31 Days Of Horror: A Nightmare On Elm Street 3

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.

A Nightmare On Elm Street 3
Freddy Krueger is more prominent in this film, and hence somewhat less scary.

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.

31 Days Of Horror: A Nightmare On Elm Street 2

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 (1985) is the first film in this month-long horrorthon that I have never actually seen before.  Out of the Elm Street series, I’d seen 1, 3, 7 and Freddy vs. Jason, and most of those were when I was a teenager.  It’s a series I need to become more familiar with, especially seeing as I own the DVD boxset.

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2
The DVD boxset comes with this nice souvenir booklet with lots of cool images and factoids about the films. I should get round to reading it sometime!

The credits call this ‘Part 2’, but as that appellation became very associated with the Friday the 13th series, it seems to have been quietly dropped in subsequent merchandising.

The film opens with a loner-looking teenager, Jesse, on a school bus, being laughed at by the other kids.  It becomes apparent that this is a nightmare when the bus drives off the road and away over a field, and is revealed to be being driven by Freddy Krueger.  The ground opens up, and the bus plunges back and forth on a precipice, threatening to fall.

Cut to suburbia where Jesse has just woken up from the bad dream.  Apparently nightmares are common for him, judging by the reactions of his family.  He drives to school with Lisa, his sort-of girlfriend, and we cut to gym class, where it’s revealed Jesse is no good at sports.  He gets into a fight with another boy, Grady, but they sort of make up in a boy way while being forced to do punishment press-ups by sadistic Coach Schneider.  When Jesse explains that he’s just moved into the area and is living on Elm Street, we get some backstory from Grady: the house that Jesse and his family have moved into is Nancy Thompson’s old house.  The story around town is that Nancy went crazy after watching Glen get killed in the first film.  Jesse doesn’t believe Grady.

That night, Jesse investigates a noise in the garden, which is a very Elm Street scene – suburban gardens with lots of trellises and trailing plants.  Freddy appears, trying to influence Jesse’s mind rather than killing him – he clearly needs to use Jesse to achieve his evil ends.

Jesse, understandably, doesn’t sleep well for the rest of the night, and the next day, a boring biology class sends him to sleep.  He dreams a snake is strangling him, causing him to yell out and wake up, only to find himself holding a real snake from one of the classroom tanks.  The teacher thinks he’s messing about.

Back home, Jesse intends to go out and meet up with Lisa, but his dad insists that he clean his room first.  Jesse plays loud pop music (Touch Me by Wish and Fonda Rae, a very minor hit that nevertheless has its own Wikipedia entry) while doing so, which is not very suited to the situation – some metal or punk would be more rebellious.  This is quite a silly sequence, with Jesse singing into a pretend microphone and dressing up in daft accessories until Lisa arrives, having convinced Jesse’s mother that he’d invited her round to help sort out his room.

Jesse and Lisa find Nancy’s diary on a shelf.  Apparently the events of the first film took place five years ago, which is infuriating if you’re enough of an ’80s fan to have a keen eye for the changing fashion trends throughout the decade.  The first film was released in 1984 and this one in 1985, meaning that they both look emphatically mid-’80s.  You couldn’t even get away with saying that the first one was set in 1982/1983 and the second in 1987/1988, because the fashions and decor trends of each year of the decade are so completely distinctive.  Obviously in 1985 they had no way of predicting what the world would look like in 1989, but it’s still a real annoyance.  To me, anyway.

That night, Jesse finds Freddy’s glove in his dream. ‘Kill for me!’ says Freddy, still trying to turn Jesse into a puppet.

The next day, the whole of Jesse’s family are complaining about the heat in the house, but Jesse’s little sister tells them to shush, because the pet birds are sleeping – there’s a cover on their cage.  Unfortunately, the cage starts shaking bizarrely, and then explodes.  The pet birds go nuts and start flying at Jesse’s dad’s face to peck him, drawing blood in a nice callback to The Birds, before exploding in a shower of feathers.  Nasty.

