If you notice, I mostly stick to sequels for Minute by Minute - I think it's a fun way to tackle a series as a whole as I explain how it stacks up against the others or what it did "wrong." And so far I've done Friday the 13th, Halloween, Child's Play, Silent Night, Deadly Night, Scream, Saw... but somehow passed over Nightmare On Elm Street, the most financially successful horror franchise of the '80s and starring the guy who is probably the most iconic killer hero of all time. Even if you've never seen a Freddy movie, you can probably identify him, unlike most of the others (I've seen Michael Myers called "Halloween" more than once).
Of course, part of that is the fact that Robert Englund was the only one to ever play Freddy across the seven film original series, plus the spinoff Freddy vs. Jason. All the other guys of the era - Jason, Michael, Leatherface - were replaced just about every time out; only Pinhead (and Chucky I guess) had the same consistency and they came along late. Sadly, part of it was also what killed the character's effectiveness - he had a voice, and he used it way too often. While his few lines in the original were dark, as the series went on he became more of a quipster, without even trying to be scary. At one point in Part 5 he even dresses as Superman! It was fine/funny for kids, but has given the movies a much shorter shelf life than the others - now all of this stuff is just painful.
When I last revisited the movies in 2010 as prep for the remake (which was so bad that it made me LONG for jokester Freddy), I found very little to enjoy about Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, finding the plot incoherent, the writing (partially courtesy of Brian Helgeland!) sloppy, and the puzzling lack of blood frustrating. However, it's a visually exciting film, and thus I chose it for Minute by Minute on that alone because last time out didn't yield any good screenshots. If nothing else, Renny Harlin and DP Steven Fierberg would make this a much more attractive column to scroll through. So let's get to it!
00:00 The New Line logo. At the time of its release and for another couple years (until the original TMNT movie came along) this was the highest grossing film in New Line history. It also remains the top grossing entry of the original 7 film series.
01:00 The credit for Andras Jones, who plays Rick.
02:00 "Mechanical Special Effects by Image Engineering." You don't see that credit too often anymore, because almost no one can be bothered to make any sort of practical FX.
03:00 Makeup Effects by Steve Johnson, Screaming Mad George, Magical Media Industries, R. Christopher Biggs. Note on Magical Media - that's actually John Buechler's company, and in 1988 he'd score something of a horror icon trifecta as he also worked on Michael Myers (for Halloween 4) and Jason Voorhees (F13 Part VII: The New Blood, which he also directed).
04:00 A red tricycle tumbling down the stairs.
05:00 Kristen being flung across a room. Kristen was played by Patricia Arquette in the previous film, and she didn't return here (she was pregnant, apparently). The role was filled by Tuesday Knight, who also sang the title track. Not the best actress in the world, to be honest.
06:00 Kincaid crashing to the floor.
07:00 Kincaid waking up. Kincaid is easily the greatest male protagonist in the entire series (and with the most memorable dialogue), and I'm glad he returned here. For that we must give props to Dream Warriors, the best film in the series which let not one but TWO males (the other being Joey) survive an '80s slasher - a very rare feat.
08:00 Kristen getting out of her car.
09:00 Rick dangling as he makes his way out of the house instead of using the door. There's a subplot about how he and Alice's dad was a drunk, I think it had something to do with that.
10:00 Dan getting out of his awesome truck.
11:00 Sheila parking her bike.
12:00 The smeared remains of a cockroach, who died for our foreshadowing.
13:00 Kincaid delivering one of his colorfully profane speeches. I like that the trauma of seeing all of their friends killed while battling a supernatural monster was all they needed to get out of a mental institution and attend high school.
14:00 Rick practicing karate to the kick-ass sounds of Dramarama's "Anything, Anything." Hell yes! JUST SETTLE DOWN, SETTLE DOWN, SETTLE DOWNNNNNN
15:00 Rick encountering his dad.
16:00 Alice yelling at her dad (dream sequence, I believe). I can't recall if he was one of the original Elm Street parents or not - it'd be funny if he was an alcoholic now because they left him out of it and it severely crushed his self-esteem.
17:00 Kincaid playing with his dog. The dog's name is Jason, which you'd THINK would lead to Freddy "killing Jason," but no - if anything the dog is kind of an ally as we'll see in a minute or so. Interestingly, a Freddy vs Jason film had been planned for this year, but Paramount and New Line couldn't work out the legalities, hence New Blood's supernatural overtones and... well, I don't think it affected this one much at all.
