“His name is Freddy Krueger. He was a child murderer before he died, and after he died he became something worse. Six years ago, he killed my friends. He almost killed me.”
Wes Craven didn’t believe A Nightmare On Elm Street could spawn a franchise. He didn’t want it to happen, and did not return for the first sequel. Once it became more successful than the first, despite a lackluster reception from critics, he decided to return as a writer and wrote a screenplay much darker than what would eventually become A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. The script was rewritten by director Chuck Russell (The Mask) and Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, the favorite movie of 95% of people who still have a basic cable subscription that includes TNT) and the end result is, in my humble opinion, the best film of the franchise by a considerable margin.
The set pieces in this movie are inventive and the practical effects hold up very well and there are a few truly horrific moments, including a scene where a young man is lifted into the air by his exposed veins and manipulated like a marionette. The set pieces feel like real nightmares played out in a boiler room funhouse, and they’re a joy to watch. This is also the first movie in the series that lets Freddy be funny and toss out his now iconic one-liners, which would ultimately lead to the series becoming more than a little corny.
What I love the most about this movie is that it’s about how we deal with trauma. Not everyone overcomes it, and not everyone that rises to the challenge even escapes Freddy’s grasp, but all the characters are given interesting obstacles to overcome. One is in a wheelchair, one is a mute, one is in recovery from amphetamine addiction, but it’s only after they come to terms with those things and embrace who they are inside that any of them begin to successfully wrestle control. Horror is the perfect vessel for showing how we deal with grief and trauma, and this movie delivers in a fun and satisfying way. We all have to deal with those things, and it’s great seeing them handled decently in what could be construed as a schlocky slasher flick.
Let’s talk about some of the cast! We’ve got Laurence Fishburne when he was still going by Larry. We’ve got Patricia Arquette in her first movie role. John Saxon returns and reminds us how cool he was in Enter the Dragon. Robert Englund gives what I consider his best performance in the franchise. There’s even a dream sequence where Dick Cavett interviews Zsa Zsa Gabor, who he felt was the dumbest celebrity he ever met. Strangely enough, the weakest link is probably unfortunately Heather Langenkamp, returning as Nancy. She’s fine but there are some stiff moments that are a bit distracting. Not too bad overall.
Should I Show This To My Five Year Old?
I mean, is that even a question? Your child has to learn about trauma eventually, and what better way than this excellent movie? This is also a pretty good way to help your son or daughter learn that their nightmares aren’t so bad, seeing as they’re not getting murdered in real life during theirs. Another benefit is that you can teach your child all about the horrors of teen suicide, as well as the cold realities of what it’s like inside a youth psych ward. I’m assuming all youth psych wards are exactly like this one. There’s also a hypnosis scene halfway through the movie, and while I have not tested this myself, showing this scene to your kid might be an effective method of putting your child to sleep if they’re having trouble or being unruly. If any of you try this out, please let me know how it works. I’m very curious about it.
Like I’ve said, this is almost as good as it gets as far as a slasher movie exploring trauma and how to overcome it. On top of that, the movie is a lot of fun and the set pieces are across the board incredible. This movie is a masterclass in what can be accomplished with practical effects. Almost every single one of them looks beautiful, and though I’ve read about how they did the mirror effects during the climax, I’m still not sure how they pulled it off. This movie is a ton of fun and I think everyone should watch it. I’ll watch it with you even. You’d be amazed at how much free time I have sometimes. Anyway, check it out.
There is an uncomfortable scene in which a topless nurse attempts to seduce a teenager by asking “Do you like my body, Joey?” which is wildly inappropriate in any context, but don’t worry! This is a ruse! It’s actually Freddy tricking the boy so he can murder him, so the scene is actually fine and not creepy.
This is the first in the series to include an 80’s hair metal song, the awesome “Dream Warriors” by Dokken, and its success set the tradition of corny hair metal songs appearing throughout the franchise. Speaking of the Dokken song, the video is fun as hell and it shows us a world where Freddy is afraid of Dokken. Pretty nice to know even he’s afraid of something.
Greg Orme is a comedian/writer based out of Salt Lake City, where he lives with his five plants. You should follow him on Twitter if you aren’t already.
Never seen Dream Warriors? You can pick it up below on Amazon, and 80s Baby will get a percentage.