Wednesday, October 7, 2015

#1,878. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Directed By: Chuck Russell

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Craig Wasson

Tag line: "If you think you'll get out alive, You must be dreaming"

Trivia: The Freddy glove that was stolen from the set of this film was found in another movie: it was hanging on the wall of the work shed in Evil Dead II

From the opening scene alone, I knew A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors was going to be a step above the series’ previous entry, Freddy’s Revenge. In it, a teenager named Kristen (Patricia Arquette, in her screen debut) finds herself in front of the now-abandoned house on Elm Street that once belonged to the Thompson family. But it doesn't take her long to realize she’s not really there; Kristen is actually dreaming! As a group of kids playing nearby sings the now-iconic tune “One, Two… Freddy’s coming for you”, Kristen rushes to save a little girl (Kristen Clayton) who rode her tricycle into the house. Making her way to the basement, Kristen locates the girl, then comes face-to-face with Fred Krueger (Robert Englund). True to form, the “Master of Dreams” has prepared some ghastly visions for the unsuspecting teen (after giving Freddy the slip, Kristen runs out of the house with the little girl in her arms, only to find the front yard is now filled with dead teenagers, all hanging by their necks. And if that isn’t bad enough, poor Kristen gets an even bigger surprise when she looks into the eyes of the tyke she’s just rescued). It’s a creepy start to what proves to be a superior sequel.

When Kristen finally wakes up, she’s standing in her bathroom holding a razor blade, with two deep cuts on her wrists. Fearing she attempted suicide, Kristen’s mother (Brooke Bundy) commits her daughter to a psychiatric hospital that specializes in sleep disorders. To Kristen’s surprise, the other teens in her ward have also been dreaming about Freddy Krueger, and, to avoid facing him, are doing everything they can to keep themselves awake at night. Believing they should confront their fears head-on, Drs. Elizabeth Simms (Priscilla Pointer) and Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson) try to convince the kids that a good night’s sleep is all the medicine they need. But the newest member of the hospital’s staff, psychologist Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp, reprising her role from the 1984 original), knows all too well what these teens are up against. When several patients die unexpectedly, and under bizarre circumstances, Nancy decides its time to act, and, after learning that Kristen possesses the unique ability to “summon” others into her dreams, concocts a plan in which she and the remaining kids will battle Freddy on his own turf.

Just about everything in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors works, from its young cast (all of whom do a phenomenal job conveying the terror and frustration their characters deal with on a daily basis) to its stylish dream sequences (including one very memorable scene where Freddy takes on the role of a puppeteer). In addition, Dream Warriors features cameos by, of all people, Dick Cavett and Zsa Zsa Gabor, and co-stars both John Saxon (returning as Nancy’s father) and Laurence Fishburne (as one of the hospital’s orderlies). There’s even an engaging subplot in which Dr. Gordon meets a mysterious nun (Nan Martin), who, besides providing some background information on Freddy Krueger (i.e. – the circumstances surrounding his birth), reveals how to defeat the evil Dream Master once and for all.

Then, of course, there’s Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, who, despite rattling off a few of his patented one-liners, is just as unnerving in Dream Warriors as he was in Wes Craven’s 1984 classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, and a bit more creative as well; along with his standard razor glove, Freddy torments his victims by transforming himself into both a giant worm and a pint-size marionette (brought to life via some impressive stop-motion).

More than a strong sequel, Dream Warriors is the second best movie in the Nightmare on Elm Street series (behind only the original), and one of the most inspired horror films to emerge from the latter half of the 1980s.


Wendell Ottley said...

I love this one. It has the best mix of horror and comedy the series has to offer. That puppeteer scene is awesome!

James Robert Smith said...

As far as I'm concerned, this was--and by a wide margin--the finest film of the franchise. None of the others came even close, and this includes the original. The script was really very clever and the acting in the movie was excellent, as was the direction and cinemaphotography. I'm surprised that this movie doesn't make more "best" lists when I see people toting up good horror movies.

Dave B. said...

James: It's damn close to that for me as well. I do still give the original a slight advantage, but this movie is tremendous!