Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Week 2008: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3

When Wes Craven was lured back to write this third installment in the Nightmare franchise, he was reluctant to do so since he never intended for his original film to spawn a string of (mediocre) sequels. He agreed to write the script as long as he could approach a taboo topic that intrigued him: suicide. Much like the original Nightmare Craven got his idea for the third film through reading articles about teenagers being so scared in their sleep that they would commit suicide in a state where it wasn't known whether or not they were awake. This idea intrigued Craven as well as the thought of bringing Freddy back to kill him off and to remove the bad taste the second film of the series left in the fans mouth. The result: a pretty good horror movie that is not a complete waste of your time.

Of course the minute the film opens and you see five different names of screenwriters on the screen, you know that they butchered Craven's original script; they did indeed do that, you can check out the original script online. In the original script Freddy was menacing and didn't talk much (like the original) and was more vulgar and scarier. Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) wasn't a medical expert on sleep or anything like that, she was looking for her missing father (John Saxon!), the last man to know where Freddy's body is buried. Also, there was no sub plot with the doctor of the hospital (where all the kids are having the same nightmares) encounters a ghost nun who just happens to be named Amanda Kreuger, Freddy's mom.

So yeah, the film is interesting for the reason alone that you can see elements of the original version Craven had in mind, but sadly the studio didn't go all the way with it, afraid that no one would want to pay money to such a serious subject broached in a horror film. Craven has always been a pioneer of getting these more serious subtexts into his films and then using the horror genre to explicate them further, but not here as it's kind of surprising that New Line, a studio notorious with taking chances, played it so safe with this one.

The quick and dirty version of the story: teenagers are having nightmares and Freddy is killing them in the real world through their dreams. Nancy returns to help the kids make sense of what's happening. Instead of each teenager having a dream and dying, Craven did something interesting with this one and had them all inhabit the same nightmare. While in their nightmare the kids could be anything they wanted to be, since it was their dream, thus giving them super powers (one kids is really strong, one is a wizard, one a punk rock chick with switch blades, etc.). So yeah, that's pretty much the plot....you're basic Nightmare storyline.

Still you get some great, weird moments that are synonymous with the Nightmare franchise. For instance the scene where Freddy turns into a giant worm like creature and starts to swallow Kristen (played by a young Patricia Arquette). Also, the deaths are as inventive as ever and the special effects are pretty good for the time, and the low budget director Chuck Russel was working with. Another interesting thing about the film is that it's the last entry in the series where Freddy is always joking and making awful puns as he kills people. It wasn't until Craven would come back to the franchise with New Nightmare that Freddy would be this quiet and this menacing.

The last watchable thing about this film is the amount of talent it had working on it. Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, The Mist) re-wrote the screenplay, Chuck Russel (The Mask, Eraser) directed, and the film stars Patrica Arquette, Laurence Fishbourne, and of course John Saxon (who has a tremendous scene of overacting and pure scene chewing where he's in a bar drinking, slowly, and delivering his lines even slower).

I always remember being really scared by this movie when I was a kid. It had one of those memorable cover boxes that looked really cool with all the teens and their "special powers" , and then on the back the creepy image of Freddy as the worm swallowing Arquette. I could never get that image out of my head as it would cause me to have nightmares. Well, many, many years later I can say that the film isn't that scary. Even though there is nothing really scary about the film, it's a fun addition to your Halloween to-do list if you've never seen this installment. It has a good cast, talent working behind the scenes, and even a cameo from Dick Cavett! Oh, and Dokken sings the theme song. Yes....there's reason to see it right there.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is playing the rest of the month on the Independent Film Channel.


  1. Everything's better with John Saxon.

    And everything's also better with Dokken.

    I haven't actually watched any of the sequels (other than New Nightmare) in at least 10 years. Does it really hold up THAT well, because this era of slashers was not good?