Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Frank Review of "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" (1987)

The Short Version? Freddy's back! So's everybody else! Now with more dream power!
What Is It? Horror/Adventure
Who Is In It? Freddy Krueger, Morpheus, Medium, Dick Cavett, Zsa Zsa Gabor, the guy from Body Double and a few surprises.
Should I See It? Yes.

I saw all six Star Wars movies in their initial release, and as a child, my favorite was Return of the Jedi. It was the brightest, fastest paced, and most action packed. It wasn't until years later that I realized it was also the dumbest, most repetitive, and worst shot of the three.

Dream Warriors was either the first "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie I ever saw, or more likely, the first in a theater. I viewed "Part 2: Freddy's Revenge" around the same time, and the original thereafter. That was also my pecking order of favoritism for years, with none of the later entries meriting consideration.

Now, my primary male role models growing up were super-heroes, and I avoided horror movies until too late of an age. Watching the first two Nightmares was probably a bit much for me, as they stick with the formula of normal, vulnerable teens in way over their heads. I expect what I liked about "Dream Warriors" was that this time, you had a virtual super-team of heroes to offer the dastardly villain a genuine challenge. Sure, they were junkies, dorks, and nutjobs, with their headquarters a mental hospital, but they had a seasoned veteran from a previous movie to guide them toward their own fantastic costumes and powers. The murderous Freddy Krueger traded his creepy old house for a secret lair in some secluded patch of Hell, and bigger budget special effects gave him far more elaborate killing options than his rusty old knives. He may have been the star of the show, but as in Tomb of Dracula, the bogeyman would now share space with a group of adversaries set on destroying him once and for all.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that sounds a lot more like an action movie premise. Hell, the writer of Dreamscape, the adventure oriented flipside of Nightmare released the same year, even directed this entry in the franchise. Where there was a total of about four victims in 1984's Nightmare, the mental hospital offers a fresh sacrifice about every quarter hour. That means characters are generally introduced, given a "hook" to catch your interest in place of a personality, and then butchered in an elaborate set piece. It's hard to get worked up enough over cannon fodder to fear for them, and without that identification, the primary point of interest is seeing how imaginative and well realized their tortures are. It makes for a fun ride, but not much for terror.

What works about "Dream Warriors" is that it has a strong story, very memorable effects, and overall much better acting than the earlier movies. The story greatly expands the mythology of Krueger, offering points everyone involved with the franchise have exploited at some point. The more you reveal about Fred Krueger though, the more familiar and non-frightening he becomes. Returning characters prove that despite the increased scale of mayhem here, Krueger's reach remains limited. As with "Freddy's Revenge," rules are broken, but for some reason this flick got a free pass where part two was pilloried. I guess "Dream Warriors," written with the kitchen sink quality of an intended final chapter in a trilogy, offers a satisfying if somewhat abrupt conclusive. It's an entertaining but overpraised flick, but ultimately not half as intellectually interesting as "Freddy's Revenge" (though light years away from the back five additional sequels to date.)

I picked up the 4 Film Favorites edition, which offered early, stripped down DVDs in a single affordable case. Slim extras came with the savings.
  • Theatrical Trailer An extended, wholly original teaser with more mood and starts than the film it advertised.
  • Cast and Crew Bios from the 1987 press kit.
  • Audio, Aspect and Scene Selection bullshit

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