Take a Drink: for each nightmare, obviously
Take a Drink: for closeups on cuts
Take a Drink: whenever Freddy shows up in a new, bizarre form
Take a Drink: for each death
Take a Drink: for the nun
Do a Shot: for puns
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
The little loved but strangely compelling Freddy’s Revenge showed the commercial danger of zagging where most horror sequels zig, so it’s little surprise that the third installment, Dream Warriors, returned to the surviving cast and successful template of the original, with a little added pitch black comedy to boot.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors follows several young wards of a youth rehabilitation/psych facility, who all have been having versions of the same, obviously Freddy Krueger-starring nightmare. None of the staff really believes them, though, until a young woman who’s seen this all before learns about their knife-fingered problem… and arrives just in time to help them fight it.
While the Halloween franchise’s attempt to return to its commercially friendly roots after the bizarre departure of Season of the Witch wasn’t terribly successful, at least creatively, A Nightmare on Elm Street nails it. Part of this, yes, is due to a larger Freddy focus and more of that disturbingly entertaining mordant wit, and both Englund’s performance and the script’s quips play like gangbusters.
However, what really makes it all work so well is how the time is taken to set up the cast’s unique situation and individual personalities, so when the ensemble battle begins in earnest, you’re properly invested. Patricia Arquette delivers a very Mia Wasikowska-reminiscent performance as the Final Girl of sorts, and Heather Langenkamp’s return to the series also demonstrates she’d come a long way as an actress since the first film. Her dream-jumping badassery is a joy to behold, and the locked down setting and disbelieving authority figures ramp up the tension very effectively.
The real ticket to ride, though, is the film’s vividly imagined, often terrifying nightmare and kill sequences, which don’t quite reach the heights of Craven’s original, but take advantage of the ensemble’s different psychological fears and foibles to craft personalized terrifying tableaus for each. It’s a great move allowing for a broad swathe of inventively crowd-pleasing gore, with just the right dash of awful irony.
She wanted to be a TV star, you see…
I wouldn’t exactly call this film a technical triumph, however. Right from the impossibly 80s title font, there’s a tendency towards the visually corny that gets indulged here and there, from some laughable special effects to a few of our Dream Warriors’ “dream powers” that evoke more laughs than I think they were going for.
What is this Lisa Frank bullshit?
The film’s biggest weakness, though, is how as the film progresses it diverges more and more from its main, extremely tense and entertaining storyline to try and delve into Freddy Krueger’s backstory and explain the monster. This is a pretty classically terrible idea, because knowing more about a monster almost always diminishes the terror we feel for them. “The bastard son of 100 murderers” is a pretty damn generic place to end up after all that, to boot.
Case in point.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors sows many of the seeds that would sprout into the franchise’s generally terrible ensuing sequels, but on its own makes a case for being the most entertaining film in the entire series.