“Sleep. Those little slices of Death. How I loathe them.”
Edgar Allen Poe
Why did I opt to write about “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors” given the number of sequels I could have chosen from? The answer is simple, it is my favorite, and, in my opinion, with the exception of the original, and some might justifiably argue “The New Nightmare,” I consider it the best of the franchise. Directed by Chuck Russell (Eraser), the movie opened nationwide on February 27, 1987, and more than earned its money back. Budgeted for approximately four and half million dollars, the film would go on to earn almost forty-five million dollars. Amongst the sequels, the movie is the third highest grossing of the franchise, “Freddy vs. Jason” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master,” hold the top two spots. Contributing to the screenplay and story, was the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” writer and director, Wes Craven, who collaborated with, among others, Bruce Wagner (Map to the Stars). In addition, Chuck Russell also had input on the script, as well as Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee, writer and director, Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead). (As an aside: the film would mark the first writing credit Darabont ever received.)
The badly burned Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), who wears on one hand a glove that has knives for fingers, is no longer relegated to Elm Street. He has successfully extracted his revenge against the residents of Springwood, who having resorted to vigilante justice, killed him. The end result of their actions, however, backfired. Instead of ending his nightmarish reign of terror, they turned the fedora and tattered red and green sweater wearing Krueger, into an even more dangerous predator in death. As aforementioned in the blog on the original, he has the ability to enter dreams at will. Not only can he invade a person’s subconscious, but also use a particular person’s darkest fears to the most detrimental and deadly effect possible.
At the beginning of the 96 minute film, a teenage girl is constructing a paper-mache house out of newspaper and paste. She is listening to the song “Into the Fire” by Dokken. Desperate to stay awake, she is shown swallowing a spoonful of coffee grinds and washing them down with a soda. The girl’s name is Kristen Parker, she is portrayed, by Primetime Emmy winning actress, Patricia Arquette (Medium). The role was Arquette’s screen debut. Unbeknownst to Kristen, the house she is building is the Thompson home that featured prominently in the original film. The viewer will later learn that Kristen, who has never been to the actual Thompson house in real life, is creating it out of her dreams. Entering her room, to not only have Kristen turn off her radio, but to get her daughter to go to bed, is her mother, Elaine (Brooke Bundy). She is entertaining a male guest she has brought home.
Reluctantly, Kristen obeys her mother, and no sooner does she fall asleep, than she enters Freddy’s hellish world. Upon waking in her dream, she is standing in front of the same house she had been building while awake. A young girl, who is riding a red tricycle, enters the house. In an attempt to keep the child out of danger, Kristen runs into the house after her. Making her way to the basement, the girl lets Kristen know, that, that is where Freddy takes his victims. At the time, Kristen is standing next to a furnace which is operational. Kristen hears the sound of Freddy’s footsteps approaching; the girl lets her know that he is home. She picks the child up into her arms and runs as fast as she can, until she comes to a room where corpses are hanging by ropes from the ceiling. When Kristen looks down at the girl, it isn’t a girl at all, but the decayed remains of a child’s skeleton. Afterward, thinking that sight caused enough of a jarring effect to spring her to consciousness, Kristen feels that she is safely inside the bathroom of her bedroom. That is not the case, however, when the water faucets begin turning into Freddy’s razor sharp fingers and grab hold of her wrists. In the mirror, Kristen sees Freddy’s face; he is laughing at her, before he proceeds to cut her wrists. She screams, which finally wakes her from her nightmare. Seconds later, her mother bursts into the bathroom, and after looking at Kristen, surmises that her daughter has just tried to commit suicide. Elaine is at her wits end, so she admits Kristen to Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital for her own protection.
The hospital staff at Westin Hills, that the viewer is introduced to, is comprised of three individuals: Firstly, there is Dr. Elizabeth Simms (Priscilla Pointer). She is a no-nonsense, by the book doctor, who doesn’t pay any credence to what she thinks are the wild tales of a nightmarish, boogey-man, invented by the charges in her ward. Dr. Simms feels that the teens have created Freddy as an attempt to avoid having to face the real roots of their problems. Her polar opposite, Dr. Neil Gordon, in a role acted by Golden Globe nominee Craig Wasson (Body Double), is more sympathetic toward his patients’ concerns. While he might not believe the teenagers are really being hunted in their dreams by an evil entity, he is willing to listen to their stories. Additionally, Primetime Emmy winner Laurence Fishburne (What’s Love Got to Do with It), plays Max, a hospital orderly. He also demonstrates a genuine concern for the teens. Fishburne has a limited amount of screen time during the film, but as always, he is convincing in his role and makes the most of the time he is given.
Arriving at the same time that Kristen does is the intelligent and resourceful heroine from the first film, Nancy Thompson, who is portrayed by Heather Langenkamp. Six years have passed since she first did battle with Freddy. During her time away from Springwood, the viewer learns that she has been conducting research into the study of pattern nightmares. She has arrived at Westin Hills to intern in their psychiatric ward, and it seems, she has come not a moment too soon. It doesn’t take long before her skills are put to the test. Kristen has ripped her stitches from her wrists, attacked Max with a scalpel, and outright refused to allow Dr. Gordon to sedate her, knowing that Freddy will be waiting to finish what he has started, once she falls asleep. Backed into a corner with nowhere to run, she begins singing the familiar rhyme associated with Freddy:
One, two, Freddy’s coming for you.
Three, four, better lock your door.
Five, six, grab your crucifix.
Seven, eight, gonna stay up late.
