'Dream Warriors' was a complete success, and would remain the overall fan favorite for decades to come. However, if it ever had any competition for style, I feel like that would probably come down to 'The Dream Master'. Perhaps the best way I've heard it put was from Englund himself - it's "The MTV Nightmare". While its predecessor certainly laid the groundwork, 'The Dream Master' would launch Freddy into superstardom. This was the film responsible for plastering his face all over merchandise, surprisingly for all ages.
Being released in August of 1988, I had just turned 6, and I can still remember the hype surrounding Freddy Krueger. Truth be told, Freddy merchandise was unavoidable, even at places like Toys R Us. My generation was very into horror at a very early age. It was literally a "cool thing to do", and a lot of parents would actually willingly show their kids this stuff, buy toys for them that represented Freddy. He was just out in the open, and us kids ate it up even more than the adults. If you went to the kind of school that allowed you to dress up for Halloween, at least one attending kid would be Freddy. It is, however, safe to say that 'The Dream Master' was pretty much where Freddy peaked.
Just about everything that followed (save 'New Nightmare') would receive heavier criticism from both fans and critics alike. Believe it or not, it all starts with a late-night TV show called 'Freddy's Nightmares'; an attempt to use Freddy's popularity in order to cash in on the TV-viewing audience. It was essentially a 'Tales from the Crypt'-style show with Freddy in place of the Crypt Keeper and had little to do with 'Elm Street', save the first episode. But it just goes to show you how 'Elm Street' had become a sort of horror juggernaut. It was paralleled in every way by 'Friday the 13th', but that's a whole other can of worms.
Things kick off here with the return of a re-cast Kristen Parker (Tuesday Knight) who starts experiencing eerie nightmares again. Before she knows it, she and the remaining Dream Warriors end up facing off against Freddy once more - and losing. However, this is not before Kristen pulls our new hero, Alice (Lisa Wilcox) into her dream and passes her power off to her. We soon realize Alice's "Dream Power" (as established in the previous film) is to absorb her friends' dream powers once they die - she's like the Rogue of the dream world. Now, Alice, with a whole new group of kids find themselves up against the dream demon, and they have to find a whole new way to kill him off.
Speaking on a personal level, I tend to regard this as one of the more fascinating of the 'Elm Street' series. There's a lot I don't like about it, but I have to admit that what I like about it, outweighs that. I'd criticize the film for things like killing off the remaining Dream Warriors so quickly. We got to know them and fell in love with their Camaraderie, and they could have just as easily developed. But director Renny Harlin felt like he needed a new set of kids. It parallels 'Alien 3' and it's terrible first off-screen death, making the entire preceding film seem irrelevant. A lot of the dialogue throughout the film is pretty cringe-worthy as well; the phrase "you are one major league hunk" tends to be one of the worst lines I can think of in an 'Elm Street' film.
On the other side of the coin, though, this film brings a lot of imagination to the series with its dream concepts, sets, and often visceral practical effects. In that case, it's a very worthy sequel to its predecessor, as it not only keeps some of the style, but amps it up a bit as well. My appreciation for this movie comes from more of the style than the substance, and that doesn't exactly sound like a positive thing. But when you're talking about something like 'A Nightmare on Elm Street', and are seeking the fun side of it, this is a great place to go. Of the 'Elm Street' movies, this is the first in the series I'd consider one of my guilty pleasures. Heck, I even dig the song 'Running from this Nightmare' by Tuesday Knight. It's no 'Dream Warriors', but the pop style really sets up what you're about to see in the opening credits sequence.
If I were to give these films descriptive nicknames, I'd say 1 is the "scary one", 2 is the "subtext one", 3 is the "best one", and this is the "fun one". While I maintain that if you are introducing someone to the typical concept of an 'Elm Street' movie, you've got to go with 'Dream Warriors', but I would highly recommend this one as a runner up. You also have to appreciate the fact that, regardless of ditching the Dream Warriors and going with a new Heroine, at least Alice is more than worthy. In many ways, she's a new Nancy, as she starts out somewhat timid, but learns to stand up and fight. It may not be without its fair share of flaws, but I have certainly warmed up to it over time.
Body Count: 6