Thursday, September 6, 2012

Elm Street Sweep: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
rating: ****
starring:  Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund and Craig Wasson

After a gay sequel (literally), the ANOES franchise decided to go back to Freddy's roots as a boogieman of the nightmare land, rather than a metaphorical subtext for sexual repression. (Oh you know he was at that movie! You know he was!) Now, as a comeback, ole buddy Fred is upping his style with more stylish dreams and a surprisingly deeper approach.

When the last of the Elm Street children are gathered in a psychiatric ward in treatment for their insomnia, what the psyche's staff didn't know is that they're just ripe for the picking for the infamous dreamland boogieman, Freddy Krueger. When the kids failed to convince their docs of Fred's razor glovin' good times in expense of their lives, it's up to the new staff to help them: survivor Nancy Thompson of the original ANOES. Working there as a scientific researcher, Nancy knew she can't stop the nightmare man alone, so she riskily accepted the help from one of the young wards; Kristen, a girl blessed with the ability to pull people into her own dreams.

After one of the kids slept to a coma, held captive in the dream world by Freddy, Nancy and Kristen took on a perilous fight along with the rest of the Elm Street kids, each with their own "dream powers", to face Krueger once and for all.

Originally the final entry to the series, Dream Warriors molded a remarkably strong and favorable following due to its imaginative plot and script, thanks to the comeback of Wes Craven, the director and producer of the first, now taking in the role as a writer for this entry, which may explain why it has a little more thought to it, compared to the rest of the sequels.

Technically, what I really like about the entry is that the victims, all of them, are likable. They're troubled and scared, and yet they're willing to fight back despite the dangers, a characterization I find quite impressive, and sometimes even touching ("I am the Wizard Master!" bound to tug any nerd's heart), to the point that I really wanted these kids, and Nancy, to win. Of course, we all know they will win at some point (read. "some"), but until then, we get treated with a more open and creative Freddy.

Dream Warriors marked Freddy's step into big franchising; he has his scary moments, intimidating at most, but take notice that at this point, most of Freddy's kills start to become more cartoonish, albeit gruesome. The "Nerve-Walker" scene, for one, is a fine example of blending horror, grue and comic humor. Starting with Freddy forming himself out of a puppet before growing back to his normal form, he then, cringingly, sliced a victim's limbs open and forcing his veins/muscle strands out ala puppet strings before forcing him to walk all the way to the top of a tower, wherein a god-like Freddy playfully cuts him loose and plunging him down to his death. Other deaths had gone a sense of irony; one gal, an aspiring actress, gets her "big break in TV" while another gets ODed with a rush. But what does make this movie infamous as an entry is that it took a chance to kill off sympathetic characters, and too, killing off some of some important characters without much regret.

Another winning aspect of Dream Warrior is it's more expanded mythology; in here, we learned a little more of Freddy's history (and I mean "little"), wherein it was hinted he was the "bastard son of a hundred maniacs", born from a poor raped nun who got trapped with them. So, Freddy's morphs from a standard supernatural boogieman, to a personification of corrupting innocence and that the world is a dangerous place, which kinda seeps in between the cracks of the story. Take note that the deaths are rhetorical in nature as they are ironic; each showing these kids' source of inner strengths (one's self-esteem and will to change like Kristen and  goth-chick Taryn, adventurous and creative upbringing like that of wheelchair bound nerd Will, and sculptor and puppeteer Phillip), all crafted and turned against them, representing the youth's hopes and dreams being crushed. If we're going to be a little more philosophical, this could represent Freddy's apparent immortality, in which these real life cases of troubled youths are a situation still present til' today.

To further support this social mirroring, the film's adults mostly failed to communicate to these children and failed to see the threat, much like Dr. Elizabeth Simms, the head doctor, who's stubborn persistence of her medical beliefs sets a higher priority over the children's ensured safety. The only one who saw the true nature of the threat, Nancy, represents that one adult that any troubled child can go to, some one who never forgotten that he/she was once a teenager like them and can personally relate.

So Dream Warriors marks the franchise's step into the big leagues, with a winning combination of gory visual treat, effective acting and strong mythology. This maybe the last time we'll see Freddy as a terrifying monster, as you can tell from the upcoming sequels, his persona evolves drastically from a shadowy monster to a stand-up comedian with a bloody claw, but until his cartoonish decent into stardom and public acceptance, we will definitely remember this as one of his best  sequels to date.

Personally? I kinda prefer New Nightmare as the powerhouse sequel that I can worship day and night, but Dream Warriors has that 80s love letter written all over it. Rock and roll music, bobble hairs, loads of cheesy effects, and of course, Freddy Krueger, where else can you find one of the finest 80s slashers out there than here in Dream Warriors?

1 male falls off a tower
1 female head bashed into TV
1 female suffers from drug overdose
1 male razor glove to the gut
1 male impaled on a car tail fin
1 female razor glove to the gut
total: 6


  1. Certainly far and away the best of the series after the gold standard classic that is the first NOES. My Memorial Day Friday/Freddy fest re-introduced me to Wes Craven's New Nightmare - and it comes in third.

    1. Guess New Nightmare's getting a lot of comeback in this generation! New Nightmare was supposed to be Part 3, but the studio bigheads thought otherwise...