Nine, ten, never sleep again.
Nancy enters the room and says the last line of the rhyme, which helps to calm the irate Kristen. She immediately questions Kristen as to where she learned the rhyme, while at the same time hugging the scared teenager, and removing the scalpel from her hand.
Kristen is not the only patient at Westin Hills, who is terrified of falling asleep. In fact, there are six other teenagers just like her. Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow) is an aspiring television actress, who resorts to burning herself with cigarettes in order to stay awake. Joey (Rodney Eastman) has been so traumatized by what he has seen in his dreams, that he remains mute throughout much of the film. Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) is quick witted, but also hot tempered, and has spent more than his fair share of time in the padded, quiet room, where those who misbehave are sent to cool down. Phillip (Bradley Gregg) is talented when it comes to making marionettes, but he also has a penchant for sleepwalking, something which will lead him into trouble later on in the film. Will (Ira Heiden) is in a wheelchair, because of a failed suicide attempt, while he was trying to escape from Freddy, and lastly, Taryn (Jennifer Rubin) was placed in Westin Hills, not only due to her insomnia, but her frequent drug abuse.
Dr. Gordon brings Nancy up to speed on the individual patients, all of whom, despite their varied problems, share the debilitating ills of insomnia. He speaks to the fact that, collectively, they all fear the same entity in their dreams; a person who is so vivid, and real, that they will do whatever it takes to stay awake, for fear of dying in their sleep. Sadly, according to Dr. Gordon, one deceased patient, had gone to the extreme lengths of cutting off his own eyelids, in order to not fall asleep. Nancy, as anyone who is familiar with the original entry to the series knows, is no stranger when it comes to the behavior being exhibited by the teenagers. Even six years later, the thought of encountering Freddy Krueger while sleeping, forces her to take an experimental drug called Hypnocil. The drug provides the user with a dreamless sleep, while at the same time suppresses the onset of night terrors.
Phillip experiences a surrealistic nightmare, the sort that only Freddy could concoct for someone to go through before ultimately ending their existence. Dr. Simms, of course, being the rigid ideologue that she is, chalks up Philip’s death to a sleep walking accident. Nancy, and the other patients are not buying one bit of that theory; especially the teenagers who watched exactly how Phillip died. Phillip’s hobby, as stated earlier was making marionettes. Phillip’s death is a very effective scene, with Freddy slicing out the boy’s veins in his arms and legs, and replacing them with puppet strings. He walks Phillip, like a real life marionette, to a high tower on the hospital grounds. The other teenagers, witnessing what is happening to Phillip, are screaming at him to wake up before it is too late. The entire time, Phillip is dreaming, he is fighting with every bit left in him, desperately struggling to try and keep himself from being murdered. Unfortunately, it makes no difference, in the end, as Freddy cuts the strings, causing Phillip to fall to his death.
Dr. Simms remedy to the problem is to have the patients’ doors locked at night, and to institute a policy of forced sedation. She justifies her actions, by stating that the teens need uninterrupted REM sleep. The policy outrages Nancy, who knows what Dr. Simms is doing will mean certain death for the teens. Fortunately for her, Dr. Gordon has become an ally in her fight against Freddy, and is willing to assist her with whatever she thinks needs to be done to help his patients. Going against Dr. Simms, he changes the orders, so that the teens will now receive Hypnocil, the same drug Nancy takes. Dr. Simms emphatically states that if the experiment backfires, she will have no choice but to go over his head and recommend that both he and Nancy be terminated. While Dr. Gordon outwardly supports Nancy, secretly he tells her he hopes she knows what she is doing.
For those of you who have not yet seen the film, I will not elaborate on how Nancy discovers that Kristen has an extraordinary gift. Kristen has the power to bring other people into her dreams, something she has been able to do since she was a small child. During a group therapy session, Nancy explains to the remaining teenagers, whose numbers have been reduced by two as a result of Jennifer also dying at Freddy’s hands, exactly who they are. They are not being targeted because of some random coincidence. No, who they are, is the last of the Elm Street children, and their parents taking the law into their own hands, is why they have incurred Freddy’s wrath. She lets them know her own history with Krueger, and speaks to the fact that years earlier he killed off all of her friends, and almost managed to kill her, before she learned the secret to stopping him. This time around, Nancy believes Kristen is the key to Freddy’s demise. As is the information learned by Dr. Gordon, thanks to a Sister Mary Helena (Nan Martin), someone who performs volunteer work at Westin Hills. She informs Dr. Gordon, that there is only one thing that can truly save the children; the bones of Freddy Krueger must be put into consecrated ground, thereby rendering his spirit – which is an abomination to both God and man – powerless. In addition to taking a crucifix from a local church, Dr. Gordon also receives help from Nancy’s father (John Saxon), who has been demoted from police lieutenant to hard drinking, security guard. Only he knows the location where Freddy’s bones were hidden, and thus the only one who can lead Dr. Gordon to them.
Will Heather and Kristen, with help from the other teens, be able to vanquish Freddy Krueger to hell, where he belongs? What powers if any will the teenagers be able to utilize once they enter the dream world where seemingly anything is possible? How many of their number have to die in the process before the burnt, evil one is defeated? During the film, the viewer will come to learn more about Freddy Kruger’s back story, especially as it pertains to his mother, which I found interesting. Overall, the film is quick paced, contains good special effects that still hold up well for the most part all these years later, a compelling story line, interesting characters, and Robert Englund as the diabolical Freddy Krueger in top form.