18:00 Jason digging a hole. Guess we will miss it pissing fire. Sorry, guys.
19:00 Freddy's body regenerating. Cool effect.
20:00 A long silhouette shot that leads to the first appearance of Freddy. In high school I had a public access show where my buddy Jeff and I reviewed horror movies (I've come so far...) and this shot was included in our opening credits montage. So, I'm sick of looking at it.
21:00 A junked car starting itself.
22:00 Hey, a kill shot! Already better than the last MxM.
23:00 A shot of a TV playing an MTV commercial. The '80s!
24:00 The naked chick in Joey's waterbed dream. Trivia: I'm pretty sure the girl in his similar fantasy scene in Dream Warriors provided me with the first boobs I ever saw on TV. It was that or European Vacation anyway.
25:00 A shot of Joey's literal death bed.
26:00 Rick teaching Alice how to fight. They're very close for a brother and sister in high school.
27:00 Kristen smoking.
28:00 Alice and Kristen talking.
29:00 Robert Englund in drag. For those who say the series had stopped being scary.
30:00 Dan and his friend pulling up to the "Crave Inn." Eh, I've seen worse in-jokes.
31:00 Alice staring at Dan. He's presumably not interested because she's "homely" in movie logic (in reality even in wallflower mode she's more attractive than anyone else in the movie).
32:00 Sheila leaving the "inn" (weird name for a diner, no?)
33:00 Freddy house!!! One thing that this series has over Halloween is that they keep going back to the house in both series but this one actually used the same model every time, unlike the Myers house which changed drastically from film to film.
34:00 Dan looking at the door to the house.
35:00 Alice looking at the ground outside the house.
36:00 Kristen looking at a glass. Her mom (who IS the same actress as before) slipped her a sleeping pill if memory serves.
37:00 Overhead shot of Kristen fighting to stay awake.
38:00 A creepy little girl - a staple of this series - building a sand castle.
39:00 Freddy wearing sunglasses. Nightmare On Elm Street time of death: exactly 39 minutes into the fourth entry.
40:00 Kristen running through the boiler room.
42:00 Alice putting out a photo that had burst into flames. This one didn't really pay much attention to real world logic like the others - Freddy seems to be able to manipulate the world in ways previously impossible.
43:00 A home video of Kristen. So the movie's just under half over when she is killed off, which is fine for the whole Psycho thing of killing off the assumed heroine. But the recasting really hurt; not only was the actress not as good, but the script wasn't as successful as Psycho when it came to depicting the person we think is our main character - it's pretty obvious that Alice was destined to be more than "the friend". At least if Patricia Arquette had returned, it would have been less obvious.
44:00 Rick and Alice talking about Freddy. How long is Elm Street anyway, for kids to STILL have to learn about him? Does it stretch through several zip codes? On that note, this is the only entry in the original series that doesn't shed any more light on Freddy Krueger's pre-dream killer life - if you want his entire back story you need to see 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6, but 4 gives you nothing (note - New Nightmare doesn't count because that takes place in the "real world").
45:00 Sheila showing Alice some gizmo she made.
46:00 Sheila dreams about taking a test.
47:00 Overhead shot of a panicking Sheila. Cool visual - the floor tile has a dimensional effect. The script for this movie is mostly rubbish; every good thing about it can really be chalked up to Renny Harlin's inspired direction. And Kincaid.
48:00 Freddy delivering a one-liner to the departed Sheila. As a kid I thought this stuff was hilarious, and while some lines are still worth a chuckle, it mostly just annoys me now, which is why I'm not as big a fan of parts 4-6.
49:00 The four remaining teens watching Sheila's body being removed. The body count in this one is six, which ties Dream Warriors for the highest in the original series (unless you count the off-screen child murders in the first film). Weird that as most franchises just kept upping the body count as they went on, Nightmare would start reversing the trend - the next film's body count is only three.
50:00 Alice looking at her mirror, which is completely covered with photos that hide her reflection. I didn't go to this extreme (I could still see myself) but in high school something similar with my mirror, a mix of photos and autographs collected from horror cons - including one of Robert Englund himself.
51:00 Alice talking to Dan.
52:00 Rick in a locker room.
53:00 Rick talking to Dan. Dan must be a good listener.
54:00 Alice listening in class. The teacher is New Line's own Robert Shaye, who appeared in quite a few of the movies (as different characters).
55:00 Rick in a dream elevator.
