FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jan 20, 2016

The Nightmare-ening Day 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

Man oh man. I wrote about A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors waaaaay back during Final Girl's formative days as an early entry in the "I Heart..." series. I was curious to find out if my feelings had changed in the near-decade-long (!!) interim. Guess what? Boy, they sure have changed.

I heart it even more now! How is this possible, how can I hold so much love? I don't even question whether or not this movie deserves such adoration because obviously it does...and if you don't believe me, I present you with these two pieces of evidence to prove my case:

Taryn's "beautiful...and bad" look and the stop-motion skeleton doing its little victory cheer. That's all it takes for this film to earn a Lifetime Achievement Oscar if you ask me. And since you're reading this, you kind of did ask, so.

This is the Nightmare on Elm Street for me. I was just the right age to totally buy into it, to totally identify with all the misfits who had to deal with adults who just don't get it, to totally find Nancy dying in Kristen's arms and getting dreamed into a beautiful dream to be a 100% higher tragedy than a million Sophie's Choices. (Between this and Deadly Friend, wow, that Wes Craven sure liked to toy with my volatile teen emotions!)

Dream Warriors is just so quintessentially 80s, anyone who has the slightest bit of fondness for horror from that era is going to find a lot to love: Jennifer Rubin, sparkle shower ghosts, a very special theme song, Craig Wasson, this kid whom you always think is another Jacoby sibling even though he never is:

For fuck's sake, it's called "Dream Warriors"! Not-Jacoby shoots friggin' green movie lightning out of his fingers! How much more 80s horror can you get?

Look, just because I love this movie doesn't mean I don't recognize its faults, the most egregious of which is that since her days on Elm Street, Nancy Thompson has taken to living her life as the world's dowdiest 21-year-old.

I admit, however, that her funeral attire smacks of Joan Collins on Dynasty and as such I enthusiastically approve of it.

Okay, actually the biggest sin of Dream Warriors is probably that it's the beginning of the end of Freddy Krueger as a horror villain remotely resembling anything scary. In fact, this is the moment where he changes from nightmare killer into "wiseguy pop culture icon":

He's just killed Zsa Zsa Gabor and then he turns into a TV and I repeat he turns into a TV and then he has a one-liner: "Welcome to primetime, bitch!" It's stupid and I dig it because it's stupid–and yes, I savor the absolute fucking weirdness of cameos by Zsa Zsa and Dick Cavett–but it signifies the End Times for A Nightmare on Elm Street, my friends.

For its place in the series and the genre at large, though, it's a notable film. Breaking the standard slasher mold, several characters manage to survive...including the black guy, can you believe it? And we get some maybe needed-maybe not needed history into who exactly Fred Krueger was when it's revealed that he's the "bastard son of 100 maniacs." If only he'd been the bastard son of 10,000 Maniacs, then he would have lived a life singing earnest, politically-minded kinda folkish music instead of a life full of child murderin'. Alas!

Listen, if Final Girl is still around in another decade then I solemnly swear to take yet another look at A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Who knows, maybe by then I'll somehow be able to heart it even a little bit more!

P.S. how come no one ever talks about this teardrop that Joey has on his face in one scene


Anonymous said...

This is the Nightmare sequel I always choose. Always.

P. K. Nail said...

I dearly love the original, but *this* is my favorite NOES. I still find Philip's puppet sleepwalking death one of the most horrifying things I've ever seen. This movie also holds a special place in my heart, because it's one of the first R-rated movies I ever saw (at a church youth group event, no less).

AE said...

Agreed, this is the linchpin of the series for me. The first one is classic; the second one is full of -- well, it is fascinating in its bonkers way; and the later ones go pretty berserk but this is the one where all the ingredients come together perfectly. You're concerned for the kids, Freddy's fun but still has the potential to freak you out. Plus the song! Yay.

It's always satisfying when horror victims show some agency - I love Nancy booby-trapping her house in the first one - and so here it's great to see a whole team of kids coming together and forming a fight plan. Even when it doesn't work (that poor wizard kid, and poor Taryn) they get an A for effort.

I could really do without Freddy addressing all the ladies as bitches, though.

Stacie Ponder said...

You're so right. I love the bond between Nancy and Kristen especially. And in most other slasher flicks 90% of the teens would be all but nameless, but here they each have their own quirks and personalities and you're rooting for all of them.

And yeah, the "bitch" thing is totally unnecessary and it happens several times...and I'm sure audiences thought it was a hoot and it simply sped up Freddy's descent into one-liner-ville. The spirit is carried into FREDDY VS JASON and it's part of the reason I really disliked that movie. I mean, surely there's some other way to be tough in the face of adversity besides calling Freddy a fag...?

Nicholas Kaufmann said...


CashBailey said...

All this... AND DOKKEN!!

Anonymous said...

This is the only Nightmare movie I saw in a theater. It was on a blind date with a woman who knew all the characters names and was bummed when they got killed.
This was the one with the pizza, right? Because that was great.

CashBailey said...

I have to mention the phenomenal documentary NEVER SLEEP AGAIN about the ELM STREET series.

It's quite easily the greatest doc ever made about a single film series. They interview EVERYBODY, with a few notable exceptions. Johnny Depp, obvs, but also they went to interview Ronee Blakley, who played Nancy's mother in the first film. But apparently she was so vile to the documentary crew that they pulled the plug on the interview and said "Fuck it..."

And even though the later films generally sucked you can't help but develop a lot of respect for the filmmakers who worked their asses off to make these movies as crazy and imaginative as they are with ever-decreasing budgets.

Anonymous said...

I'll put in a second recommendation for Never Sleep Again. It's lots of fun.

I love Nightmare III. I especially like how it delivers a firm "f*ck you" to the tacked on makes-no-sense ending of part 1.

Kensington said...

I will third the Never Sleep Again recommendation. It's like four hours long, and every minute is essential. I was sorry when it finally finished.

Yummy Pizza said...

Fourth! I hadn't even seen, like, five parts of the franchise when I saw the docu but those four hours just flew by listening to all those stories. I gotta see that again.

Dream Warriors is rad. Thanks for The Nightmare-ening!

Paul Hurh said...

I totally agree with this (and would love to hear more about Joey's teardrop), but I still feel a sort of fondness for the wise-cracking Freddy, maybe because this was my introduction to the series. And I love Freddy's face when he's flummoxed by the Dream Warriors--he looks just so lost and confused and positively afflicted when his death wheelchair blows up or he gets stabbed by mohawk girl.

Also, the pock-marked arm full of mewling mouths is pretty great.

But I never understood, were all the patients at the hospital children of the original Elm Street parents? Wouldn't they have known one another?

Stacie Ponder said...

Yeah, them not knowing each other is a little weird...I assumed that a lot of the parents moved or something, maybe? And these kids were too little to have been in school together or something? Because in the first movie they all live sort of close still.

Gotta hand it to that...uh, vigilante mob of parents, though, it's sort of impressive that they all kept the secret for so long! So many horror plots involve someone betraying the group and giving it up.

Steve said...

I think Joey's teardrop was just Rodney Eastman's foreshadowed regret for posing nude for Greg Gorman:

Pat Hingle said...

In case you need a bit more Patricia Arquette and Dokken, don't forget this lovely bit: