Schlocktoberfest #9: Dream Warriors
Darth Milk wanted to watch this because of the D&D nerd in it- we just watched Monster Camp, about LARPers- people who dress up and play a game like Dungeons & Dragons in the woods- and it was hilarious. The A Nightmare on Elm Street series is probably the best of the long-going horror series out there. Friday the 13th? The first two are pretty good, but he’s just a dude in a hockey mask. Freddy has the whole dreamscape background in his favor- anything can happen, and usually does. Halloween? I understand the influence of the first film, and love John Carpenter, but I think the best one in the series is probably Halloween 3: The Season of the Witch, where they went in a completely different direction. Sure it’s cheesy and awful, but it’s more interesting than an invincible guy in a Shatner mask who wants to kill his sister.
This third entry goes back to the roots of the series- bringing back Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) from the first film, as an intern at a juvenile mental institution. The teens there have a myriad of problems, from drugs to suicidal tendencies, and Freddy is haunting all of their dreams. Dr. Neil (Craig Wasson) is trying to treat the kids, but their dreams have gotten worse, and no one believes how real they are. Once Nancy infiltrates the place, she tells the story of Freddy Krueger, and how they must dream together to fight him once and for all.
The kids are a motley gang- there’s the kid gone mute from emotional scars, a shy guy who makes puppets, a violent black kid who ends up in the padded room a lot, the girl who wants to be a star, the suicidal kid in a wheelchair who’s obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons, and the girl recovering from heroin addiction. The movie centers on Kristin (Patricia Arquette), whose mom is a slut who locks her in the loony bin when she interrupts one of her one-night stands. The recurring theme of the Elm Street series is that the sins of the parents are delivered upon the children, as Freddy was a child killer burned to death by the Concerned Parents Committee. Wes Craven has a theme of kids in trouble due to absentee parents, and here Kristin is tormented by Freddy in her dreams, where he makes it seem like she slashed her wrists.
Nancy is the only survivor from the first film, where Freddy returned to avenge his death, and now it is 3 years later; she has a streak of white hair marking her previous encounter with the dreamslayer, and she wants to end his reign once and for all. The kids at the institution are the last of the Elm Street children, so Nancy knows Freddy will be haunting their dreams. She sees Kristin in the throes of a nightmare, and as soon as she sits down to try to sleep and help her, she is immediately pulled into the dream world. Kristin has the power to bring people into her dreams, so she can pull them together to fight him. This time Freddy is a scabrous snake with a human head; pretty good stop-animation. The effects are always tops in a Freddy movie.
Once Freddy knows Kristin will be a tough cookie, he works on the weaklings. The kid who makes puppets is the first to go- Freddy yanks out his veins like marionette strings, and makes him his own puppet, dragging him out a window to make it look like suicide. Back in ’87 when this came out, teen suicide rings were big news, and this was an interesting take on it. The best parts of a Freddy movie are the bizarre dreams and Freddy’s ironic methods of murder, with his awful puns. Robert Englund gets to chew the scenery where Jason, Leatherface and Michael Myers have to be mutes, so it gives him great advantage in the entertainment department.
We learn more of Freddy’s origin in this one too- we knew he was the “Bastard Son of a Hundred Maniacs,” the child of a nun who was locked over the weekend in an institution, where she was gang-raped by the psychotic inmates. Now we meet his mother in spirit, as her ghost informs Dr. Neil how to finish Freddy for all. His bones must be buried on hallowed ground, so we have to find his corpse. Nancy and Neil go to find her Dad- John Saxon reprising his role- to show them where Freddy’s bones lie.
The final battle is fought on two fronts this time, with the kids fending off Freddy in the dream world, while Lt. Thompson and Dr. Neil have troubles of their own- Freddy’s bones don’t want to be buried! The dream battle is imaginative and creepy, once again in a hellish dreamscape, this time a hall of mirrors, and the pits of hell. Each kid has to face their deepest fears brought to life. The Wizard Kid’s famous fight is below:
Kristin and a few of the other kids manage to use their dream personae to fight back. Even Nancy gets some licks in, but Herr Krueger is the master of the dream world, and always wins. But this time Dad & Neil fight his remains- animated Jason and the Argonauts style- so they may have a chance to rid their dreams of the burn-scarred maniac once and for all. But since you know there are 5 more movies in the series counting Freddy vs. Jason, I think you know their victory is fleeting. Nothing beats the first movie in the series, but as the sequels go this is one of the best.