56:00 Andras Jones tossing himself around as Rick fights an invisible Freddy. Like Knight, Jones is more of a musician than an actor, but he's actually not bad here.
57:00 Rick, looking victorious after somehow kicking the glove off.
58:00 Alice and Debbie at Rick's funeral. This series has had more funeral scenes than any other horror franchise, easily. I don't think we ever saw one in the Halloweens.
59:00 Alice putting on her sunglasses. Lot of daylight scenes in this "NIGHTmare" movie.
60:00 Alice, Rick and Debbie talking about their next move. I don't think there's a single cop in this movie.
61:00 Alice picking up Rick's nunchucks. The movie's best idea (besides dog piss being used to resurrect Freddy) is that Alice absorbs the strengths of her friends when they are killed, like Highlander or something. Even though Alice returned for part 5, this concept did not, because the movie was too busy not making any goddamn sense at all.
62:00 Alice's drunk dad trying to get her to not go out.
63:00 Dan waiting outside the Crave Inn.
64:00 Alice running up to the Inn.
65:00 Alice taking her seat in a theater. I like that she bought popcorn.
66:00 The popcorn is flying into the screen. The pacing is very odd in this film in that they wiped out five of the kids in the first hour and then only had a single death for the final 30+ minutes. So you get a pretty repetitive, action-lite third act.
67:00 Alice is transported to the Crave Inn.
68:00 "Rick... you little meatball!"
69:00 Alice running up to the Crave Inn; I can't remember the exact logistics of it but she's basically in a loop - again, this is what happens when you race through victims. Spread the shit out, avoid incoherent time-killing nonsense.
70:00 Debbie flexing her fingers before returning to her bench press.
71:00 Debbie in her roach transformation. It's easily the most upsetting kill in the movie for me, as any insect larger than an ant makes me nauseous.
72:00 Debbie trapped in the roach hotel. Seriously, this sequence is disgusting.
73:00 Alice reacting to Debbie's death. But she will get her strength! Or her awful '80s hair, I forget.
74:00 An ambulance driving away. Forget who's in it.
75:00 Dan being wheeled on a gurney. So it was Dan.
76:00 Dan still on his gurney.
77:00 Some of the photos on Alice's mirror.
78:00 Alice prepping for battle. To quote Abed: "She's pretty awesome today."
79:00 Swinging doors in an operating room. My memory of the movie is pretty good but all this hospital stuff is a mystery to me for some reason.
80:00 Alice and Dan in the dream world.
81:00 Alice and Freddy battle.
82:00 Still fighting. The final battles with Freddy are almost always underwhelming, because he just cheats and punches/kicks can't really do any harm anyway. But it's still fun to see Alice bashing him around a church.
83:00 Alice whipping out her Freddy Killer (tm) gizmo.
84:00 Alice picking up a piece of stained-glass window.
85:00 Alice blasts Freddy.
86:00 One of his all time best demises - the souls inside his body (seen in Dream Warriors!) basically reach out and tear him apart.
87:00 Alice looking at the church after her victory.
88:00 A much happier Alice, with makeup and such, walking with Dan.
89:00 The two of them walking off into the distance as the credits begin to roll over picture.
90:00 Absolutely nothing! A break in the credits after we fade to black.
91:00 A credit for the carpenters on the crew. Unlike the cast part, the crew section of the credits is depicted with cards instead of a scroll. Impress your friends with that knowledge at your next party.
92:00 Credits for Christopher Biggs and his crew, making him the first crew person to be singled out twice in a single Minute by Minute column.
93:00 Quite awesomely, along with the guy in charge of "fades and dissolves" (man, digital editing killed some jobs, I guess) are the credits for the folks who did the credits. Since doing end titles for TV shows is my day job, this makes me happy. We're unsung heroes, dammit!
And that's it, the final runtime is 93:17, despite the DVD promising 99 minutes.
With some adjustment to the pacing (something that might have been fixed if not for the writer's strike that was occurring during production) and a 50% reduction in Freddy's silliness, this could have been a fine addition to the series that would hold up as well as Dream Warriors has. The FX are terrific, the kids are pretty likable and there's some real creativity to the kill scenes without getting too over the top (like in the next two installments - comic books and video games). As I said the last time I watched it proper, it's either the best of the worst Elm Street films, or the worst of the best. And of course, now that I HAVE seen the remake, I can forgive nearly all of Dream Master's sins on the strength of its not being a soulless pile of shit.