A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 (1987) is one of the few films from the Nightmare series I’ve actually seen before. It’s been a long time, though, so I don’t really remember what happens.
The film starts, rather like the Rob Zombie Halloween films, with an only-semi-relevant quotation, in this case an Edgar Allan Poe quotation about sleep and death. (This quotation turns out to be a fake – Poe never wrote anything of the sort!)
The font used in the titles is gloriously similar to Stranger Things, because, you know, that’s kind of the point of Stranger Things.
We start off with images of somebody making a papier mache house model. This is Kristen, who’s trying not to fall asleep by playing loud music (I didn’t recognise the song, Into The Fire, and with good reason – the band, Dokken, was just a side project of the film composer). Kristen is having bad dreams, but her mother doesn’t care, cause she’s got a new boyfriend to entertain (a classic Elm Street neglectful mother! Great to see the usual themes coming out).
In Kristen’s dream, the creepy skipping girls singing the ‘Freddy’s coming for you’ rhyme are present and correct. There’s then a fairly standard nightmare sequence involving a creepy little girl intoning ‘this is where he takes us’, the ground turning into tar, hanged corpses, Freddy skulking ominously in the background, etc. Kristen wakes up – but it turns out to be a dream within a dream, which is not something we’ve seen in the Nightmare films so far, I don’t think. In the still-a-dream bathroom, the sink tap grabs Kristen and the shower head turns into knives, cutting at her wrists. When her mother wakes her up, Kristen’s holding a razor blade and looks like she’s done it to herself.
Because this is a horror film, Kristen immediately gets hospitalised in a teen sanatorium (although her awful mother thinks she’s just attention-seeking). There’s an orderly working there called Max (played by a pre-fame Laurence Fishburne), whose theory is that all the kids there are having nightmares because their parents took LSD in the ’60s. I love this gloriously dated detail!
The doctor in charge of the patients, Dr Neil Gordon, is worried about the arrival of a new graduate student doctor, as he thinks it’ll disturb the patients’ progress. However, when Kristen has a panic attack and attacks the staff who are trying to sedate her, the new doctor turns out to be Nancy from the first film, who overhears Kristen reciting the ‘Freddy’s coming for you’ rhyme and realises what’s going on.
Neil goes for a walk with Nancy. She drops her bag, and helping her pick up the contents, he notices she’s taking a drug called Hypnocil. He’s then distracted by the sight of a nun who seems to be staring at him.
Nancy is introduced to a couple of the teenage patients – Philip, who calls the hospital the snakepit, and Kincaid, who can’t keep his temper and gets himself put in the ‘quiet room’ (i.e. the padded cell) a lot. In the corridor, they pass another patient called Joey, who looks perturbed, although it’s not really explained why.
At Kristen’s house, Nancy doesn’t get any answers from Kristen’s mother, who still thinks her daughter is faking everything. Upstairs, however, she finds the papier mache house, and instantly recognises it. Meanwhile, Neil is finding out about Hypnocil on a computer database, which probably looked super up-to-the-minute in 1987.
Kristen is dreaming again. She sees a child’s bike making blood trails, then finds herself back in the dream house. There’s a nice visually impressive sequence where Freddy, in snake form, chews up the room that Kristen is standing in. Somehow, Heather hears Kristen in her dream, and gets pulled into the dream to help her. Freddy recognises Nancy, which is a nice ominous moment. They wake up, and Nancy realises that Kristen has the power to pull people into her dreams.
At the next day’s group therapy session, Nancy meets the rest of the young patients. Will attempted a daredevil jump that went wrong and ended up in a wheelchair as a result; Jennifer wants to be an actress; Joey doesn’t speak; and Taryn is just ‘going through some s**t’. After the session, Will, Joey, and Taryn have a game of D&D (or similar), but Taryn’s not into it, and besides, Max the orderly says it’s time for bed. Will and Joey turn out to be sleeping in shifts to try and protect themselves from Freddy.
