Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Chuck Russell, 1987)

To be fair, Heather Langenkamp's Nancy Thompson was only sixteen or seventeen years-old in the first movie (even though, according to her, she looked twenty). In other words, I shouldn't have expected too much, as far as sophistication goes, when it came to her clothes and make-up. Unwilling to cut her and her movie a break, I deemed A Nightmare on Elm Street as un-reviewable after it was over. Not giving me much to work with when it came to style and fashion, I rejected the film on that basis, and that basis alone. Don't get me wrong, the film, written and directed by Wes Craven (The People Under the Stairs), is definitely well-made. It just failed to move me. On the other hand, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge did nothing but move me. Seriously, I love that movie. With my interest in the Freddy K. saga reinvigorated thanks to the gayest horror sequel the 1980s ever produced, I was ready to continue my journey down Elm Street. Unfortunately, the first name listed in the opening credits for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors was Heather Langenkamp. This caused me much alarm, as I feared that part three would be a repeat of what happened in the first film. Sure, this one is directed by Chuck Russell, who also made the amazing remake of The Blob. But that being said, my expectations, I have to say, were pretty low as things got underway.

My mood perked up almost immediately, however, as Chuck Russell's immense talent as a filmmaker is clearly evident in the opening scene. Which features Patricia Arquette's Kirsten Parker wandering through a creepy nightmare-world. It's true, all the films in the series so far (even Mahalkaal, the Bollywood remake of the first film) boast opening scenes that feature frightened dreamers exploring the sinister confines of their own nightmares. But the scene that opens A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is way more polished than the others.

So, like I said, I was in a good mood. What I mean is. I'm not going to let Heather Langenkamp's lack of flair in the fashion department ruin what could potentially be a pretty effective horror sequel.

After Kristen Parker's weird dream is over, her mega-milf of a mom, Elaine (the smokin' hot Brooke Bundy), finds her in the bathroom in the process of slitting her wrists. Even though we know that Fred Krueger (Robert Englund) is the one responsible for the wrist cutting, her mom sends her to a  juvenile psych ward run by... YES!!!! The  juvenile psych ward Kirsten is sent to is run by Craig Wasson, who played the white pantie-loving, porn-curious voyeur in Body Double.

Just as an orderly named Max (Larry Fishburne) is finishing up giving the audience a tour of the ward, we hear a commotion transpiring down the hall. It would seem that Kristen is having a bit of a conniption fit. Grabbing a scalpel, Kirsten threatens to cut anyone, including Craig Wasson's Neil Gordon and Max the orderly, who stands in her way.

As she's singing the One, Two, Freddy's Coming For You nursery rhyme, and about to really go off the deep end, an über-chic woman walks in the door and defuses the situation with a devil may care brand of elan. Hugging the über-chic woman, as the hospital staff look on with amazement, Kristen... Hold on. I don't believe this. The über-chic woman is Heather Langenkamp!

I don't know what happened between the first movie and this one, but Nancy Thompson is no longer the gawky teen with terrible taste in clothes we once knew. No, what you're looking at now is a modern woman who knows how to throw together an ensemble in a pinch.

We're talking blazers, skirts with slits, pumps, hats, shawls, pearls, lipstick, earrings, and blouses... lot's of blouses. (Don't forget, she carries a purse now.) Oh, yeah. She carries a purse. You see, teenagers don't have much use for purses. Adult women, however, need purses. After all, where else are they gonna put their experimental anti-psychotic medication?

Oh, haven't you heard? Nancy Thompson takes this drug to keep Fred Krueger at bay. She suggests to Neil that his patients, including Kristen; Kincaid, a.k.a. "Cool Breeze" (Ken Sagos); Joey (Rodney Eastman); Phillip, a.k.a. "The Walker" (Bradley Gregg); Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow); Will, a.k.a. "The Wizard Master" (Ira Heiden); and Taryn (Jennifer Rubin), take the drug as well, but he's a tad hesitant, as he doesn't buy the whole "a knife-glove-wielding serial killer is tormenting the children of the parents who burned him to death in their dreams" story.

During her first night at the hospital, Kirsten is confronted in her dreams by Fred Krueger. Except, instead of simply slashing her to death with his knife-glove, Fred transforms himself into a giant worm. As the Fred worm is consuming Kristen, she decides to yell out Nancy's name. And lo and behold, Nancy hears her, and, get this, enters Kirsten's dream to help her. (Wait, she can do that?) Apparently. It's a pretty cool addition to the mythology.

The next day, all the patient characters I mentioned earlier and Nancy and Neil partake in a group session, where "straight-talk" is encouraged. Other than Taryn's weird hand gestures, the only other thing worth noting about this scene is that Phillip has a lot of dialogue. Hmm, I wonder if he's going to be Fred's first victim.

As Nancy and Neil talk Hypnocil (an experimental anti-psychotic medication) at Springwood's best and only Thai restaurant, and Joey and Will sleep in shifts (the logic being, they can wake each other if their dreams get too intense), Phillip begins to sleepwalk through the ward. Sounds innocent enough. Except, Phillip, a guy who makes marionette puppets in his spare time, is being controlled by Fred. And instead of using puppet string, Fred is using Phillip's tend... You know what? I can't finish talking about this scene. It has to be one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen.

While not as disturbing as the tendon puppet scene, the TV room scene is just as memorable. It also causes you to start paying attention to what the characters are saying. You see, Phillip mentions that he likes to make his own puppets, and he's killed in the manner I alluded to earlier. And the TV room character says something about wanting to be on television someday.

Well, I guess you can't really pay attention to what Joey says, as he doesn't talk. But he does openly lust after  Nurse Marcie (Stacey Alden), who, for some strange reason, doesn't wear white stockings (she does wear a white thong, though). Meaning, you can expect Fred to use Joey's thing for Nurse Marcie when it comes to time to fuck his shit up.

Anyway, the fact that each character's run-in with Fred corresponds with an aspect of their personality is one of the film's strong points. My favourite run-in, of course, being Fred's back-alley confrontation with Taryn, whose dream persona is a double switchblade-wielding punk rocker.

When I first saw Taryn (moping the halls of the hospital like a unkempt rag-doll), I was like: Why is she so goddamn frumpy? I mean, someone lend this girl a hair brush, stat. Little did I know that they were going to give her the punk makeover to end all punk makeovers later on in the movie.

Oh, and being that she's a recovering drug addict, Taryn should expect Fred to use her addiction against her when the time comes.

When it becomes obvious that Freddy plans on bumping off the youthful patients one by one, Nancy, Kristen and those not killed yet, decide to confront him as a team, or, you could say, confront him as "dream warriors."

While I'll admit, I have a major soft spot for A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, I can't deny that A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is superior in almost every way imaginable. Now, granted, it doesn't have part two's gay subtext, but there's more to life than gay subtexts. Seriously, the so-called "kills" are so wonderfully inventive, that you'll have no choice to look past the fact that it has zero gay subtext. Or maybe it does (have a gay subtext), and I just missed it. Nah.

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