Reviewed on March 12th, 2010
By Jigsaw (contributor) & filed in the Movie Reviews vault
"We all go a little mad sometimes"
“Five, six, grab your crucifix”
This is one of my favorite horror movie sequels ever and made the list of Top 5’s (Horror Movie Sequels). This film is a perfect companion piece to the first and every time I reach the end of the original Nightmare I have to watch this as soon as I can (the other sequels can rot). Even so this flick is a double edged sword and started the decline of the Freddy Krueger character. Enter the clown.
Craven returned but did not direct, only helping to script. I’m thankful as Krueger was returned to the dream world rather than possessing repressed homosexuals (check my review for Part 2 to see what I’m talking about). Out of the whole ‘Nightmare’ series the only flicks I like are the first, Dream Warriors and New Nightmare, it’s no coincidence that they all have credits from Craven.
This entry is set two years after the last which means the film is taking place five years in the future from it’s release. Unlike ‘Back to the future’ there are no hoverboards or virtual reality systems which mean things are more realistic. Did you ever expect to read a Nightmare On Elm Street review that contained the word ‘realistic’? As this is in the future we are able to see the repercussions created by the events in the original movie.
I have always wanted to see a horror film that takes this root, most end after the final survivor has triumphed over the evil they faced. I want to know what happens next, how did the police react? Did they even inform the police? How did the families of the dead find out? What did they do? How did the outside world react? So many questions, rarely any answers.
Once again we a have a new lead, Kristen (Patricia Arquette) after an initial attack by Freddy she’s left with her wrists slashed. Kristen’s mother takes this as a suicide attempt and has her locked up in a psychiatric hospital where she meets other children with sleeping disorders. It doesn’t take a genius to realize they are all connected to Freddy but the staff fail to notice (they are even blasé about the deaths that follow), all except one. This is where things get interesting as this staff member is actually Nancy Thompson (from the first film) who proceeds to instruct the kids how to use their own dreams against Krueger, you can be super strong, magic and pretty (yeah I don’t really get that one) thus they become the dream warriors.
Rather than being a retread of the previous films we depart from the suburban district setting and have the children incarcerated, sure it’s a hospital but it is all too similar to prison. Keeping the fear of falling asleep a central theme things are a little more dramatic as they are forced to sleep by the orderlies (sometimes using sleeping pills). Their desperation is increased as they are basically considered insane by everyone, that is until Nancy arrives.
When I first saw this I had no idea she was going to be in the film, when this came out there was no internet, I never read any movie magazines and I completely missed the trailer. This gave the franchise a greater sense of continuity rather than Krueger’s next adventure. I know many find it implausible that she would become a specialist in dreams, but why not? They have dominated her whole life; this is an obsession for her. After she failed to save her friends and family from Freddy it makes sense she would try to find redemption by saving as many others as possible. Heather Langenkamp returns and gives a solid performance but it pales in comparison to her first, I don’t know why but I got the distinct feeling she didn’t want to return – probably the reason why her story concludes the way it does here.
The idea of the Dream warriors is great (in theory anyway), the main set up at the beginning of the film is the closest the franchise gets to becoming a straight slasher, the kids get picked off one by one. When they realize they can affect the dream world rather than running from Krueger they have the confidence to face him head on. Its like the difference between Alien and Aliens (not that I’m saying this is as good as them) the first is a straight horror and the second is an action adventure but don’t get me wrong there is violence abound.
The death scenes are fun and look great even after all these years (the dated effects are cool). Pushing the boundaries between the real world and the dream world things are exaggerated but not to the farce of the next film. This includes one of my all time favorite kills in any horror flick; one of the kids is a fan of puppetry and has many puppets lining the walls of his room. Krueger takes the form of one of the puppets through stop motion animation (who doesn’t love that effect). I don’t know why I mentioned that part as it has nothing to do with the kill and no one sees it happen; maybe he’s a fan of that type of animation too? Anyway, Krueger severs the arms and legs of the kid and uses his veins as strings as he walks the boy around like a human marionette. This is vicious, the dude is clearly in pain, it’s excruciating to imagine and the imagery is a grotesque beauty (stole that line from Clive Barker). The other kills aren’t half bad but I’m not going to list them here, go watch the film.
Now on to Englund’s performance which needs separate analysis. This is not the same Krueger from the last two movies, he was a figure of terror – this is basically James Bond as a serial killer. This may sound terrible but here the balance is right and I actually like the wise cracking villain. His jokes are in the realm of bad taste much the way the Joker behaves in the Batman films, it’s not funny to a normal person but to the mind of a deranged psychopath it’s high class. Fortunately Englund is able to bring a little bit of menace to the role and delivers one of my favorite lines in the Nightmare franchise (welcome to prime time bitch).
