Sunday, April 25, 2010

Elm Street Week Day 3 (Part 1): The One with Morpheus in it

Today's post is going to be a two-parter mainly because I have to watch two films today in order to get all 8 Freddy films done by next Friday so I can cover the remake...so I hope you guys are in for a lot of Freddy!  If you haven't already guessed, I'm going through the films in chronological order so today is gonna be Parts 3 and 4...which are two of my favorites, particularly part 4.  The third film in this series begins something of a trilogy which consists of parts 3, 4, and 5 and introduces the idea that, while Freddy can manipulate the dreams of his victims, so can the teens who go into these dreams and thus, special individuals emerge who can fight Krueger on his own playing field.  It also introduces the wise-cracking Freddy that began to become more and more prevalent in the series.  So lets dive in and enter the world of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.

The film begins with Kristen Parker building a model house and fighting sleep, forcing herself to eat instant coffee crystals and drink Diet Coke to in order to keep her going.  Finally she has to succumb and she wakes in front of the real version of the house she was building (which just so happens to look like a dilapidated and boarded up version of Nancy Thompson's house).  After following a little girl inside, she is confronted by Freddy Krueger who attacks her and cuts her wrist.  When she is awakened by her mother, it looks as though Kristin has cut her wrists.  She is immediately sent to Westin Hills Psychiatric hospital where she is patched up and put in a ward with other teens who, coincidentally, are also suicide survivors and are having the same dreams about the same man.  The hospital staff, worried about the dreams and the suicide epidemic they seem to be causing, bring in a new psychiatric specialist...Dr. Nancy Thompson...to help the kids cope.  Luckily for them, Nancy knows much more about what is going on with the kids than they think and she encourages the kids to band together and use their individual strengths to defeat Krueger.  The key to her 'Dream Warriors' is Kristin, who has a psychic ability that allows her to pull others into her dreams.  Using this, they can battle Krueger together in the same dream.

Many Elm Street fans have cited this as their favorite sequel, and that is understandable as it brings so many interesting ideas to the table.  First, it continues the idea of Freddy as a mental manipulator and shape-shifter begun by Wes Craven in the original and it keeps Freddy where he is strongest, in the dream world.  Its no surprise that Craven turned in the first draft of this story and script and like any good sequel, it builds on the precedent established by the first while expanding the universe to include new ideas (unlike the previous sequel).  Second, the film brings back Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson...a character who was loved nearly as much as Freddy himself and who was not included in the first sequel due to reasons unknown (to me at least).  Langenkamp is very much a favorite of Craven and Nancy is Craven's idea of the pure and resourceful hero.  Nancy in this film has grown since the first and she has learned how to suppress her dreams (through medication) so that she can be the best opponent for Freddy that she can be.  Adding to the mix is Kristin's (Patricia Arquette) ability to take people with her as she dreams.  This is a great tactic and allows for safety in numbers, rather than the solitude that the characters had to deal with in the first two during the dreams.  Of course, some could say that this removes some of the danger and suspense...but Freddy is still plenty dangerous and the threat is real (unlike later entries when he became Henny Youngman with a claw).  Another aspect of the film that touches the social climate of the nation at that time is the idea of the suicide epidemic among teenagers.  Young people seemed to be killing themselves a lot more than they had in the past and the media was latching onto these cases and putting them out there for everyone to see (the rate probably hadn't risen all that much...but with mass media, we were more able to hear about it).  Why couldn't Freddy be a part of this disease that was affecting teens of the late 1980s?  He could kill them, but make it look like an accident or a suicide and no one would think different of it.  What if...?  That was the spirit of the first Nightmare and here it is again.  Celebrity appearances are all over in this film as well (including rising stars, like Laurence "Morpheus from The Matrix" Fishburne and Patricia Arquette)...we get to see Dick Cavett turn into Freddy and kill Zsa Zsa Gabor, and others as well.  This was the film that turned Elm Street into a franchise and made merchandising Freddy a huge business.  There were masks, costumes, toy gloves, dolls, buttons, and the like all over the place.  People loved Freddy, which is ironic...given the country's general attitude to child killers...but somehow he had become an icon.  The stage was now set for the next adventure, where Freddy would meet his next recognizable adversary and where he would attempt some of his craziest dream set pieces yet.  Stay tuned kiddies!

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