CINEMA SECOND CHANCES: 'Nightmare on Elm Street 3' (1987) and '4' (1988)
Written by Kevin Donaldson
It’s fairly frequent that a movie franchise will be broken up into trilogies, like Star Wars or Fast & Furious 5-7, but something special happens when a film franchise randomly breaks itself up for two series of movies in the middle of their seven-movie run. Two such movies, one that got some praise but is still underrated and one that is completely underrated, are Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
The Elm Street series is pretty much synonymous with late, great horror movie director Wes Craven, but Craven wasn’t as involved with the whole series as many people think. Aside from a “Story By” credit in Dream Warriors, Craven doesn’t even have a producer credit until the final installment of the series, which he wrote and directed, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (it’s got his name in the title so he kinda has to be involved). But the series actually did pretty well at a time without Craven. Who knows how involved he really was with Dream Warriors, but it’s a lot of fun and quite spooky just as is.
Dream Warriors is more of a direct sequel to the first Elm Street than the second one. It takes place in a mental hospital years after the events of the first film, following the story of a suicidal girl named Kristen (Patricia Arquette), who, after attempting suicide due to the Freddy Krueger dreams she’s been having, is sent to Westin Hospital. There she fights off orderlies who are trying to make her sleep (essentially snuff her out to her certain death) and makes friends with the other kids all plagued with similar nightmares. Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), the only survivor of the first Elm Street, happens to be interning at Westin as a therapist and wants to help the insomniac teens.
What makes this movie stand out is that it progresses to a much different point then the original, but without spoiling anything, let’s just say they do in one movie what Fast & Furious took to do in five (check it out and you’ll see what I mean). It’s also got a good balance of humor and terror, and the backdrop of a mental hospital makes it even spookier. It’s one of those horror movies that you’d probably go into it thinking, especially since it’s a sequel, that this will be a by-the-numbers, get-a-popcorn-and-forget-about-it flick, but it stays with you. It’s just a damn good movie and rivals the first one for sure. When I think about it, I might even like it more than the first one.
(Laurence Fishburne also co-stars, and “The Walking Dead” developer and legendary angry screenwriter Frank Darabont has a co-screenwriting credit.)
The story continues with The Dream Masters. Possible spoiler alert: Patricia Arquette decided to not renew her role as Kristen and is replaced by a different actress. It is unclear if this is why she and the rest of the Dream Warriors crew is killed off in the beginning, but Dream Warriors bridges into Dream Masters through this connection. After those teens are killed, the story picks up with their classmates, the main one being Alice (Lisa Wilcox), Kristen’s boyfriend’s sister. She has an eclectic group of friends, and when Freddy comes back to kill off Kristen and the rest of the Dream Warriors, he sets his eyes on this fresh group of underage kids (in case you forgot, Freddy is a pedophile). It carries a lot of the new mythology created in Dream Warriors, but takes it out of one location and sets it back in the suburbs where we first met Freddy.
The initial problem people had with Dream Masters is that it gets quite jokey. People see it as the beginning of Freddy’s downfall from terror to complete hack comic -- kind of a similar phase the Joker went through for years that a lot of people seem to forget. Whether this is the beginning of Freddy falling into comic mishaps is beside the point; Dream Masters is still good as it is, and a darn good sequel to a damn good movie. Yes, Dream Warriors is, of course, a much better movie, but there are a lot of good times to be had in Dream Masters. It’s well worth the nightmares.
Dream Masters also has a pretty good soundtrack. The track below particularly stood out to me. You may have heard this one sporadically on some alternative rock stations, but even if not, just know that if you ever come to my wedding, it’ll be played at least five times.
“Gotta keep ‘em on ice so they love ya like fire.” -- Grandpa