I’ve been kicking around an idea for a horror film. My film is set after a teen slasher-type event on St. Patricks Day and follows the only survivor as she returns home (covered in blood) and tries to rebuild the shattered pieces of her life after all her friends have been brutally murdered in surprisingly funny ways. I’m not too sure where this idea is heading which is why I haven’t sold it to Hollywood yet, or actually written it, but I’m fascinated with what must happen to those who get through the horror and come out the other side. Are they emotional wrecks, or have they turned into well-hard Vampire slayer types? How many end up in the military and how many end up in therapy?
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) kicks off with a teenage girl, Kristen, who is having scary dreams about Freddy Krueger. In the dream she is attacked and her wrists are slashed in the real world. Kristen’s ma thinks this is a suicide attempt and has her admitted to the local looney bin. On the same day as Kirsten is being committed, a new hot-shot grad student is joining the staff, Nancy Thompson – the main character from the first film who decided to make something of herself after her brush with the supernatural and went off to study psychiatry and specialised in sleep and dream related disorders, as you do.
Kristen is admitted to a ward along with a group of other teens who are all suffering from dream related problems and turn out to be the last of the Elm Street children. Kristen’s troubles with Fred continue despite the apparent safety of the hospital and during an attack she pulls Nancy into her dream, which puts the frighteners on old Freddy. Nancy and Kristen escape and Nancy, being the well-hard spook hunter she’s now become, cops on to the fact that Kirsten’s ability could be used to gather a posse into the dream world and deal with Krueger once and for all.
A sequel to a sequel is not an easy trick to pull off but I think Nightmare 3 caught a lucky break in the way the story continued in the second film in that it didn’t feature Nancy at all, so in a way it’s as if that film never happened, which is probably just as well as while it was enjoyable it didn’t really add anything to the Freddy Krueger story. Nightmare 3 doesn’t fall into that trap and instead makes the continuation of the tale, and therefore the franchise, its primary aim.
Nightmare 3 explains a lot, particularly about Freddy’s origins and why he was predisposed to becoming a child-killing psycho who’d return from beyond the grave. In a roundabout way it touches on the how dreams operate and how people like Kirsten have their particular ability which leads to the whole Dream Warriors concept, which is something they had to explore at this point as there’s only so many children of Elm street to go around and only so many times you can watch them getting slaughtered without wondering if someone is going to do something about it. Once they’d gotten to three movies it was a safe bet that there’d be one or two more so kicking off a bit of a run on a specific theme made sense.
Nancy turning out reasonably OK and then going into psychiatry actually feels perfectly reasonable considering everything that happened, it would either be that or off to a convent with her! In fact a nun does get a look in, which is nice. Turns out to be Freddy’s mum, which I guess is also OK, she was raped and Freddy is “the bastard son of a hundred maniacs” (great line), and she’s also a ghost, so you can see where the series is heading already
As a horror, Nightmare 3 plays heavily on the fear of those in need of help not being believed; in this case as they are patients in a psychiatric hospital, so most of those around them think they’re just nutters. After that it’s down to the gory and elaborate ways in which Freddy gets his victims to provide the shocks.
Nightmare 3 is very much stuck in the 1980’s, the music, scene dressing, costume, and cultural references are all wedged firmly in place, and the film can’t age well as too many of these things feature prominently. This could have been a timeless tale if the film-makers had used a slightly lighter hand, but I doubt that was even considered as this is really just a cashing in exercise.
On the casting side some famous faces to keep an eye out for include Laurence Fishburne (billed as Larry Fishburne) and Patricia Arquette, who both turn in decent performances, Heather Langenkamp returning as Nancy is only passable now that she was no longer playing the innocent teen. Unfortunately the other remaining children of Elm street are either just too young or too bad at acting for some of the material, and more than one performance is best ignored. The direction is functional in the extreme, even for a slasher flick, and if it wasn’t for Robert Englund’s performance the whole thing would likely have fallen asunder.
Englund (as Freddy) gets all the best lines, again, though his mum muscles in on things with the bastard line. The line he gives when he kills Kirsten’s dream mother over the missing bourbon is excellent. Another excellent point about the film is the mechanical effects which are first rate and are the kind of effects you just don’t see anymore. The animation effects on the other hand are shite, thankfully you don’t see that kind of thing anymore either
Despite its failings Nightmare 3 is an enjoyable slasher. Some of the effects and certain quality members of the cast elevate it perhaps higher than it deserves, while it‘s dragged back down to earth with a bang as a result of the weaker cast and pedestrian direction. Its better then the first sequel, but not quite as good as the original.
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