Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Nightmare On Elm Street: Dream Master

I knew, upon watching the first movie, that the sequels were going to be a little campy. There were a lot of cheesy moments in the first film that just felt so out of place to make it overall scary or intense. And judging by the last two films, it only starts from here.
After the success of dream warriors, the filmmakers decided to make a sequel a year after, though this seems to be bad timing since they were in the middle of a writer strike during the late 80's. So after many constant re-writes and script layovers, they finally constructed the right material along with gong-ho special effects.
So this is how A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Master begins. When I first saw this, I didn't really know what to make of it. The tone was vastly different from the first three films and it felt like I was watching a Saturday morning kid's show than a horror film. But I do think this installment is the most innovative of the series. And if it hadn't of been for John Carl Buechler and Team's state of the art mastery and Renny Harlin's slick directing, this movie would've been a lifeless dud because the script is by no means perfect. Although, I do consider the second half to be pretty strong, the first half is really weak. The one thing I really don't like is how they just instantly kill off the dream warriors. It's like their fight at the end of the last movie didn't mean anything and their powers are now worthless. So the second half is focused on the character of Alice, who is probably one of the most interesting and most badass final girl of  the nightmare series. So let's compare the Nightmare Franchise to the Batman Franchise (and I can't believe I'm comparing A Nightmare On Elm Street to Batman) And I sort of see Dream Master as the Batman Forever of the series. It has it's good moments, it has it's bad moments but it's an overall entertaining movie.
Here's the story: After the events of Dream Warriors, Kristen still has fears that Freddy Krueger might be back to haunt her and her friends. once she tries to warn Joey and Kincaid, they quickly brush it off. But eventually, Kristen's fears become true and Freddy is  back from the grave, quickly killing off Joey and Kincaid in the process. Now, Kristen, being the last elm street kid, must warn her new friends of Freddy's new thirst for blood. One of them being the shy, quiet Alice, but unfortunately, in easy defeat, Kristen is killed by Freddy, while attempting to save Alice in the  dream world, though just in time, she gives Alice her power. Now, it's up to Alice to control her new power while stopping Freddy from killing her friends and taking their souls for eternity...

I thought most of the cast was good and the characters were charming enough but you kind of get the sense this is a more different  than your usual nightmare movie, so you don't feel the genuine connection between the cast like you use to because there are too many characters to focus on. However, they are still very likeable and relatable bunch.

Now, lets get to the one and only Alice Johnson. Just like the awesome Tina from Friday Part 7, Alice is the most memorable, most well-developed, and probably the most badass final girl of the nightmare series. Coming from a broken home by losing her mother at an early age and an apathetic, alcoholic father, Alice is, at first, a shy, insecure girl who rely on her daydreams to cope with her crippling self-esteem. She finally finds her strength through the untimely death of her brother and friends, by gaining their inner abilities.

Soon, she becomes this ass-kicking warrior heroine, successfully killing the monster and becoming true to herself. Alice, to me, is a very relatable character. I was the shy, quiet kid with a (still) active imagination and I'm also extensively (and still) shy around boys. So it's refreshing to see yourself in a character. I did say in the 80's movie review that Lisa Wilcox's acting was a little shaky when she was introduced, mostly because the focused on Kristen but once it transitions to Alice, this is when Lisa Wilcox really shine in the role. There is just something so magnetic about her. I don't know if it's those beautiful blue eyes of hers or her versatility. But by the by, she is the best thing in this movie.

Fucking A in deed!

So now we focus on Kristen and the dream warriors, which is highly debatable amongst fans.

The characterization and ultimately the casting of Kristen is the most controversial. There is not just a change in the actress but there is also a change in the character. She is just your usual pretty popular upper-class girl with problems. There is nothing more to that. And the personality of the dream warriors are kind of exaggerated: Joey is girl-crazy, Kincaid has a bad temper, and Kristen is a neurotic chain smoker?....What? But we have to remind ourselves that these are the same characters from the last movie and we are at least still invested in them. But they are not well-developed in this one, not even enough before all three of them is subsequently killed off.

Tuesday Knight was okay in certain parts but I think she just didn't bring any soul to the character, she was just so artificial for the most part.

She actually comes off as a poor little rich girl than a tortured teen. When Patricia Arquette was in the role, she played the character as a real teen and she had a real haunting, ethereal quality that made the character special. Tuesday Knight, on the other hand, was incredibly bland. According to Rodney Eastman and Ken Saoges, they had admitted they had little to no chemistry with Tuesday Knight and it shows. The special bond that we saw in the dream warriors is not the same anymore and this is probably the weakest points of the movie.

Now let's talk about Elaine. Do you think after all what happen in Dream Warriors that she would be a little more caring and attentive? No. She is still a horrid bitch. She is actually much worser  in this movie. Not only is she unsympathetic towards her daughter after Both of her friends die on the same day but she also drugs her drink. What parent does that?! Ultimately, she is the cause of Kristen's death which possibly makes her the most hated character of the nightmare series in my opinion.
Now let's get to the rest of the characters shall we....

First, we have Rick, Alice's brother and Kristen's boyfriend. Not much to summarize on Rick, though, he does have an interesting personality. He's really cute, funny and.....

Has a love for karate, wanting to be the next Bruce Lee. I'm sorry, I just couldn't take the whole karate thing seriously.

And apparently, they used this theme in the death scene. It just came off so goofy and campy that it's considered the worst moments of the movie. But since the producers were finding various way to kill off the character, I guess this was the best they could come with, unfortunately.

Then we have Sheila, the hip, brainy bookworm. Again there's not much to say about her but She is easily the most down-to-earth and mature of the group.

And you never really understand why Freddy killed her off the way he did.