At a local restaurant, Nancy explains to Neil that her mother passed away in her sleep (which sort-of-tallies with A Nightmare On Elm Street 2, where the story around town was that Nancy’s mother committed suicide and Nancy went crazy – you can kind of see how the actual events would have become exaggerated), then she became estranged from her dad. She wants to give Hypnocil to the kids, but Neil refuses, saying it’s too experimental.
Philip, while asleep, has one of the puppets on his wall turn into Freddy, who then puppeteers Philip by ripping out his limb muscles (gross!). Joey sees Philip about to fall from the roof of the next-door priory building outside and wakes up Will. They alert the other patients and staff, but it’s too late – Freddy drops Philip from the roof while the other kids are watching.
At the next day’s session, Neil’s colleague Dr Simms is an absolute cow to the teenagers, refusing to listen to anything they have to say. Neil finally agrees to Nancy’s Hypnocil request, but Dr Simms insists the patients’ rooms be locked overnight. However, Max agrees to turn a blind eye in the case of Jennifer, who wants to keep herself awake by watching TV in the TV room.
There’s a random scene with another orderly, who hits on Taryn, trying to get her to do drugs with him. This guy is the worst and should definitely have been killed off at some point, but strangely we never see him outside of this scene. The only point of the scene is to tell the viewer that Taryn’s a recovering drug addict, and we could have learnt that elsewhere, without bringing in a whole extra random character.
Jennifer, meanwhile, is burning herself with cigarettes to try and stay awake. It doesn’t work, as the interviewer on the chat show she’s watching (Dick Cavett playing himself) suddenly turns into Freddy and attacks the interviewee (Zsa Zsa Gabor, also playing herself). In a fairly quick sequence (no chasing or anything, which is unusual), Freddy takes over the TV, head and robotic arms emerging from its frame (he’d never be able to do this with a flatscreen one today!), and smashes Jennifer’s head into it.
At Jennifer’s funeral, the nun from earlier speaks to Neil, introducing herself as Sister Mary Helen and revealing that she knows something about what’s going on. ‘The unquiet spirit must be laid to rest,’ she says. When Nancy asks Neil who he’s talking to, it becomes clear that only he can see the nun.
At an unofficial therapy session arranged without Dr Simms’ knowledge, Nancy explains to the patients that Freddy killed her friends, and that they’re ‘the last of the Elm Street kids’ – the children of the adults who took part in burning Freddy to death. Neil hypnotises them all into sleep, but at first it looks as though it hasn’t worked. Joey is beckoned out of the room by a pretty nurse in the corridor, but the others realise that they are in the dream world after all when objects start moving strangely.
The nurse decides to seduce Joey, quickly gets naked and then turns into Freddy, which is very unnerving! He captures Joey and sends him down to hang above a pit of fire. Meanwhile, the dream version of the session room starts burning down, but the occupants all wake up when Dr Simms enters the room.
Because Joey is now in a coma, Neil and Nancy are suspended from duty, leaving the awful Dr Simms in charge of the patients. While packing his stuff into his car, Neil sees Sister Mary Helen in the upstairs window where Philip fell to his death, and goes up to speak to her. ‘This is where it began,’ she says, and we learn that the priory building’s been closed for years, but it used to be a cruel sanatorium until the ’40s. It was closed after the youngest nun, Amanda Krueger, accidentally got locked in the building without anyone noticing and as a result spent two weeks being tortured and raped by the inmates. When she was found, she was half-dead and pregnant with Freddy, the ‘bastard son of a hundred maniacs’. Sister Mary Helen also apparently knows how to stop Freddy. ‘You must find the remains and bury him in hallowed ground,’ she tells Neil.
Nancy visits the comatose Joey. ‘Let him go, you bastard,’ she says, addressing Freddy, and creepily, the words ‘come and get him, bitch’ appear in bloody cuts on Joey’s chest.
Kristen is having another panic attack, and Simms, being as much of a cow as ever, sends her to the ‘quiet room’. ‘You stupid bitch, they’re killing us,’ screams Kristen as she’s dragged away, and for the second time in this film I really wish Freddy was less discerning about whom he goes after when they sleep.
