In the wake of Star Wars, we got a succession of directors who were more interested in special effects than in character development, story, and directing the actors in general which would eventually lead to the Michael Bays of today. One such director was Renny Harlin, and Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master was his turn at the Elm Street franchise.
The film perfunctorily kills off all the heroes of the last film in the first few scenes to set the stage for a whole new group of teenagers who Freddie is killing, well, just because. Gone is any pretense of a connection to the original Elm Street parents (and Freddie's supposed motive). How and why Freddie has come back, what his motive is, and how and why he is 'ultimately' (yeah, right) defeated by Alice (the superpowered replacement for Kristen) is never adequately explained.
Which all makes this an exercise in nothing more than - you guessed it - special effects. The effects are, to be honest, mostly pretty cool. But, when the 'deaths' are all happening to people we really don't care very much about for reasons that are never really explained, with no real goal in mind... well, it really doesn't make for much of a movie.
The retro 50s stuff in the movie is a little hard to take, but it's the downside to the one cool thing about the film - the whole retro 80s-ness of it all. The hairstyles, clothes, music and even the lighting and other cinematic techniques are fun trip down memory lane. Especially notable is the music - if there's one thing this installment has going for it, it's the awesome soundtrack. And, thanks to improvements in audio technology, it's also the best sounding of the 'Nightmare' series so far.
O.K., so we know Freddie still isn't dead... now give us a reason to care.