A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors ★★★★

You Gotta Be Fucking Kidding: The 1980s Horror Month

"Sleep. Those little slices of death. How I loathe them."

Don't get me wrong, I don't spend my dreams warding off attacks from an undead child murderer, but I still think the opening quote in this film, as created by Edgar Allen Poe, could not speak to me more if it tried.

Since I was 18 I have struggled with sleep. Firstly as an insomniac, something that was brought on by a deep depression and too many hours in front of very late night TV, but then it developed into a fear of sleep. Of being petrified of putting my head on the pillow in case I fell asleep. Not knowing what was going to happen to me, not having control.

The worst part was when I nodded off and woke up again with a start after a second. Then the fear really hit me that it could happen any moment. I would do anything to try and keep myself awake until, eventually, my body collapsed with exhaustion and I slept. I would awaken in the morning with no real recollection of the night before, not remembering the nightmare before I slept. No matter how many times it happened to me.

These days my aversion to sleep is not so much fear but annoyance. A bout of hypnophobia will hit me infrequently, but it's just a quarter of my life wasted, a life that has already seen enough wasted time and years. I hate it and if they could prove that the lobotomies they perform in the Sleepless episode of The X-Files would really work, then I'd be first in line!

Perhaps more than in the original, and certainly more than in the disappointing sequel, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 is able to portray that utter fear of sleep. In the original, it was only really Heather Langenkamp who possessed that. Here, it is a whole group of kids, locked together in an almost impossible environment to avoid sleeping and forced to face their fears - and perhaps even certain death. They have each other to turn to, but it probably won't make any difference.

I think this film does this, and several other things, so well that it was so much easier to overlook the strange issues and oversights here. Such as why Joey (Rodney Eastman) in his first scene had a teardrop tattoo that wasn't seen again for the rest of the film. There was also the extremely daft idea that Langenkamp, having been turfed out of the hospital, was just able to wander back in with nobody batting an eyelid. The staff also seem to make a strange disappearing act during the final scene, while Taryn (Jennifer Rubin), who is murdered during that scene, appears to be at Langenkamp's funeral at the end!

It's oddly sloppy in places, probably a symptom of the fact that it's directed by Chuck Russell. I don't doubt that Wes Craven would have ironed these issues out had he taken the director's chair again. But the superb character development and the notion of pushing the Freddy Krueger character and the general legend along a little bit, but not giving it a hearty shove, allows it to explore certain elements of the original in greater detail while using its own ideas. Quite rightly, it also completely ignores its bobbins predecessor and follows on from the end of the first part.

So it's able to overcome its bumps in the road, helped in part by a decent cast. Langenkamp is more convincing here and Craig Wasson's everyman qualities are put to work as well here as they were in Body Double, both of them heading a strong team effort from its mostly youthful support cast. Russell throws in some startling effects that perhaps improve on the original in places - Langenkamp falling through the chair, Arquette being grabbed by the water tap and Rubin being stabbed by syringes are all superb visuals that managed not to seem gimmicky or silly.

It even manages to find some space for an homage to Ray Harryhausen as Wasson and John Saxon encounter the skeleton in the scrapyard. This really is a terrific sequel but, perhaps more importantly, a splendid horror movie in its own right.

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