Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #108
Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: February 27, 1987
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $44,793,222 (US)
Running Time: 96 minutes
Director: Chuck Russell
Producer: Robert Shaye
Screenplay: Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell
Story: Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner
Special Effects: Screaming Mad George, Kelly Mann, Matthew W Mungle, Mike Elizalde
Visual Effects: Jeff Matakovich, George Muhs, James Valentine
Cinematography: Roy H. Wagner
Score: Angelo Badalamenti, Dokken
Editing: Terry Stokes, Chuck Weiss
Studio: Heron Communications, Smart Egg Pictures
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Stars: Heather Langenkamp, Craig Wasson, Patricia Arquette, John Saxon, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Jennifer Rubin, Bradley Gregg, Ira Heiden, Penelope Sudrow, Priscilla Pointer, Clayton Landey, Brooke Bundy, Zsa Zsa Gabor as herself and Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger
Suggested Audio Candy:
Dokken Into The Fire
Freddy Krueger: whiz kid or numskull? Given his dubious track history, I would argue that he’s a little of both. Legendary on one clawed hand, the self-confessed Dream Master is utterly wasteful on the other. When you look at the service he has received over the years, it is hard to argue that he hasn’t somewhat frittered his exclusive opportunities. To be fair, it’s not Freddy’s fault, he has remained faithful and committed to haunting the dreams of American youths but has not been best served by a quest to turn him into a crowd-pleasing clown. After taking the world by storm, his iconic status has been somewhat wasted with a number of impotent sequels where, despite his very best efforts, Krueger has struggled to rise above mediocrity.
When the inevitable follow-up arrived in 1985, cinema goers the world over mentally ejaculated over the prospect of more dream-inhabiting hijinks from their favorite crispy critter. However, while he turned up every day in his dirty red sweater and battered fedora, chomping at the bit, his puerile pranks fell somewhat flat as he started to make the transition from Dream Master to stand-up comedian. Boasting a catalogue of quips and some increasingly outlandish dreamscapes, Krueger became a bit of a laughing-stock come the end and, while Wes Craven stopped the rot to a certain degree with his New Nightmare, he hardly heralded a new age either.
It had reached its cap by Freddy’s Revenge. Folk and critics alike didn’t take too kindly to Jack Sholder’s hot-on-the-heels successor, while I always sat squarely on the fence. The chilling opening scene presented us a master class in terror, setting the film up flawlessly with its nightmarish school bus-ride deep into the smouldering depths of hell. But all of this good work was squandered by introducing a whiny spineless main protagonist who turned on the water works at the mere sight of his beloved budgerigar self-detonating. Sholder’s effort contained numerous other moments when it appeared Krueger would steer us back on track but these were undermined by ill-conceived instances of sheer psychosis, not quite the pantomime of later entries but hardly the stroke of pure genius.
It just seemed so wasteful; what better premise could there possibly be than a killer with the ability to fill his own canvas with bloody brushstrokes to his blackened heart’s content? Indeed, by the time we had reached the powder-puff Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, the implied downfall of this once grand human candle was forecast with astounding accuracy.
So where did it all go wrong? The Dream Master certainly didn’t help. Far from being a kink in the chain, it was responsible for introducing more of his trademark wittiness to proceedings. It seems a shame that the buck stops here as, on the whole, it was one of the livelier installments, but sadly the facts speak for themselves. The allure of quotable tongue-in-cheek became too burly and the franchise duly became tainted. So much so that, by the time he was being primed for combat with none other than Jason Voorhees for Freddy vs. Jason, we all desired to watch Krueger getting seven bells of shit kicked out of him. I remember viewing their match-up on the big screen and the once-proud Freddy was akin to that petulant fly you just can’t swat. Insolent and animated, he pranced around like he owned the joint while the surprisingly docile Voorhees put up with his tomfoolery, seemingly exhausted by his opposite number’s boundless enthusiasm. If any killer needs to settle down with some pornography and release some pheromones, then it would be this man. Married to his razor-sharp talons, masturbation was never an option, so wet dreams had to make do.
Anyhoots, after the sequel received its critical roasting, the furnace was chock full of kindling once more as Dream Warriors arrived to right some wrongs so director Chuck Russell opted to bring back Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon in an attempt to halt the projected slide, while presenting the ideal final girl in Rosanna Arquette’s succulent sister Patricia. His entry then took full advantage of the ideal surroundings – a rehabilitation centre for troubled youths. Now if there was one thing America was over-subscribed to in the eighties then it was disposable teens. Freddy’s main competitor Jason was really like a public servant; pruning the bush when the foliage got a touch too dense, and making moral judgements on anyone not heeding the advice donated by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
Dokken Dream Warriors
Krueger, on the other clawed glove, decided to intrude the dreams of a more challenged brigade of adolescents. The one person you don’t pick a fight with is someone with emotional hinges hanging slack and Freddy discovered their devil-may-care attitudes would prove more bothersome than he originally expected. To make this a fair(ish) fight, each of these less than disposable teens had an elite ability to assist them in outfoxing the Sandman.