Completely randomly, Jesse wakes up in the middle of the night and sneaks out to a nightclub.  Coach Schneider is also at the club, catches Jesse, and takes him back to school (still in the middle of the night) to make him run circuits of the gymnasium.  This whole bit is so bizarre that at first I thought it was supposed to be a dream sequence, but apparently not.  There’s lots of Adidas product placement here too, which is distracting.

After a scene where all the basketballs and tennis balls in the gym equipment come flying out to attack Schneider, he’s dragged into the showers by an invisible force.  There’s then a bizarre telekinetic towel whipping sequence, before Freddy, possessing the body of Jesse, kills Schneider.

There’s a knock on the door at Jesse’s house, and his parents answer to find the police bringing Jesse home after apparently finding him wandering naked along the highway.  The next day, Jesse’s dad fits bars to all the windows, just like Nancy’s mother in the first film.

Another dream sequence, where Jesse finds Freddy’s glove in a drawer in his bedroom, then goes into his sister’s bedroom to find her skipping to the creepy ‘One, two, Freddy’s coming for you’ rhyme.

In the morning, Jesse confronts his father, asking angrily if he knew about the previous goings-on in the house, with Nancy going crazy and Nancy’s mother apparently committing suicide.  Apparently Jesse’s dad did know about it, but didn’t care ’cause he was getting a good deal on the house.  This is pretty much the same plotline as what happens with John Strode and his family in Halloween 6, which was released a decade later, so I guess Halloween 6 copied this one.

Lisa has been busy since they found the diary.  She drives Jesse out to Krueger’s old boiler room and shows him all the research she’s done into the backstory.  Jesse is too panicked about the dreams to listen to her – he believes that he’s going crazy and killed Schneider himself.

In Jesse’s next dream, Freddy nearly gets him to kill his little sister.  Jesse starts taking pep pills to try and avoid sleeping.

Nobody at the high school seems to care much about Schneider having been brutally murdered (as we’ve seen multiple times this month, the standard motto of every horror film high school is ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’), and so the topic of conversation in the cafeteria at lunchtime is the party that Lisa’s throwing.  Grady says he can’t go, ’cause he’s grounded.

At Lisa’s party, her parents go to bed early as promised.  This results in a bizarre moment where the party gets wild and loud as soon as all the party guests see the lights go out in the parents’ bedroom.  Just as I was about to ask, ‘surely the parents can hear all of this?’, we do indeed cut to the parents in bed, looking surprised at the fact that the party kids are stupid enough to think they won’t hear anything.  However, Lisa’s mother persuades her husband to leave the kids be.  The whole sequence is a bit weird and unsatisfying.

Jesse is so stressed he’s close to a panic attack, but Lisa calms him down by dragging him into the cabana for some alone time.  However, Freddy tries to take over Jesse while he and Lisa are making out, and so he runs off, leaving her confused and annoyed.

Jesse breaks into Grady’s bedroom through his window and wakes him up.  In an awesome and much-appreciated bit of set dressing, Grady’s room is super super ’80s – triangle-patterned wallpaper with Stray Cats and Limahl posters everywhere!  Jesse makes Grady promise to watch him while he sleeps to make sure Freddy doesn’t appear, but once Jesse’s fast asleep, Grady gets bored and decides to go to sleep after all.  However, Jesse then wakes up, and there’s a grisly body horror moment as Freddy breaks out of his chest, killing Grady and causing everything in the house to explode.  This whole telekinetic power thing of Freddy’s is not very well explained – I don’t remember it being a thing in the first film.

Jesse becomes himself again and returns to Lisa’s house, but then turns into Freddy again and starts to chase Lisa.  He slashes Lisa’s leg, but Lisa can’t kill him knowing Jesse is somewhere inside Freddy.  There’s then a confusing sequence where Freddy keeps disappearing and reappearing as he goes through doorways, kills a bunch of kids in front of loads of witnesses including Lisa’s parents, then disappears again.  I’d love to know how Lisa’s parents explain that one to the police, but of course it’s never followed up.

