Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Year of Freddy Fear isn't fooling with The Dream Warriors

Welcome once again to the latest installment in our Year of Freddy Fear and this fine spring day takes to part three of the NOES series, 1987's The Dream Warriors.

The story line here has the "last of the Elm Street children" being stalked in their sleep by Krueger and dying in ways that look like suicide, causing the adults around them to take their talk of a lethal boogyman as psychotic behavior which lands some of the remaining few in a mental institution.

 The teen suicide theme in the script(first developed by Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner,with rewrites by Frank Darabont and the film's director Chuck Russell) did concern the studio and it was somewhat watered down, with what stayed in being considered enough in the fantasy field to slide under the radar. That subject was just beginning to raise it's head in the social discourse at the time and using it as a murderous metaphor was tricky yet it's another example of horror reflecting the real world terrors of it's time.

The leading lady of this fear fest is Kristin(Patrica Arquette), whose neglectful mother is all too quick to ship her troubled daughter out for treatment which turns out to be a good thing as she meets an adult Nancy(Heather Langenkamp,reprising her now iconic role).

 Nancy is now a social worker who is just starting her new job at the very same mental hospital and assigned to help Dr. Neil Gordon(Craig Wasson) with his pack of sleep deprived and panicked patients.

 She knows full well what the trouble is and gets Dr. Gordon to prescribe a dream repressive medication called Hypnocil(which appears later on in Freddy Vs. Jason),which alleviates some of the teenaged night time tensions for awhile.

However, it is not until Kristen displays her ability to bring other people into her dreams that Nancy begins to come forward with her experiences with Freddy. The dream talents that Kristen and the other kids develop in order to defeat Freddy are part of Wes Craven's original intention to explore the dream techniques of  certain cultures to combat night terrors and with the more vicious nocturnal assaults created for this film, becoming a dream warrior was no joking matter:

 The kills in this film are amongst the most memorable of the series,such as a puppet master demise for sleepwalker Phillip,the deadly TV debut of Jennifer(with the classic line "Welcome to prime time, bitch!") and sadly, the grisly back alley death knell for Taryn, my favorite of the troubled Elm Street teens.

She was played by Jennifer Rubin, who later went on to do more horror films including the aptly named Bad Dreams the year after this movie was made, and she brought real pizzazz to the role. It's hard not to root for such a kickass girl(with one hell of a mohawk) who truly fought back against Freddy with a double set of switchblades and her best line is "In my dreams, I'm beautiful..and bad!"

Her death scene actually got the movie banned for a brief time in Queensland,Australia as depictions of drug abuse on screen were upsetting to the government's board of film review. Once it was dismantled, Queenslanders didn't find the scene as shocking as the censors did but it is somewhat fitting that Taryn would be the one to shake up the system,so to speak:

We also get more of Freddy's back story from mysterious nun Sister Mary Helena(Nan Martin), who appears only to Dr. Gordon and turns out to be the spirit of Amanda Krueger, Freddy's mother.

In a way, she is the one who is the female that defeats Freddy, even more so than Kristen or Nancy(who does get in one last shot at him with her final breath) as her arcane knowledge of his dream demon development is crucial to the finale of the film. She reappears in Dream Child and makes a more forceful stand against her serial killer offspring but Amanda's earlier entry into the NOES series is just as vital.

Her tale of how she came to be the one to bring forth "the bastard son of a hundred maniacs" (don't know which of the writers came up with that description but it was definitely a keeper) holds the key to bringing Freddy down but not without a few flaws.

 Towards the end of the film,Dr. Gordon,with the reluctant assistance of Nancy's father(great to have John Saxon return for this role), heads for the abandoned junked car lot where Freddy's bones are hidden to bury him "in hallowed ground" but since Freddy is Catholic,(hey, a reasonable assumption given that his mom is a nun) the burial hastily done here does help but not enough.

 To those of that faith(which I was for a time until the age of reason as George Carlin used to say), hallowed ground means burial land blessed by a priest such as a church yard or a officially sanctioned cemetery. The doc meant well but just tossing the bones into the nearest hole in the  ground with a splash of holy water and a crucifix is a temporary restraint at best as we will see in the follow-up film,Dream Master.

 It is important to note that Freddy's powers are upgrading as he feeds upon the souls of his victims, a theme that continues throughout the rest of the series and even his brief return to the land of the living here( which is a tad hokey but nicely reminiscent of Ray Harryhausen films) shows that elevated level of evil that Freddy is achieving at this stage:

Nightmare on Elm Street 3 was a pivotal film as it not only made a considerable profit for New Line Cinemas but showed what a decent script and good sized budget could do for keeping a horror franchise alive and well.

The special effects and story telling really went hand in hand here,plus the decision to bring back the original Nancy and her father kept the continuity strong. The Dream Warriors began a gory golden age for the NOES series,with the two films that came after it forming a mini-trilogy amongst the sequels that I personally call "The Dream Team".

 Many fans called NOES 3 their favorite and while the next pair of films that followed in it's fearful footsteps aren't considered as good, they did raise the bar for Freddy and friends there. Tune in next month for Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master,where we met Alice in her frightening wonderland and let's close this scary set out with Dokken's theme song for the film,which still rocks in my opinion.

 Say what you will about Freddy-one thing you can't deny is that Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers never got their own theme song(theme music is not the same thing!),now did they?:

No comments: