Friday, October 14, 2011

“In my dreams I am the Wizard Master.”

So despite the horrid mess of a movie that Freddy‘s Revenge was, the Nightmare series survived and even brought Wes Craven back. The results are a marked improvement in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.

So now it’s 6 years after the first film (the events of the second being quietly swept under the rug) and a teen girl is so haunted by a strange house in her dreams that she makes a replica house of it. It’s the Thompson house on Elm Street and after a dream attack that leaves her wrists slashed, she gets institutionalized at Westin Hills Hospital. In said institution, she meets a bunch of other kids similarly plagued by nightmares. These are the “last of the Elm Street children” and Freddy wants to finish cleaning house, so to speak. Despite opposition from the chief of the hospital, Nancy and Neil start working with the kids to be able to control their actions in their dreams (essentially lucid dreaming), and they all kind of develop specific “dream powers” that will hopefully help them combat Freddy and stop him from coming back to the real world.

Nancy Thompson: Heather Langenkamp returns a bit later in the movie. She’s an adult now and after her previous experiences, she’s gone into psychiatry to help other kids tortured by bad dreams and whatever. She’s the shock of white hair she‘s got has somehow migrated to the other side of her face and for some reason has picked up a southern accent OUT OF NOWHERE.

Kristen Parker: Patricia Arquette plays our protagonist. She’s an average teen who’s misunderstood, but she’s also got moxie and initiative. Her dream power is the ability to pull other people into her own dreams.

Jennifer Caulfield: Penelope Sudrow plays one of the kids at the institute who’s offed fairly early on. She’s a wannabe TV actress and a couch potato and probably gets one of the most memorable deaths in the movie. Welcome to prime time, indeed.

Taryn White: Jennifer Rubin is a former junkie who’s feisty and sarcastic nature hides a very damaged girl. Her dream power is two switchblades. …Yeah.

Will Stanton: Ira Heiden plays kid who was paralyzed in a previous suicide attempt to escape his nightmares. He’s a fan of a generic equivalent to D&D and his dream power is that he’s got wizard powers. Yeah, sure, okay.

Roland Kincaid: Ken Sagoes is actually quite likable as the aggressive, mouthy black kid who picks super strength as his dream power, which is an entirely sensible choice.

Joey Crusel: Rodney Eastman plays a kid so traumatized by nightmares that he can’t even speak. He kind of becomes a Macguffin, getting captured by Freddy and used as bait for the other kids to try and rescue him.

Philip: Bradley Gregg plays Freddy’s first victim in the movie and as such he’s a bit vague of character. He’s got a penchant for sleepwalking though, and that ends…badly.

Dr. Neil Gordon: Craig Wasson plays the lead psychiatrist in charge of the kids’ cases. He’s a well-meaning chap and does his best to try and figure things out. He gets a subplot where he starts seeing the ghost of a nun providing him with clues to Freddy’s backstory and origins.

Lt. Donald Thompson: John Saxon! He’s back, though somewhat estranged from his daughter Nancy. He’s needed because to stop Freddy, they need to bury his bones

Max: Laurence Fishburne. Yes! Really! He plays a kindly orderly who follows orders but stays charitable to the kids.

Freddy Krueger: Robert Englund really starts getting into the swing of things. Freddy’s personality solidifies as a wicked punster with a dark sense of poetic villainy, and things really take off whenever he’s on screen. We also get backstory. Apparently, his mother, a nun working at the hospital, was somehow locked up in the psych ward and all the inmates got out and assaulted and raped her, making him, in effect, the bastard son of 100 maniacs.

I think everyone's obligated to post this pic when discussing Dream Warriors.

Chuck Russell directed the film. Keeping most of it in a psych ward in a hospital helps to lend a claustrophobic atmosphere to it. However, that’s not where the movie shines. The movie’s absolute strength is found in the truly imaginative special effects. There are a lot of dream sequences in this movie. Some obviously so, other not so much. It allows for a wide range of special effects going from several stop motion puppets (a skeletal Freddy with his glove is a highlight), a bit of early CGI in some places, and a cornucopia of practical effects which are fantastically done. The dream sequences are a real highlight and the Freddy kills start to get really imaginative. You can tell this movie had a budget and it made effective use of it.

Story by Wes Craven & Bruce Wagner, Screenplay by Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont, & Chuck Russell. The story is actually quite complicated. It has to juggle a lot of characters, at least two major plotlines, the introduction of major backstory elements, and has an underlying theme that touches upon mental illness and a little bit of teen suicide. This movie has a lot going on, plot-wise, and manages to pull it off very well. There’s also a high degree of camp in the movie, what with Freddy’s numerous one-liners, several goofy (but imaginative) dream sequences, and the fact that the teens all have highly specialized “dream powers” by the end of the movie. There’s no two ways around it: a group of misfit teens use their super powers to fight Freddy Krueger. That’s GOOFY. And I like it that way.

Original score by Angelo Badalmenti, which is again, fully atmospheric and fully enmeshed in 1987.

Oh yes, and the theme song was written by Dokken. Dokken! Not only does “Dream Warriors” rock out as only 80’s hair metal can, the music video for it is amazing.

So much hair, GLORIOUS HAIR!

Dream Warriors is a great entry in the Nightmare series. It’s got outstanding effects, a capable cast and I think Englund’s straddling the line between menacing and cheesiness is at its height in the series. Entertaining and thoroughly satisfying.

Probably the best trailer for the Nightmare series.

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