'll have a gateway to new victims.
  • He's Just Hiding: In-universe, immediately after Rick gets killed by Freddy, the movie cuts to his funeral, but Rick opens the coffin and reveals to Alice he was just pretending to be dead to fool Freddy. Given the surreal nature of this series, one could believe this was actually happening, or that this was another of Freddy's cruel pranks, but no. He is really dead, and Alice was just daydreaming otherwise. Indeed, she denies him and insists, "No more daydreams," and he politely returns to his coffin.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Alice is a meek daydreamer who fantasizes about telling off her alcoholic father and asking hunky jock Dan Jordan out. By the movie's end, Alice has grown as a character and no longer relies on simply fantasizing about what she wants to do.
    • Debbie, a punk girl with her own weight equipment who does badly in school...and also likes to watch Dynasty, is terrified of cockroaches, and is friends with brainy girl Sheila and sticks up for her. When Sheila dies, you can tell from Debbie's voice that she's trying her best not to break down.
  • His Quirk Lives On: Alice starts to take on personality traits of her friends as they're picked off by Freddy.
  • Imagine Spot: Alice has a habit of daydreaming. She decides to stop after Rick is killed.
  • I'm Not Afraid of You: Subverted in this bit:
    Debbie: I don't believe in you!
    Freddy: I believe in you. (pushes the barbell that Debbie is holding down to break her arms) No pain, no gain.
  • Invisibility: Freddy turns himself invisible to beat Rick to death. When he fights back and causes Freddy to lose his glove, Freddy just levitates it and propels it at him, killing him anyway.
  • It's All My Fault:
    • Alice has this moment after the death of Shelia, realizing that Freddy used her to pull Shelia into her dream, just like Kristen had done with her.
      Alice: I saw it! It was my dream! I brought Shelia in! (realization sinks in) Oh, God... I brought Shelia in, like Kristen did with me...
      Rick: (tries to comfort Alice) C'mon…
      Alice: (pulls away from him) No, don't! I gave Shelia to him! And now she's dead! (breaks down sobbing and runs off)
    • Dennis also has it after Rick's death.
      Dennis: (stopping Alice from leaving the house) I lost Rick because I didn't watch him. I don't want to lose you, too.
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: And how! The only reason Alice receives dream powers in the first place is because she happened to be friends with a girl stalked and murdered by a dream serial killer, and for most of the movie, all it does is put her other friends, family, and love interest in fatal danger all while said dream stalker mocks and harasses her. She even seems like The Poorly Chosen One at first because she's a meek, shy daydreamer that's easily taken advantage of by Freddy. All the more satisfying when she turns the tables and brutally kills him in a way none of her predecessors could have anticipated, and finally allowing his trapped victims to rest in peace.
  • Kiss of Death: During her nightmare, Freddy kisses Sheila and leaves her a withered husk, causing her to have a fatal asthma attack in the real world.
  • Jawbreaker: The souls tearing out of Freddy in the end finish the job by ripping his head in half at the jaw.
  • Last of His Kind: Kristen, Kincaid, and Joey are all that remain of the kids of the adults who killed Freddy. Freddy kills all three and ensures he'll be able to reach new victims.
  • Lecherous Licking: Freddy wags his tongue out at Sheila shortly before he kills her.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the previous three Nightmare on Elm Street movies, this film is a lot lighter. This is also the point where Freddy really starts to become more comical and silly as opposed to the scary, menacing killer he used to be, though make no mistake, his kills are still very terrifying and cruel.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Alice suits herself up with articles of clothing that belonged to her dead friends before going off to fight Freddy.
  • Lovable Jock: Dan Jordan, the popular sports jock whom Alice crushes on, is an all-around nice guy who avoids the mean behavior of the trope's counterpart.
  • Mad Doctor: When Dan is taken to the hospital after the car crash and is put under for emergency surgery, Freddy appears as a homicidal doctor who wants to perform some experiments.
  • Murder by Cremation: Freddy kills Kristen by throwing her into a boiler.
  • Mr. Imagination: Alice spends a lot of time in daydreams.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Arrogantly empowering Alice in order to reach fresh victims ends up being Freddy's undoing in the end.
  • No Body Left Behind: After Alice defeats Freddy, he disappears, leaving behind only his clothes. Alice kicks away the glove for good measure.
  • No-Sell: Alice begins the final fight by throwing everything she has at Freddy, but he just laughs it off.
  • Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: The Dream Master rhyme is a variation of this.
  • Oh, Crap!: Freddy has one when Alice makes 'evil see itself' and causes the souls inside him to start rebelling within him.
