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Reviews

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Chuck Russell

USA, 1987

Credits

Review by Adam Balz

Posted on 30 October 2006

Source New Line Home Video VHS

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Sleep.
Those little slices of death.
How I loathe them.

—Edgar Allen Poe

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors begins promisingly enough with the passage above, a telling few sentences that embody our fears of the unexpected, the uncontrollable. When we sleep we are vulnerable, both to the outside world and the purged, internal workings of our mind. Were Chuck Russell’s film a masterfully told horror film in the mold of Craven’s prototype, the quote would be appropriate. But considering this is Part 3, which hinges on the regurgitation of past storylines and revelations about Freddy Krueger’s conception and death, Poe’s ominous thoughts are merely an unnecessary fa√ßade.

Nancy Thompson, having survived Freddy Krueger’s original Elm Street massacre, returns to face the child murderer as he torments another slew of teenagers — sons and daughters of the vigilante parents who originally killed him. Now institutionalized, where they suffer from sleep deprivation and insomnia, the Elm Street children are under the care of Doctors Neil Gordon and Elizabeth Simms, both of whom dismiss any notion that their dreams are lethal. “You won’t make any progress until you recognize your dreams for what they really are,” says Dr. Simms. “The byproducts of guilt. Psychological scars stemming from moral conflicts and overt sexuality.” When Thompson arrives as an intern, she feels an immediate connection to the young patients, even though her own dreams have been suppressed by Hypnocil, an experimental drug. When Freddy begins barbarically killing them off — in one instance, leading a teenage boy to the tower of an abandoned wing by his veins, then watching him fall — they join together and, through hypnosis, attempt to defeat him.

Dependent almost solely on special effects for thrills, including a rather imaginative scene in which the faces of children appear in Freddy’s burned skin, the film’s most disquieting imagery comes when a solitary nun played with elegant distress by Nan Martin recounts the story of Freddy’s conception:

A young girl on the staff was accidentally locked in [the ward] over the holidays. The inmates kept her hidden for days; she was raped hundreds of times. When they found her she was barely alive, and with child. That girl was Amanda Krueger; her child, the bastard son of a hundred maniacs. Some say he was murdered. No body was ever found.

And even while this scene is explicitly haunting, it allows the plot to begin a desperate descent into triviality. Doctor Gordon takes on the responsibility of finding Freddy’s bones and burying them on hollowed ground; when he tries, the remains become animated and kill Nancy’s father, one of Freddy’s many killers and Gordon’s guide to the grave. Meanwhile, the institutionalized teens enter Freddy’s dream world with newfound “powers”: super-human strength, wizardry, gymnastics. But each ability fails, and Freddy claims Nancy in the end.

Originally intending to end the Nightmare series after this installment, New Line Cinema was persuaded to let the franchise continue after Part 3’s unexpected success. Since then, Craven’s original idea has been profanely drawn out into five more sequels, creating a detestable canon of commercialism over creativity. (Craven’s attempts at revitalizing his original idea in Part 7, while simultaneously ridiculing his successors, temporarily and rightfully redeemed the series, as well as Craven’s own reputation.) And while blame is omniscient, Part 3 is responsible for the continued desecration of cinema’s great boogeyman.

→ Continue: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

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