The bad thing is mainstream audiences (those that don’t really watch horror) locked on to Freddy’s puns which forced the producers to amp up the comedy next time out (bad form). Krueger also makes a far more significant appearance with more than a few of the victims but it is yet to be overbearing. I like this version of Freddy (though I prefer the scary one), its cheesy fun.
So this one isn’t that scary but you invest for different reasons. All the characters are interesting, while they are basically fluff to be brushed away by Freddy you actually don’t want them to die but you don’t really care for them that deeply. You’re more disappointed when they are gone rather than experiencing a horrific loss like in the first ‘Nightmare’ but just because the tone is different doesn’t make the film any less significant. Sidenote: Lawrence Fishburne appears here as a nurse in an early role (he was Morpheus in Matrix and now on that CSI show, don’t like that much).
Speaking of the tone, the music is an entirely different beast, the original score is used a few times (I hated the fact it was missing in Freddy’s Revenge), the change here is we are treated to 80’s heavy metal, I really enjoyed this change – it’s not better but different. Dokken perform two tracks including one titled Dream Warriors, this song rocks and it’s hard to get it out of your head after hearing it. If you buy the DVD you actually get the music video included on the disc which is quite funny and includes original material involving Freddy and Kristen.
Now the things I didn’t like or more appropriately the lingering questions that are raised but are never given satisfying answers.
First is the character of Kristen, I quite liked her character and accepted her as the lead but her dream power is rather strange. From the outset she has it and it’s the reason why everyone realizes you can control the dream world but I don’t buy it. Kristen is able to bring other people into her dreams to help her, this is not a dream power, to physically drag someone into your dream is a supernatural power. If it was stated as such I would accept it after all I’m watching a film about a man who stalks dreams.
There is a subplot with the kindly Dr Gordon (isn’t that the name of a character in the Saw films?) who befriends Nancy. I wasn’t that interested in his story and the whole being visited by the spirit of Amanda (another similarity to Saw). Krueger was just a bit too much on top of everything else. She doesn’t actually add anything to the overall plot but does give him a new name in the bastard son of 1000 maniacs (not bad). On a personal note Amanda is dressed as a Nun and I can’t stand them, there’s just something creepy about them.
By the final reel we are reintroduced to John Saxon’s character from the first film. It was great to see him again and the one moment he shares with Nancy is gold but his whole story wasn’t needed. I will be talking about a scene at the end of the film so mild spoilers ahead.
Gordon and Donald (Saxon) go to the place that Freddy’s body is buried to sprinkle holy water on his bones (yeah, I know its silly). When they uncover the bones his skeleton is then possessed by Freddy who then fights with them in the real world (cool stop motion effects applied). This confuses everything, if Freddy can reanimate his body in the real world why is he pissing about in peoples dreams? He could have returned as a zombie to exact his revenge, in fact this destroys the whole premise of the second film. Why did he need a host body when he could already control his own? You’ve probably noticed I spend far too much time thinking about the plot in films.
Now the major problem that I have trouble getting over as it is important to the whole film – The Dream Warriors. Now while the whole introduction of them is great they do nothing to thwart Freddy’s plans which has more do with the powers they choose. Sure Kincaid’s power is super strength, quite useful but the rest are pathetic. Joey cannot speak in the real world so guess what his power is, he can talk… ok, so can Freddy. The list goes on and on, I understand this was the 80’s and pulling out a whole heap of superpowers would have been a hard task to accomplish (horror budgets were low back then) but the ones they do have don’t threaten Krueger and he acknowledges this. One more thing, do you wanna know what my power is in the dream world…………I can’t die.
Aside from a few minor things I do really like this film but it’s never going to be a classic. If you haven’t seen this, do. It’s a lot of fun but leave your brain at the door. Even with the numerous sequels this is the best conclusion to the Nightmare saga we’re ever going to get and it throws up a few surprise deaths I didn’t see coming. 7.5/10
When Taryn is first seen in the hallway she’s wearing a Dokken shirt.
Robert Englund wrote a treatment for this movie that wasn’t used (can you imagine what that would have been like?).
Wes Craven originally wanted this to use the plot of New Nightmare but it was rejected, fortunately years later we got that vision.
Director: Chuck Russell
Screenplay: Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell (oh my)
Starring: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Craig Wasson
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