A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Claw vs. Teeth
★★★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1987
Director: 
Chuck Russell
Starring: 
Heather Langenkamp, Craig Wasson, Patricia Arquette, Robert Englund, Laurence Fishburne
The Setup: 
Freddy is after "the last of the Elm Street kids."
Discussion: 

I had a reader who was pretty keen that I should watch this IMMEDIATELY, and he described it as having a lot of ridiculous 80s elements, which always appeals, and so I made it my business to see it sooner rather than later. You know, the 70s get such a bad rap for their fashion and the way people were, but you know, the further we get away from them the more fabulous they look. It's the 80s that REALLY have some 'splaining to do.

Okay, so we have our credits, where we discover that Heather Langenkamp, Nancy from the first installment, is in this. So is Patricia Arquette! In fact, it's her first movie. We've also got "Larry" Fishburne, Craig Wasson of Body Double, and Priscilla Pointer! I was all like "Ooh snap, there's going to be one of the Pointer Sisters in this movie!" but it's actually Sue Snell's mom from Carrie [also Jeffrey’s mom from Blue Velvet], who actually is the real mother of Amy Irving. Then the credits go on and you see John Saxon will make an appearance, as well as Dick Cavett? And Zsa-Zsa Gabor??? Well, that's what it says. We also notice that the screenplay is co-written by Craven and Frank Darabont, who went on to direct The Shawshank Redemption and The Mist, among others.

So Kristen, that's our baby Patricia Arquette, is staying up late, working on making a model of this creepy old house. She puts a spoonful of instant Maxwell House in her mouth, then washes this down with Diet Coke—which is sick. Then—time to ROCK! She turns on the generic 80s metal, then her mom comes home. Mom tells her to go to bed, but doesn't have time to listen to her terrible dream, because she's got a MAN downstairs. Kristen goes into the house she was just making, where all these kids are singing the spooky Freddy rhyme outside. She wanders around, getting ever-more lost, and Freddy gets to make a nice, long entrance. At one point sink faucets and plumbing morph into Freddy's hands. When Kristen wakes, she finds she has slashed her wrists. So they pack her off to the loony bin.

We join Craig Wasson as Neil, this doctor at the local mental hospital, talking to Laurence Fishburne as Max about the rash of teenage suicides in the area. They hear screaming in a room, and it's Kristen, fighting everyone off with a scalpel! This girl's got spunk. Then, in walks—NANCY! She's huge hair, HUGE teeth—and a huge heart! Her hair, now in a 'sophisticated' giant, massive, lumpen mess of perm, has a shock of white hair in it—I guess post-Poltergeist, this is the OFFICIAL sign of having done battle in the supernatural realms. Her teeth are also so big she could sub in for the screen at a drive-in theater. For the first 30 minutes, every time she was on I was saying to the screen "Hi, I'm Nancy, have you happened to notice my teeth?" Heather Langenkamp still works today, but hasn't done too much of note, although I must mention that she played Nancy Kerrigan in a TV movie about the whole Tanya Harding thing. Nancy is an intern at the mental hospital which is run by uptight Priscilla Pointer as Dr. Simms. Nancy and Neil form a little bond right from the start, and go to get information from Kristen's mom, who is a shrill bitch with this AMAZING inverted triangle hairstyle. It's really shocking.

So Kristen has another dream, which I recall was pretty good, although I don't remember anything about it, and she calls Nancy into it. You see, Kristen has this weird ability to pull people into her dreams. Kristen says "The man of my dreams is real, isn't he?" Well sweetie, isn't that what we ALL want to know. We then get introduced to the whole group of troubled teens at the institution—golly, I wonder if these folks will become the dream warriors?—including this nerd with big glasses in a wheelchair, little Joey who is mute, a black kid [sassy, natch], and a sullen punk girl named TARYN. Taryn is played by Jennifer Rubin, who was Alicia Silverstone's best friend in The Crush!

Anyway, Joey and this other kid, Philip, go to bed. There's this marionette on the wall that forms into Freddy, then gets down and walks forward in stop-motion animation. Don't you love when EVERYTHING wasn't done with computer animation? Slits on Philip's arms and feet open up and sinews come out—which is GROSS—and he is walked like a marionette up to the tower, where he jumps off in front of everybody. The next day in group therapy all the kids are upset that none of the adults will believe them about Freddy, and that they are being killed, instead of killing themselves. Neil gets frustrated and shouts "Philip killed himself! Now, that's a cowardly thing! That's an empty thing! He let himself down! He let all of us down!" I just love it when people get histrionic like that. And uh, VALUE JUDGEMENTS, Neil? Jeez.

