Sunday, April 25, 2010

Elm Street Week Day 3 (Part 2): The One that's the Most "80s"

...And we're back with the second half of today's Elm Street coverage, covering the second of the 'Dream Fighter' trilogy as I'll call it, Part 4...the one where the production values went way up and you could feel the 80s dripping from every pore.  Well of course you was released in 1988 when the bright colors and crazy hair of the 80s was reaching its apex and the 90s were quickly approaching...every movie had a hard rock 80s soundtrack (including this one) and Freddy's popularity was rivaling Jason.  In fact, this summer saw the two horror Juggernauts battling each other for box office dollars ( maybe one movie came out in June and the other came out in August but still) and there were already people who were either Freddy fans 'or' Jason fans...not both.  It was like liking either Star Trek or Star Wars.  This was also the summer that it was rumored that a Freddy vs. Jason movie would happen, but when neither studio could reach an agreement on how to divvy up the rights and the money, they did what studio heads do best...churn out another movie as quick as possible.  However, where Friday the 13th Part VIII: The New Blood was more of the same (with even less identifiable characters and gore that was eventually cut down to neuter the film entirely) part 4 managed to come up with likable characters (who might be cookie cutter...but were acted with gusto), amazing dream set pieces, and a natural extension of what began in part 3.  So lets perm our hair, put on some Drama Rama, and fall into A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

When we last left our survivors from Dream Warriors, Kristin, Joey, and Kincaid, they had defeated Freddy Krueger and were released from the psychiatric hospital to lead normal high school lives.  However, Kristin keeps finding herself in Freddy's dream world...despite the fact that he is no longer in it.  She is convinced that he is coming back to get them and refuses to believe Joey or Kincaid when they tell her that he is gone for good.  They even warn her that if she keeps going into his world that she might inadvertently bring him back.  Before you can say "I told you so" Kincaid witnesses the resurrection of Freddy in his own nightmare and dies at Freddy's hand.  Freddy then takes out Joey and Kristin...but not before Kristin can bring her friend Alice Johnson into her dream and pass her dream jumping power to her.  With Kristen, Joey, and Kincaid dead...all the Elm Street kids are dead and none of the new kids need to fear.  However, it seems that every time Alice falls asleep...she inadvertently brings someone into the dream with her and they meet a gruesome death, passing a special ability to her in the process.  With Alice unable to control the dream power and with lives on the line, she must find the hero inside of herself and face Freddy alone, using the collected power of her dead friends to help her.  Has the Dream Demon finally met his match?

I LOVE The Dream Master.  I know a lot of people don't like it because they say that it wasn't scary, that Freddy joked too much, that the characters were disposable, and that Freddy was brought back to life by flaming dog urine (get over it guys....its just a wacky dream thing like the inexplicable sheep in Wes's original) but I simply cannot fault a movie that is so much damn fun to watch.  Part 4 is like a comic book movie, you have a villain who has an ultimate evil plan and a hero that comes from humble beginnings and inherits a special ability that is an asset in fighting the villain.  Alice is like Peter Parker that way, and that's part of why I like her.  I was like her in high school, odd and mousy with close friends but no love life and no distinguishable characteristics...and like Alice, it wasn't until I discovered an inner ability that set me apart and gave me an identity that I became much more special (in my case it was theater and singing, rather than dream tricks).  I was also a big daydreamer, and so is Alice.  Those are some of the scenes that are the best, as they give us an idea what Alice dreams for and wants but cannot achieve on her own because she is so afraid of what could happen.  Alice is also like Nancy, in that she isn't set up as the lead in the beginning and isn't given the opportunity to become a hero until the lead heroine is axed (Tina/Kristin).  Once she is backed into a corner, she takes control and fights back against Freddy instead of running from him.  Another interesting part of this film is how it uses Alice's story arc as a metaphor for how a person copes with loss.  She loses several close friends over the course of a short period and grieves over them...but she also gets stronger in the process, using the things that were best about each of them to keep her strong through hard times.  Here, Freddy represents untimely death and Alice is any person who is left behind in the aftermath and who must persevere in order to keep getting through her daily activities.  Truly, what doesn't kill her makes her stronger.  Many detractors of this film miss this I think...or they think it is too ham-fisted to be mentioned.  But what other horror films at the time were adding layers like this to their stories?  The Elm Street scripts, even when they weren't as good as they could have been, always felt like they were written better than any others at the time.  New Line really paid people to think about what would look best on the screen and it shows.  Even when Elm Street is at its worst or most maligned, its still better than the rest.  Come back tomorrow for part 5 and be ready for Freddy.

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