Lisa drives to the boiler room to confront Krueger, and has to cope with a bunch of hallucinations including creepy dream dogs with human faces and her leg wound being infected with locusts.  After a final chase sequence, in which Lisa refuses to believe that Jesse is dead, keeps imploring him to fight Freddy from within, and then finally kisses Freddy (ew!), Freddy seemingly burns to death, and we get a ‘love conquers all’ victory with a burnt Jesse emerging from Freddy’s corpse.  The whole thing is a bit confusing.

Cut to daylight, where an unburnt Jesse (apart from a bandage on his arm) waves goodbye to his mother and goes off to catch the bus to school, meeting up on the bus with Lisa and her friend Kerry.  This school bus sequence is seemingly another dream, especially when Freddy bursts out of Kerry’s chest and the credits roll.  It’s just as unsatisfying an ending as the first film, with more questions than answers.

Oh, and there’s some completely out-of-place old-timey music over the credits (Bing Crosby’s Did You Ever See A Dream Walking).

Something a lot older and a bit more sedate tomorrow!

31 Days Of Horror: A Nightmare On Elm Street

When I was a young teenager, out of the ‘Big Three’ of slasher horror (Halloween and Friday the 13th being the other two), it was A Nightmare On Elm Street that I found really scary.  It’s clever, because if you think too much about the film, you end up having nightmares about Freddy Krueger yourself.  This happened to me for years, so I was careful not to watch it too often!

Nightmare On Elm Street boxset
This boxset contains all the films up to New Nightmare (1994), but I’ve only ever watched the first one!

Being less easily spooked nowadays, I really appreciate the innovation of this one.  It’s not always clear whether something is a dream or not, just like in real life, and the whole feel is really unsettling.

The boiler room opening sets up the atmosphere really well.  The creepy skipping rhyme (‘one, two, Freddy’s coming for you‘) is also inspired and is one of the most memorable aspects of the film.

There’s a bit of a theme of bad mothers in this one – Tina’s mother seems only to care about her boyfriend, and Nancy’s mother is an alcoholic.  I think the latter can be explained, however (unless I’m giving the script more credit than it deserves), by her trying to cope with having been part of the angry mob that killed Krueger with fire.

Johnny Depp makes his first ever film appearance, looking crazily young from today’s perspective!

I find it a bit odd that the local high school just goes on with classes as normal when one of their students has been brutally killed!

I’ve not seen most of the sequels (I plan to rectify that partly this month) but a common complaint is that Krueger’s not scary in the subsequent films due to being overexposed and having too many wisecracking lines.  That is not a problem in this film – the character is brilliantly creepy and gruesome.

‘Oh, God…I look twenty years old,’ says Nancy as she looks in the mirror after a week of avoiding sleep.  I can never work out whether this is meant to be a sly joke about the fact that the actors playing the fifteen-year-old characters ARE twenty years old, but it kind of takes you out of the story.

I like the bit with the doctors studying Nancy at the sleep disorders clinic, but Geth will probably know better than me whether it’s realistic or not.

When Freddy is on fire in the ending sequence, it’s really obviously a stuntman, ’cause he looks about five stone heavier than when he’s played by Robert Englund!

The ending scene is a bit confusing.  Is it a dream sequence?  Is Nancy dead now?  What’s going on?  Apparently the reason it makes no sense is because Wes Craven and the producer wanted different endings, so they came up with a nonsensical compromise.

And finally, here we have the very ’80s thing of having a rock song (Nightmare by 213 in this case – not to be confused with ’90s rap supergroup 213 – this was the band’s only credit as far as I’m aware) over the end credits.  Gotta provide some work for small unknown local bands from the Los Angeles area!

Back to the Halloween films tomorrow.