And so we conclude Sequels Week with a look back at...
The Good - A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
WARNING: Mild spoilers throughout but honestly if you haven’t seen this already then what the hell? Stop reading and go and watch it – like now.
After a less than stellar and baffling follow up to Nightmare On Elm Street, Wes Craven returns to write (with the help of Bruce Wagner, Chuck Russell – who also directs the film - and a guy called Frank Darabont!) to try and bring the franchise back on track. Choosing wisely to ignore the goings on in NMOES 2, this film both brought back some of the old cast whilst adding some very cool ideas and adding layers to the origin story of Freddy Kruger.
Basically the story kicks off some six years after the original, this time though it’s the dreams of Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) that we are first thrown into. Right off the bat Dream Warriors is scary; scarier than the original? Perhaps not but it isn’t too far away and the first dream sequence solidifies this. When the little girl says to Kristen “That’s where he takes us” you get a jolt and remember that Freddy isn’t just a supernatural bogeyman, he was a child molester and murderer. This leads to a really inventive bathroom sequence, which results in Kristen taking a trip to the psych bin and ends up with other similar kids all of whom dream about the same man. The story then turns with the best inclusion they could’ve made – Nancy (Heather Lagenkamp) is back and this time it’s pers…um work experience. Of course Nancy is somewhat versed in dream therapy, so she has an inside track on what these kids are going through.
The idea of having control over your dreams is explored here and with great effect. The group dreams are the highlight of Dream Warriors, Kristen’s ability to draw people into her dream is a great little device that the film uses to its advantage (as well it should). The first time Kristen calls Nancy into her dream is unexpected and really well done, leaving you wanting to see more and it sets up the film nicely. Even when a pre Harry Potter look-a-like goes all Dungeons and Dragons in the dreamscape, it is still great - nerdy as hell but great nevertheless.
Freddy walks the line between something scary and somewhat of a fun anti-hero. He is frightening (Freddy worm anyone?) yet at the same time doles out the one-liners. His kills whilst upsetting all come with a side of humour, the death of Jennifer, where Freddy morphs in a TV, illustrates this perfectly. A horrific technophobic moment that is both frightening and funny with a great line – “welcome to prime time, bitch!” – Before he slams the poor girl head first into the TV.
The effects in Dream Warriors are also pretty good for the time, the effects ranging from tongue restraints all the way through to some really gross needle tracks marks acting as if they are hungry piglets looking to suckle at a teat, everything is done well and even better it’s all practical. With the exception of a stop motion skeleton, Dream Warriors provides some of the best work of the entire series.
Dream Warriors has a lot of blunt and also some subtle subtext. With the sins of the parents still a major issue (it’s even a line spoken by Nancy), troubled teens – all the teens deaths are attributed to suicide spelling out a lack of blame placed on the parents or authority figures, that the kids deaths are their fault alone. Another pointer to this is early on in the psych hospital the doctors all think that the kids, unrelated in any way are have a group psychosis, keeping the reoccurring theme of the adults in NOMES films as self-serving, unhelpful and entirely unreliable. It is interesting that we see when the kids are in the dream world, that they are not helpless and in fact can shape and form themselves to be whatever they choose, whatever makes them feel most empowered, which is a very interesting contrast when you have Reality Vs Dreams.
Nightmare on Elm Street 3 is considered as the part 2 in the trilogy of chronological Elm St Films, those being 1, 3 and New Nightmare. I think that if the other Elm St films were somehow wiped from memory these three films could well be one of the great horror trilogies.