Director: Renny Harlin
Writer: Brian Helgeland and Ken and Jim Wheats; story by William Kotzwinkle and Brian Helgeland
Cinematographer: Steven Fierberg
Producer: Robert Shaye and Rachel Talalay
by Jon Cvack
I won’t repeat what I’ve already said in my thoughts on the first three films, other than to emphasize that what’s required for the film’s to work are both good characters and remaining within the parameters of a monster killing children in their dreams, often done with imaginative nightmare sequences. This film is an example of where, counter to the second, the film abides by the latter and completely neglects the former.
It takes three of the characters from Dream Warriors (1987) - Kincaid, Kristen, and Joey - who have returned to high school where Kristen is now dating a martial artist Rick Johnson (Andras Jones), who’s new to town alongside his sister Alice (Lisa Wilcox). They’re also friends with a nerd named Sheila (Toy Newkirk) and fitness freak/bug hater Debbie (Brooke Theiss). Soon Kristen, Kincaid, and Joey are all killed off, and the rest follow one by one.
The issue is that the characters are equally forgettable. I’m not sure why they chose to bring back some of the cast from Dream Warriors, only to kill them off within the first thirty minutes; replacing them with nothing beyond double word archetypes. There is a complete absence of chemistry between them. Counter to Dream Warriors where we understood their shared bonds, I was left wondering why any of them were even friends. A nerd, a martial artist, a fitness freak, a jock, and the girl next door. They felt created specifically for their deaths; made all worse in that most of their deaths weren’t even memorable.
It seems the easiest thing to accomplish is to create creative and disturbing dream sequences where almost anything is possible, but I finished this film just a few days ago though I already struggle to remember any of the deaths beyond Rick’s ridiculous kung fu battle and Debbie turning into a cockroach.
The film is not terrible. It’s watchable and far better than the immediate sequel, and provides a satisfying climax as Kristen battles Freddy in a nightmarish cathedral. But everything is mediocre, likely chalked up to bringing aboard a director far inferior to Wes Craven and Chuck Russel. It felt rushed, as though a first draft to what could have been great. The filmmakers had it them - the cockroach scene, the conclusion; there were moments that worked. The rest felt like a quick rush to yet another movie.
BELOW: One of the few memorable - and ridiculous - scenes
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