Written by William Kotzwinkle, Brian Helgeland, & Scott Pierce
Directed by Renny Harlin
Released August 1988
New Line Cinema
Wes Craven may have allegedly hoped that A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors would be the end of the Elm Street saga, but it ended making even more money than the first two films, so a year and a half later we got A Nightmare on Elm Street 4.
The last film destroyed Freddy pretty definitively, as far as horror monsters go, but they always find a way to bring them back. Tuesday Knight takes over the role of Kristen in this film, and she does a fine job in this role, which is diminished in this film. Rodney Eastman and Ken Sagoes also return briefly as Joey and Kincaid, the three of them being the sole survivors from the previous film, and the last of the “Elm Street children.” It’s an undetermined amount of time since the events of the previous film but all three kids are back living at their homes and attending Springwood High School together, with everything seemingly being okay for them. Kristen even has a new boyfriend now, Rick (Andras Jones). But Kristen continues to dream about going back to Nancy’s old house on 1428 Elm Street and Freddy’s old boiler room, and then dragging Joey and Kincaid into her dreams with her. Kristin starts to worry that her dreams are a sign that Freddy is going to come back, but the boys disagree, and think it’s all in their head (considering what they all went through before, you’d think they might be a little more sensitive about it). Joey even points out that if Kristin keeps using her dream powers she might be the one to actually revive Freddy, so she agrees to try to stop. But, apparently, that’s exactly what happens (it’s not explicit, but it’s implied), as one night first Kincaid has a dream where he’s back in the old junk yard where Dr. Gordon buried Freddy’s bones, and after Kincaid’s dog appears and pisses fire on the grave, Freddy (Robert Englund) is revived and he kills Kincaid. Next up is Joey, whom Freddy drowns in Joey’s own waterbed. Then Freddy comes for Kristen in her dream, stalking her in the boiler room. Freddy starts taunting Kristen about bringing in a friend to help her. Kristin realizes that she’s the last Elm Street child and that once Freddy kills her he’ll have no one left to go after, so she tries to resist but inadvertently pulls Rick’s sister Alice (Lisa Wilcox) into her dream, which is supposed to mean that now Freddy will have the power to enter Alice’s dreams too. Freddy then kills Kristen but before she dies she manages to pass on her dream power to Alice, via a bolt of light that Kristen fires from her hand but it passed through Freddy first before it hits Alice.
The rest of the film focuses on Alice, Rick, and the rest of their friends who all become Freddy’s newest targets. It’s a tad unclear exactly how this is works. I get that Freddy could go after Alice after Kristen brought her into her dream, but now how does he go after any other teens, is just because they’re friends of Alice, or is that now Freddy is able to use Alice to bring new victims into her dreams like he tricked Kristen into doing, in which case it was actually a bad thing for Kristen to give Alice her power? That’s what happens at first, Alice and her friend Sheila (Toy Newkirk) both fall asleep in class and then share the same dream where Alice is forced to watch helplessly as Freddy kills Sheila (via a kiss of death). The rest of the kids/potential victims in this film are Brooke Theiss as Debbie, a tough girl who likes to workout a lot, and Dan (Danny Hassel), a local jock whom Alice has a crush on.
The standout star of this film is Lisa Wilcox as Alice. As the film begins she’s a shy, quiet girl who never speaks up for herself. She even has her bedroom mirror covered up because she doesn’t like looking at herself. She and Dan live with their overbearing and overprotective father (Nicholas Mele) who is verbally abusive to her and takes her for granted. Over the course of the film she changes, becoming more assertive (when each of her friends die she takes on part of their personality and abilities, including Debbie’s physical strength and Rick’s martial arts skills), all leading to her intentionally entering the dream-world to take down Freddy by herself. Wilcox portrays the transformation very believably and has you rooting for her in the end.
This film made even more money than the previous one, and remains the top-grossing film in the original franchise, and I do enjoy it, but it has its flaws. The transition of Freddy (whom Englund continues to play with his usual flair) from scary shadow monster to wise-cracking jokester increases here. The death scenes become more fantastical and absurd, such as where he turns Debbie into a cockroach and crushes her or when he has an invisible(!) karate match with Rick. This film is the first to reveal the notion that Freddy is powered by the souls of each of his victims, and while I thought the way Lisa finally defeats Freddy is kinda lame (looking himself in the eye via a piece of a mirror?!?), I can’t deny that the destruction scene where all of the souls start fighting their way out of him and tear him apart from the inside is totally awesome!
Overall, despite my complaints, it’s still a pretty good addition to the franchise, again thanks primarily to the performances of Wilcox and Englund.