Take paraplegic Will (Ira Heiden) for example. This speckled nobody had learned much from a wasted youth watching Dungeons & Dragons reruns as his dreams enabled him to leave his crippled frame behind for a few precious moments as a powerful wizard. He should have stuck with the wheels as he found out in due course, with Fred picking him up like a soiled tampon and plugging the poor boy up with five of his finest.
Big-boned Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) was sanctioned with the might of a buffalo as his special purpose. In truth, he could have done with a little assistance from his voice box as this robust black man sounded suspiciously like only one of his testicles had seen ever seen the Fall but his ability to bend reinforced metal with the power of his thoughts was commendable and, to his credit, Kincaid was a real team player. It’s just a shame that he sounded like he had been inhaling helium.
However, at least he possessed a voice. Hapless Joey (Rodney Eastman) was tongue-tied ad infinitum although, in his defense, when the powers were being dished out he was busy answering the siren-like calls of a sexy nurse with a perky set of chest coordinates to make a grown man weep milk, which I guess lets him off the hook as I know full well I would have done precisely the same had I been in his hospital gown.
Meanwhile, Taryn (Jennifer Rubin) was endowed with the capacity to resemble one of The Warriors and Rubin was soundly off-the-chain as the rabble-rousing rock chick. Alas, it all went a little Drugstore Cowboy for our bolshy badass as she ultimately discovered that her elected talent also kept her in the loop regarding where the next hit was coming from. Fred then became pharmacist as he prescribed her a rather munificent dose of deadly meds and supplied her the high she’d been hankering after.
As for our dream damsel Kristen, everything became a trampette as she discovered an ability to give those pesky Russian Olympians a run for their money with aerobic superiority. Patricia Arquette was more than on-point in her first leading role and made for the perfect plucky heroine. One thing was for sure, Freddy was going to have his work cut out for him with this rowdy and resourceful bunch.
So what did he do? Subtract the weakest links first of course. Neither the luckless Philip (Bradley Gregg) or self-confessed telly addict Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow) got as far as even finding out their hidden talent. A career in television was realized for Jennifer, while Philip had his ties cut once-and-for-all as he was relieved from his meager existence in the most agonizing manner imaginable.
To help the home side come good, Nancy returned to the fray looking even more haggard than her timeless father. When not getting in with the kids in a transparent attempt to remaining hip and current, she was being sleazed upon by the somewhat drab Neil (Craig Wasson of Body Double fame). Bit of a step back from Glen if you ask me, although the strains of being Freddy’s primary plaything had clearly taken their toll. Laurence Fishburne even made an appearance as orderly Max, although our Dream Master realized that the most fitting humiliation was to let him carry on cleaning bed pans and treating pressure sores for all eternity, and left him be.
Meanwhile, Krueger himself was on fighting form, prancing around the infirmary as though he were Bill Cosby (spot the parallels). Dream Warriors never fell below the bar it set itself and Russell illustrated admirable awareness of the super human powers possessed by his overdone court jester and how to put them into action. In particular, Philip’s puppet master-prodded plunge hit all the corresponding buttons in the correct order on his descent to the ground floor, showcasing the franchise’s potential for creating lasting imagery.
Historically this is almost certainly the fondest remembered of all the sequels and, after much scrutiny, I can confirm this to be true, pipping Wes Craven’s New Nightmare to the summit in the process. It boasted bags of charm, some novel executions and, of course, let’s not forget the surplus skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts. The sight of Saxon fending off droves of spindly scaffolding was inestimable and a misspent youth spent repeat-viewing old black & white Sinbad movies when he should have been pulling off to his mother’s lingerie catalogues appeared to be finally paying its dividends for the old-timer. However, the valiant veteran ultimately regretted his decision to spunk the money put aside for Fencing lessons on a biker’s jacket as he became one with a similarly antiquated automobile, thus bowing out with the requisite grace and irony.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is certainly the first of its stablemates that I would designate to my DVD player, should a rainy day emerge at any point. Its affable young cast, imaginative elected locale, and playful spirit elevate it well above the majority of eighties sequels. Come judgement day, methinks a few fingers will wag in its direction for the consequent tumble of Krueger’s fading fortunes and may well proclaim that it played its part in making the series a bit more jovial than genuinely distressing. However, I won’t be one of them. Say what you will about Russell’s entry but it unquestionably possessed heart and the same can’t be said of the Dream Master’s later exploits. In that respect, I consider it a rousing success. Now I’m off to test out my own special ability, there’s a reason one of my biceps is larger than the other you know. Nurse, my bedpan needs changing and don’t send Fishburne to do your dirty work either.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Rating: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Where the optimum kill is concerned, it become something of a no-brainer. Phillip’s cringeworthy Punch and Judy re-enactment is worthy of the price of admission alone. In other news, Jennifer’s big TV break and Taryn’s baleful boost also stand out in a surprisingly vicious entry. Meanwhile, Watching the lackluster Neil secure his mortality was torture in itself. What was Nancy thinking when she hooked up with this lifeless douche? She can thank herself lucky for not being consigned to the scrap heap alongside her father for such poor judgement. Naked flesh was never an Elm Street pre-requisite although Russell saw fit to shoehorn in a little welcome T&A to spice up proceedings. You may be mute Phillip, but there are a number of different other uses for your tongue you know. Here, let me show you.
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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2014 (Revised Edition 2016)