[Contains creepy craft projects and SPOILERS!!!]
The same charity shop that sold me Elektra for 10p also had a copy of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) for just 60p! I’ve never paid much attention to the Elm Street series before, but when I saw Patricia Arquette’s name and face on the cover, I figured it was worth a punt.
Although she filmed two other movies that same year, this marked Arquette’s “screen debut”, and she acquits herself very well as ‘Kristen Parker’, a teenage girl tormented by nightmares of an undead, dream-invading child-killer named ‘Freddy Krueger’, who tries to manipulate her into slitting her wrists. Kristen’s exasperated mother checks her into a psychiatric hospital, where she bonds with ‘Nancy Thompson’ (Heather Langenkamp), an understanding intern, who also happens to be the sole survivor of one of Krueger’s previous kill-sprees (in the first movie). The back-cover blurb would have you believe that the main plot is all about Nancy teaching a ragtag group of patients to use lucid dreaming to “battle the supernatural psycho on his own turf”… and, yes, that does happen to some extent… but she only helps them survive long enough for her colleague, ‘Dr. Neil Gordon’ (Craig Wasson), to locate and destroy Krueger’s remains, back in the real world. So, the main female characters have the power to defend themselves, for a limited period of time… but it still falls to a white knight to “save the day” in the end. Feh! This is particularly disappointing because the actor playing Gordon is very stilted and keeps stumbling over his lines, while the far more charismatic Laurence Fishburne is wasted in a supporting role as an orderly.
Arquette wasn’t asked to return for the subsequent sequel, and the role was recast with another actress… though I doubt it had anything to do with her performance, since she’s one of the strongest and most committed cast-members here… especially considering all the kicking, screaming and crying involved! Langenkamp also does a pretty good job with the lame dialogue she’s asked to deliver… although she still acts occasionally, she’s since moved sideways into another area of film-making, co-founding a company that’s credited with providing special make-up FX for such films as the Dawn of the Dead remake, The Cabin in the Woods, and Frost/Nixon! I also have to give a nod to Nan Martin, who plays ‘Sister Mary Helena’, an enigmatic nun with awesome cheekbones and a dark secret. Martin began her career back in the 1960s with small roles in serials like The Twilight Zone and The Fugitive, before landing recurring roles in sitcoms such as Suddenly Susan and The Drew Carey Show, and continuing to appear in a variety of shows, including Nip/Tuck and Six Feet Under, right up until her retirement in 2005.
Overall, I appreciate the creativity and old-timey craftsmanship that went into realising the various nightmare scenarios and grisly murders depicted here, but they’re often undercut by Freddy’s cheesy one-liners, and drained of their menace by the relatively boring between-scare scenes… which is probably why the DVD menu allows you to skip them entirely! I can’t say I’m in any rush to check out the rest of the series, though it’s worth noting that the boxsets are super-cheap these days.