So Simms is a total battle-axe who will not give on anything. Nancy convinces Neil to give the kids a dream-suppressing drug. Then this girl gets her head pulled into a TV—that has Dick Cavett and Zsa-Zsa on it. This was SUCH a bummer, as I would have LOVED it if Zsa-Zsa had really been in the movie. At the funeral, Neil meets this mysterious nun he's seen before, and one notes that Nancy is dressed a little too glam for a funeral. It's not about YOU, Nancy. Anyway, due to this death, Nancy finally spills the fantastic truth to Neil. I should also mention that it kind of seems like they're trying to make Nancy out to be all adult and 'sexy' now. She gets permission to address the kids' discussion group, and she gives them the lowdown of Freddy. She says that they're the "last of the Elm Street kids" and says that they are paying for the sins of their parents. That's one of the geniuses of this particular series—the horror is inherently confined to teenagers, parents don't understand and don't believe what they're going through, and furthermore, it's all the parents' FAULT. So they decide to do group hypnosis, and Kristen is going to pull them all into the same dream. I'm sure you can see where this is going.

SPOILERS > > >
So Neil hypnotizes them all to go to sleep, but they wake immediately and think it didn't work. Then mute Joey wanders off and this cute nurse comes on to him. She takes her clothes off and kisses him, then her massive tongue is going down his throat, and of course this turns out to be Freddy. Now I'm sure you know that the second movie in this franchise is noted as the gayest horror movie of all time, and this little scene is almost like a tribute. I mean, Freddy poses as a woman and seduces a male kid? And is French kissing him? And the kid has Freddy's long tongue rammed down his throat? If you don't think there's anything homo about that, I invite you to consider this picture:

Joey is tied to the bed [with tongues—it's very weird] and roasted over an open flame to bring out all the natural flavors. Then the others kids realize that they're in the dream. They enact their dream abilities, for example Kristen is a gymnast [that'll help, you'll just triple-axle him to death!], and wheelchair kid can walk, and not only that, but is a "Wizard Master." He turns a floating ball into a butterfly, and we have this shot, which would not look out of place in any Disney live action movie:

Taryn's fantasy is that she is beautiful—and bad, which means that she has a Mohawk, is wearing black leather with a collar around her neck, and has double switchblades. But their special powers don't do much as the walls get really hot and start closing in. They just stand around panicking until the door opens—and it's Sue Snell's Mom! She is pretty fuckin' pissed about them doing these experiments, especially now that Joey is in a coma! And Neil and Nancy get fired!

So Neil sees the nun up in the belfry, and she tells him about this young girl that got locked up in that very tower over the weekend, with all the crazy inmates, and "was raped hundreds of times" and became pregnant—and her baby was Freddy, "the bastard son of a hundred maniacs!" [or something like that.] She also spills the crucial information that Freddy can be laid to rest if they find his remains and bury him in hallowed ground. So Nancy realizes that she's gotta find her dad—at the local bar—and find out where those pesky remains are. He's now a drunk cop—but still kinda sexy! Go John Saxon! He believes all this Freddy crap is just so much bullshit—although I thought he was fairly convinced at the end of the first film—and essentially tells Nancy to piss off. Neil tells Nancy to go find the other kids, and he gets all up in Dad's face and forces him to help.
< < < SPOILERS END

I'm not going to tell you what happens, but I will mention that it does include a neat stop-motion animated skeleton [you know, silly, but neat] and the "Wizard Master" jumping up and fighting Freddy is his little cape with big collar that stands straight up. It was pretty good—this is widely considered to be the best of the sequels. It actually kind of has a story with complications and extends nicely from the first film. The second movie is completely ignored. Apparently Craven didn't want there to be sequels at all [says Wikipedia], and intended this one to be the last—but then it was too successful, and that was it.

Dream sequences are always fun, and this one has some pretty good and creative ones. Add to that all of the horrendously 80s touches, like the styles and the very conceptions of many of these characters, and you pretty much have a winner. Hmm, yeah—I really don't have all that much more to say about it.

Should you watch it: 

If you like. Especially if you're a fan of the series.