Neil and Nancy visit a bar to find ‘the one person who knows’, according to Nancy, where Freddy’s remains are. As such, we get a welcome return for John Saxon as Lt. Thompson, Nancy’s dad! His uniform says ‘security’ now, and he’s drunk in a bar, so I’m assuming he’s no longer part of the police force. Nancy begs him to tell her where the remains are, but he pretends not to know what she’s talking about. Meanwhile, Taryn calls Neil – the kids are panicking because Kristen’s been locked in the quiet room. Neil sends Nancy to the hospital, then goes badass on Thompson, telling him that if he doesn’t want Nancy to die, he’ll have to help. The two of them drive to a local church, where Neil steals holy water and a crucifix. There’s a slightly-out-of-place comedy moment where the priest catches him, but Neil leaves his driving licence with the priest as security for the items. Thompson then directs Neil to the old car salvage yard where Freddy’s remains are hidden.
Meanwhile, Nancy sneaks into hospital and, failing to get into Kristen’s cell as Max is on guard, gets the other kids together for another unofficial session. They manage to get into Kristen’s dream and join her in the dream version of the quiet room, but Freddy immediately starts ripping the room apart, and the occupants are separated. Kristen finds herself back in the scene shown at the start of the film, with her mother coming in and turning her music off, but it soon turns out to be the nightmare version – the mother’s boyfriend turns into Freddy and beheads the mother, which doesn’t stop her yelling angrily at Kristen.
Taryn, who’s found herself in a dingy street outside a jazz bar (one of those ’80s Hollywood set streets that’s supposed to look rough ‘n’ ready but actually looks really enticing and cool) hears Kristen yelling from somewhere, but before she can find her, Freddy appears in the street and Taryn challenges him to a knife fight. Unfortunately, Freddy’s fingerknives turn into syringes, which inject Taryn with a lethal dosage.
Will, meanwhile, who can walk again in his dreams, finds a spiky torture version of his wheelchair, with Freddy taunting him to sit down. Despite Will turning into his D&D character, the Wizard Master, Freddy still manages to kill him.
Kristen finds Heather and Kincaid; the latter is fed up of waiting for Freddy to find them and starts shouting his name. An ominous-looking door appears, leading down to the pit of fire. Meanwhile, Neil and Thompson find the Cadillac in which Freddy’s remains were hidden. Thompson wants to leave, but Neil says they have to bury the body.
Nancy, Kristen, and Kincaid find the tied-up Joey…and Freddy. Nancy rescues Joey before he drops, but the others have trouble fighting Freddy – he apparently draws power from the screaming souls of his victims, whose faces are shown on his torso (ew). However, as Neil finishes digging the grave, Freddy disappears from the dream world, apparently aware of what’s going on with his remains. The old Cadillac starts making noise, and Freddy possesses his skeleton, killing Thompson and half burying Neil.
In the dream world, Freddy reappears in a hall of mirrors. Joey finally finds his voice, and screams, breaking the mirrors and releasing the others from the trap. Thompson appears, claiming to be delivering a message to Nancy before passing into the next world, but turns into Freddy and fatally stabs her. Nancy, as her dying act, saves Kristen by stabbing Freddy with his own fingerknives. In the salvage yard, Neil wakes up, climbs out of the grave, and throws holy water on Freddy’s bones, causing him to disappear from the dream world.
At Nancy’s funeral, Neil sees Sister Mary Helen again, but she disappears. Looking at the gravestone where she was standing, Neil realises that she was the ghost of Amanda Krueger, who died in 1968 and used ‘Sister Mary Helen’ as her nun name.
In the last scene, the sleeping Neil is shown to have Nancy’s protective dream doll and Kristen’s papier mache house. The latter starts to glow ominously. Roll credits.
I quite enjoyed this entry, despite the frustration of unlikeable characters not getting their comeuppance. Quite interested to watch the rest of the series now!
More ’80s sequel fun tomorrow.