After blundering in Nightmare on Elm Street Part II, New Line went back to Wes Craven – literally – and extracted a script both he and Bruce Wagner (Wild Palms) wrote, pretty much ignoring Part II’s characters and plot, where Freddy was able to possess and manifest himself into the real world through a surrogate host before being sent ‘back to Hell.’
The script proved too dark, however, so brought in were Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead [M]) and Chuck Russell, with Russell also signed up to direct his first feature film (after Craven passed on the project). As a debut, and as a more formal sequel, Nightmare on Elm Street Part III: Dream Warriors is much more satisfying, but the inclusion of a funnier Freddy with wry, mordant quips established the tone of subsequent entries, not to mention surreal dream sequences and more elaborate special effects.
Whereas the writers of Part II used the old ‘new family moving into the haunted house’ plot, Part III caught up with the characters in post-traumatic stress mode: Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) is a new shrink at a local sanitarium / dream clinic for troubled youths; and dad Thompson (John Saxon) is a security guard who uses booze to deal with his estranged parental relationship. Through a magical coincidence, Nancy discovers the youths all share the same tormentor in their dreams, and realizes like her, they’re the children of the neighbours who expunged Freddy from Elm Street.
Each kid has a certain power – they become their fantasy avatar with powers during dream states – and collectively they attempt to send Freddy back to Hell again, while Nancy’s colleague Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson) and her father try and do right by purifying Freddy’s remains to ensure spiritual peace under the spiritual influence of a mysterious white nun (character actress Nan Martin).
At least Part III makes more sense than it’s predecessor, and the writers – all four of them – wanted to build up some backstory regarding Freddy’s ‘conception by a thousand rapists.’ It’s the film that solidified Freddy as a new urban myth, and as Langenkamp recalls in the Blu-ray’s interview, she realized the character had become a major pop culture figure when teens started to dress up as Freddy during Halloween celebrations.
The popularity of the character probably helped sway her to return to the franchise (not to mention Craven’s phone call, prior to writing the script around her character), and while Russell’s direction makes superb use of the effects and production resources at hand, crafting several memorable death sequences for the teens, the film’s also memorable for the cast of newcomers, many of whom branched out and achieved great success.
Patricia Arquette’s film debut showed her ability to convey a surprising level of sensitivity for an otherwise generic character; Laurence Fishburne’s presence adds a bit more gravity to his generic attendant role; and Jennifer Rubin, also in her film debut, makes the most of an otherwise clichéd teen whose dream avatar is a black-clad rebel girl with a giant eighties Mohawk.
Among the veteran cast is Priscilla Pointer (Dallas, Carrie), and both Dick Cavett and Zsa Zsa Gabor have a funny cameo, but balancing out the talent are the wobbly performances by Langenkamp (who not only looks absurdly young for her ‘aged’ character, but can’t act) and Wasson (Body Double) – neither of whom are convincing, but add a special fromage factor to the tongue-in-cheek film.
New Line’s reworking of the franchise paid off, and while Craven stayed away for several years, once Freddy’s antics and elaborate torments ran their course in the films and TV series, the auteur’s return to his creation brought some needed sincerity back to the series in 1994.
Warner Home Video’s Blu-ray (which double-bills Part II and III together) features a nice HD transfer, and like the prior film, the surround mix isn’t particularly aggressive, but it’s a function blend of effects and minimalist synth score (this time handled by Twin Peaks’ Angelo Badalamenti).
Extras are again primarily culled from the “Welcome to Primetime: documentary from the Bonus Disc that came with New Line’s 8-disc, 1999 Nightmare Encyclopedia set, but the segments are more brief and rather choppy; the information is still functional and relevant, but it all feels like strategically extracted Q&A bits that really should be seen in their proper order within the original doc.
Also added is the Dokken “Dream Warriors” music video, which runs a shockingly 5+ minutes, and features a few extra shots of Freddy and Arquette that were filmed for the video to integrate the glamour band into existing sets. The theatrical teaser trailer builds on the simple brilliance that Larry Cohen applied to his It’s Alive, with a single, fluid camera move around minimal props to drum up excitement for the latest franchise installment. MIA from the Blu is the DVD-Rom content from the 2000 DVD which contained a Trivia Game and the original script.
As of this writing, Freddy Krueger has appeared in the following films: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge [M] (1985), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988), A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child (1989), Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991), New Nightmare / aka Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994), Freddy vs. Jason (2003), and the franchise reboot & remake, A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010). The character’s other major appearance was the short-lived Freddy’s Nightmares, which ran on Fox for two seasons between 1988-1990.
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan