A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is a 1988 American fantasy slasher film and the fourth installment in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The film was directed by Renny Harlin and stars Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, Lisa Wilcox, and Danny Hassel. Following the death of Nancy Thompson, Krueger reappears in the dreams of Kristen Parker, Joey Crusel, and Roland Kincaid. After completing his revenge against the families who killed him, Krueger uses Kristen's best friend, Alice Johnson, to gain access to new victims in order to sate his murderous needs. The film is a sequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) and was followed by A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989). It is often popularly referred to as "the MTV Nightmare" of the franchise.
The Dream Master was released on August 19, 1988, and grossed $49.4 million at the domestic box office on a budget of $6.5 million, which made it the highest-grossing film in the franchise in the United States until the release of Freddy vs. Jason, a crossover with the Friday the 13th franchise, in 2003. It received mixed reviews from critics.
In 1988, a year after the events of the previous film, Kristen, Kincaid, and Joey have been released from Westin Hills and are back to their lives as normal teenagers with their families. However, Kristen believes Freddy Krueger will come back and when she dreams that she is in Freddy's old boiler room, she summons Joey and Kincaid into the dream. Kincaid and Joey are upset that she has reverted to her old ways back when they were at Westin Hills. To keep her calm, they take her to the boiler and show her that it is ice cold. Kristen had also summoned Kincaid's dog Jason into the dream. The dog jumps out of the boiler, bites Kristen, and they all awaken in their rooms. The next day, Kristen meets up with her boyfriend, martial arts enthusiast Rick Johnson (Andras Jones), and their friends—Rick's shy and quiet sister Alice (Lisa Wilcox), Sheila (Toy Newkirk), an asthmatic genius, and Debbie (Brooke Theiss), a tough girl who doesn't like bugs. Kincaid and Joey confront Kristen at school about the dream. They tell her to let it go, that their days of fighting in dreams are over, and if she keeps going at it she might accidentally bring Krueger back.
That night, Kristen stays awake to keep herself from dreaming, but Kincaid falls asleep. He awakens in a junkyard, where Freddy has been accidentally resurrected. Kincaid puts up a good fight against Freddy, but Freddy overpowers him. Kincaid screams for Kristen but Freddy reaches him and kills him. Joey watches MTV and listens to music in his room. He begins to fall asleep and discovers a model from one of his posters swimming in his waterbed. Freddy jumps out of the waterbed and attempts to drown Joey. Joey screams for Kristen to help him but Freddy stabs and kills him. At school the next day, Kristen panics when she notices that Joey and Kincaid are missing and accidentally knocks herself out as Rick attempts to calm her. Freddy tries to attack Kristen as the school nurse wakes her up. Kristen feels guilty about staying awake when she learns that Kincaid and Joey were found dead. She later tells Rick, Alice, and Alice's crush Dan Jordan (Danny Hassel) about Freddy. She vows to avenge Kincaid and Joey.
Kristen realizes that her mother has put sleeping pills in her dinner but falls asleep as she tries to run out of the dining room. Kristen starts to dream; Freddy overcomes her attempts to repel him and forces her back to his home. Since Kristen is the last of the Elm Street children still alive, Freddy goads Kristen into summoning on one of her friends into the dream, so that his fun can begin anew. She calls Alice into her dream, and Freddy throws Kristen into his boiler but before she dies, Kristen gives Alice her dream power. Alice wakes up with the sense that something is wrong and takes Rick to Kristen's house. When they get there, they see that Kristen's bedroom is on fire with her in it.
Later, Alice falls asleep during class and inadvertently brings Sheila into her dream. Freddy kills Sheila and makes it look like an asthma attack. Rick starts to believe Alice, but the following day, he has a dream where an invisible Freddy attacks him in a martial arts dojo. Rick fights him, and manages to knock his knife glove off. However, the glove levitates and stabs him, killing him. With each death, Alice changes—she gains the abilities and personalities of her dead friends. She makes plans with Debbie and Dan to fight and kill Freddy together, but when her father keeps her in, Alice falls asleep. Through Alice, Freddy stalks Debbie, transforms her into a cockroach, and crushes her in a roach motel. Using Debbie's temper, Alice tries to ram Freddy but collides with a tree in reality, injuring Dan. As Dan is rushed into surgery, Alice returns home and readies herself to join him and face Freddy.
In a dream, Alice rescues Dan, and the two find themselves in an old church. Dan gets injured in the dream which prompts his surgeons to wake him up. Alice now has to face Freddy alone. Freddy has the upper hand due to his experience, but she uses her friends' dream powers against him. When he is about to win, Alice remembers a nursery rhyme called "The Dream Master". She recites it and forces Freddy to face his own reflection which causes the souls within him to revolt. The strain tears Freddy apart. Alice's friends' souls are released and leave Freddy as a hollow husk. Months later, Dan and Alice are on a date when Dan tosses a coin into a fountain. For a moment, Alice sees Freddy's reflection in the water, but she ignores it. Dan asks her what she wished for, but Alice does not tell him as they walk away from the fountain.