  • Outside-the-Box Tactic: Faced against an Implacable Man who just laughs off any physical or magical punishment, Alice instead goes after his power source and empowers his victims trapped within him to do unto him what he did to them, making "evil see itself."
  • Painful Transformation: How does Freddy transform Debbie into a cockroach? By breaking off her arms and then forcing her to rip her face off to reveal the insect parts underneath.
  • Parental Neglect: Elaine Parker shrugs off Kristen's attitude as a lack of sleep, even though her daughter had just lost two close friends in one day, friends she only recently saw. Elaine's pretty much responsible for Kristen's death, since she puts sleeping pills in Kristen's lemonade at dinner, leaving her easy prey for Freddy.
  • Power Copying: Alice gains the powers and quirks from her friends killed by Freddy.
  • Quicksand Sucks: Kristen finds herself trapped in a beach dream where the sand beneath her turns into quicksand. Freddy places his foot on her head and pushes her down.
  • Relative Button: Subverted. Freddy Krueger throws Alice into a Bad Future nightmare where she still works the same dead-end job until she's old and grey before he shows her how delicious he finds teenagers' souls by serving up a "soul pizza." Freddy eats Alice's deceased brother Rick in front of her by devouring his soul purely to be a dick to Alice, but she's way too horrified to react with immediate rage.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Dan for Alice. He seems to only exist to give her a happy ending to make up for losing her brother and all her friends.
  • See You in Hell: When Kincaid's fatally stabbed by Freddy's glove, he says, "I'll see you in hell!" Freddy, with his trademark dark humor, replies with, "Tell 'em Freddy sent you!"
  • Sequel Non-Entity: Dr. Neil Gordon, who knew about Freddy and survived the last movie. Justified because the characters he knows are quickly killed and the new characters never meet him.
  • Shackle Seat Trap: Alice's and Sheila's school desks sprout extra metal bars that trap them in their seats when Freddy attacks them during the physics test.
  • Shout-Out: Kincaid's dog is named Jason and has a white face covered with black dots, just like a hockey mask.
  • Skyward Scream: After Kincaid witnesses Freddy's resurrection in the car graveyard dream, he tries to escape but is then cornered. He screams towards the sky, trying to signal his friends that Freddy is back, as the camera pans out to reveal that the car graveyard covers the whole planet.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Sheila does, and being a brainiac is her defining characteristic.
  • Soul Eating: Freddy is now harvesting the souls of his victims to power himself. Just to freak out Alice, he presents a pizza with screaming human faces on it, one of which (her dead brother) he promptly devours in front of her. This backfires on him when Alice makes them rebel against him.
  • Soul Fragment: Freddy Krueger manipulates Kristen into giving her powers (which allow her to pull others into her dreams) to her friend Alice as she dies. This allows Freddy to use Alice's dreams to stalk new victims (he could previously only get at the ones whose parents killed him), and he starts killing off all her friends. It takes Alice a while to realize it, but a small part of each victim stays with her; she starts talking and acting like her dead friends and even develops some of their skills. This grants her a level in badass.
    Freddy Krueger: You've got their powers, I've got their souls. Come on!
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Kincaid, Joey, and Kristen all die within the first 30 minutes of this movie after narrowly surviving the previous one.
  • Tempting Fate: After kicking Freddy's glove off, Rick tauntingly asks, "How are you gonna get me without your weapon?" The glove then lifts itself off the floor and propels itself directly into Rick's stomach, killing him.
  • Torso with a View: Happens to Freddy via a laser beam shot by Alice. He fixes himself up with just a wave of his hand, but he definitely felt it.
  • Transformation Horror: Debbie's aforementioned transformation into a cockroach.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Alice doesn't immediately realize that Freddy is using her to get to new victims until after he kills Sheila.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Elaine Parker. Not only is she responsible for the death of her own daughter, but thanks to that happening, it gives Freddy the opportunity he needs to successfully establish a link to the rest of Springwood's teen populace. Thus, basically every death from this movie onward is because of her. Nice job, Elaine.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Freddy goes from composed and smug to screaming in fear and frantically struggling against the souls inside him after Alice causes them to rebel and rip him apart from the inside.
  • Wacky Waterbed: Joey dreams of a nude model swimming inside his waterbed before Freddy appears and kills him inside it. In the real world, his dead body is left floating inside the mattress.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Dr. Neil Gordon, one of the few survivors of the third movie, is never mentioned in this chapter. In fact, he never appears again in the franchise and his fate is not revealed.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Kincaid and Joey both give this to Kristen for pulling them into her dream out of fear that Freddy is coming after them again, pointing out that her dreaming about Freddy may stir him up again.