Then we have Debbie, the tough punk girl with style and attitude. What I like about Debbie is that she is the personification of the 80's teen. Her big hair alone can be it's own character. There's not much focus on Debbie but when we do see her, she's pretty cool. And also, she probably gets the most cringe-worthy death scene, which I will get to later.

Lastly, there's Dan, who is the least developed of the teens. He is the love interest. That's it. And the only reason Alice is crushing on him is because of how hot he is, though I can't blame her, he is really attractive. However, besides all that, there is just nothing interesting about Dan. All we know of him is that he is a handsome jock, he's popular, blah, blah blah,etc. I think the reason why Dan is so important because...yes, of course, eye candy. This is what I thought about Megan in Friday Part 6, since male horror fans kept obsessing how hot she is but at least she had a personality, which made her likeable. Nick from Friday part 7 was an obvious love interest but at least he had good character development. Dan just doesn't get the right treatment. Once he's in on the action, he's just there and in the end, Alice has to be the one to save him. He's that useless. Dan might be super hot but he doesn't live it up as a character.
There is another weak point I have with this movie: Where is Neil Gordon? I really thought that he was an integral part of the series. Since he was the first to be introduced to Amanda Krueger and successfully defeat Freddy. And shouldn't he, at least, check up on the dream warriors after all what happened and all? And it could've been him on the action with Alice instead of Dan. The movie would've been a lot better honestly.

Now on to Freddy. Although he's not scary anymore, he still comes off as evil and maniacal. Although the one-liners are memorable, there were times where they were going a little overboard. I think the filmmakers were trying to cash in on "Welcome To Prime, Bitch", So it was pretty obvious that Freddy was beginning to weigh in on pop culture status. And once you see Robert England in top billing, it's clear that Freddy is the star of the show, with LOTS of screen time. Quite frankly, this was a bad idea. And it's soon the beginning of turning Freddy into a wisecracking, over-the-top jester in the latter movies. And another problem is how he basically kills off all of the elm st. kids but suddenly veers towards random teens. it's hard to explain his motive now. It's not so much about revenge anymore, it's just bloodlust at this point.

Now, on to the special effects which is the biggest highlights of the movie. Let me start by saying that this is a very colorful movie. A stark contrast to the dark and ominous feel from the first three movies. The tone might be left out of the window, but the special effects are still awesome.

Though just to get this out of the way, I had one problem with the special effects. It has got to be the dog pissing on Freddy's grave. They could've tried so many ways to revive Freddy and they had to come up with that? This has got to be one of the dumbest moments in the movie and I surely don't know what kind of drugs Renny Harlin was taking.
The directing is a bunch of fast cuts and out of this world wide shots, which in my opinion, works in a film like this. The filmmakers wanted to put on an Asian action movie feel to the whole piece to combine all the fantastic dream sequences. It really shows how creative and visual the final product turned out to be. Now on to the nitty gritty. Most fans complain about the movie not having that much blood and gore but considering how rough the MPAA was on horror films back in 1988, it's pretty unlikely to see guts flying off the screen. But there were two of the grossest death scenes in the movie and here's my first: Debbie's.

This was very surprising because of how lame the death scenes are, especially Rick's. When I first saw this, it was definitely labeled into those WTF moments. The scene was just unnerving, cringe-worthy, and disgusting. To see a person mutate into a bug creature is always a nasty sight. But the most awe-inducing death scene...was Freddy's own.

 I have never seen a horror villain get killed off this way. It was cool and gross at the same time. It's probably one the best moments of the movie and totally original.
Trivia Time! Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner came upon with a concept that involved time travel. But Robert Shaye and Sarah Riser didn't feel that fit the whole realm of the nightmare series. They still should've used Wes Craven though. To be honest, it would've been interesting, probably dwelling into the Freddy myth a whole lot more. In the classroom scene, there is, of course, a cameo by dear old Robert Shaye as the teacher and a blink-if-you-miss-it cameo by director Renny Harlin as one of the students. The souls on Freddy's chest are real actors, including scream queen Lienna Quigley. And just so you know, the actors are naked. So the girl stretching out her breast in Freddy's chest is, unsurprisingly, Lienna who seems to notable for her nudity in horror films ( I wonder if she auditioned for Friday The 13th: A New Beginning). John Carl Buechler, who worked on the special effects, also was the director of Friday The 13th: The New Blood. There's your Freddy and Jason connection. There's also a Michael Myers connection as well; Ellie Cornell once auditioned for the role of Alice, who went on to play Rachel in Halloween 4 and 5. Interesting....

But let's get to the real topic at hand as to why Patricia Arquette didn't reprise her role of Kristen. There's one fact where her agent requested more money but the studio was unable to give the offer. Given how great her performance was in Dream Warriors, she should've deserved it. Another fact is she didn't want to be labeled as a scream queen, and I could understand that. I could see that she didn't want to be known as "That girl on A Nightmare On Elm Street" and she's a more credible actress than that. And here's the final note....Teen Pregnancy. It happens.
The film ranked number 1# at the box office, ranking in $49 million dollars. Making it the highest grossing slasher film of the 80's.
I could understand the film's popularity. It's really fun to watch and it's not to be taken too seriously. But that's the main problem: The series isn't taken seriously anymore. The only reason the film was commercially successful was for it's entertainment factor and that's what movies are made for. Though at the same time, the clever writing and intelligence of the first film is lost.
But on the bright side, I do recommend this movie because of the awesome soundtrack(Dramarama, Sinead O'Connor featuring MC Lyte, The Fat Boys, Divinyls. Nothing can get better than that), the badass Alice, and the cool, spectacular special effects.
My Last Word: Definitely a fun fantasy rollercoaster ride of action-packed thrills!
P.S. This song is a total earworm:

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