We’re really getting into it now. Today I am happy to celebrate one of the most powerful characters in the Elm Street movies: Alice Johnson.
Alice makes her debut in the fourth installment in the series The Dream Master and returns in the follow-up The Dream Child. As I mentioned last time, Alice inherits Kristen Parker’s special ability to pull people into her dreams upon Kristen’s death. From this point on, the movie centers on Alice and her struggles with Freddy. This was an unexpected turn, at least for me, as I would have thought the movie would focus on Kristen and she would end up being the “Dream Master”; never did I think the title would refer to this new character.
Alice is introduced as the younger sister of Kristen’s boyfriend, Rick. She is close with her brother, but her alcoholic father berates her and her main escape is fantasizing about what her life would be like if she were more confident and outspoken. She spends much of her time in these daydreams, even at school and when hanging out with her friends. Though she’s strong and assertive in these daydreams, in real life she’s meek and withdrawn and this disconnect does wonders for her self-esteem, as you can imagine.
Once Alice gets mixed up in the nightmare of Freddy Krueger, she has to deal with Kristen’s power being both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, Freddy isn’t interested in killing her because he realizes the power to pull others into her dream is the only way he can reach new victims who weren’t part of the “Elm Street Children”, but on the other hand, she is being used and each time she falls asleep she causes the death of another one of her friends.
Being Alice, her initial response to this is to avoid the problem at all costs, which means giving up sleep. Of course, this is impossible to maintain and her friends continue to fall, one by one, but in the meantime something is happening to Alice. Each time Freddy claims another victim she seems to adopt some aspect of their personality, something that brings her out of her shell a little more each time. When her brother is finally taken by Freddy, Alice reaches her turning point and refuses to fall back on her old defense mechanisms of daydreams and avoidance.
When it comes time for the final showdown, Alice prepares herself by remembering her friends and what she’s gained from them, but at the same time letting go of the grief and guilt she’s been holding onto after their deaths. Now she’s going to move forward and use their strength along with her own to finally take Freddy down and does so in the most totally awesome 80’s montage. I say this, in all honesty, without a hint of sarcasm or irony: I fucking love this scene:
Letting go of the past, suiting up for battle with the accoutrements of her fallen friends, and finally looking at herself in the mirror and being damn pleased with what she sees, ugh, it’s one of the best sequences in the series. In the ensuing battle we see just how powerful Alice really is as she is the first heroine in the series to face Freddy in the dream, alone, and triumph. The fight takes her to the limits of what she can do, and everything she’s gained from her friends helps, but in the end it’s her own intelligence that defeats the monster.
When Alice returns in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, she is graduating high school and finds herself unexpectedly expecting. It turns out that her unborn child has inherited Alice’s ability to connect people in the dream world and is now Freddy’s new way back into the dreams of Springwood’s teens.
Coming off the high of the previous two movies, The Dream Child is definitely lacking, but the recurring characters from The Dream Master help save it, especially Alice. In this movie we really see how powerful she is and how much of an impact she actually had on Freddy because he’s pretty much obsessed with her. Everything he does in this movie seems to have the motive of unhinging Alice, starting from his using her baby as his means of return and leading up to the way he flaunts each kill in front of her.
Now, you’re probably thinking “Um, what about mentally torturing a woman through her pregnancy makes this a good movie?” and I will admit it’s definitely cause for concern but I’ve always thought that this movie celebrates Alice’s victory from the previous movie by showing that Freddy hates her and wants to get some vengeance on her, but is too afraid to actually do anything to her directly. The pregnancy in and of itself isn’t depicted as anything evil or frightening; it’s just that Alice is the only one with the ability to bring Freddy to new victims but since she’s able to overpower him he needs someone with the same gift but who is unprepared to fight against him. Because of this her unborn child, who spends most of its time in a dream-like state, is the only viable option. From a writing standpoint, this gives the movie a way to bring Freddy back for another sequel without discrediting Alice’s victory in the last installment, and from the characters’ standpoint it shows that Alice is still Freddy’s equal in the dream world.
Alice remains the Dream Master in this film and her spot as one of the most powerful women in the Nightmare series is solidified. Only one woman could possibly rank higher than her in this universe. Of course I’m talking about the original, the powerful, the one and only Nancy Thompson.