The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: ‘Bad Dreams’ (1988)


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After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

VHS for Bad Dreams

Fresh off the heels of A Nightmare on Elm Street everyone was trying to cash-in on dream based horror. Wes Craven had created a new breath into the slasher genre, one that had a built in bit of terror using something people had feared for years: dreams. What was once thought to be all in your mind and something you were safe from now terrified a whole generation, either for the first time or all over again, and you weren’t guaranteed to wake. Easy to see why other filmmakers jumped all over the chance to explore this avenue, and by the time the third installment of Freddy’s exploits had hit theaters, writer/director Andrew Flemming decided to bust onto the scene in 1988 with Bad Dreams. Though the film has very little to do with being stalked and killed within one’s dreams, the similarities to the NOES series were hard to deny, especially when it comes to Dream Warriors (my personal favorite). Still, whether you think this is a rip-off or not, it’s hard to argue that this is a damn fine flick.

Terror Tuesday Report – A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors


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The Film

The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has a long and storied history. The craziest thing about it being that a character, Freddy Kreuger, who originally started as a child murderer who was murdered by the Elm Street families, became an icon by the late 80s whom children looked up to and dressed up as during Halloween. Kids were buying Freddy action figures, calling into Freddy 900 numbers, and running around with razor claw gloves and Freddy masks. How did it get this far? There’s actually an amazing documentary that chronicles the history of A Nightmare on Elm Street called Never Sleep Again, which covers everything about the franchise and I highly recommend delving into it if you have any interest in the series. But even with nine movies under the franchise’s belt, one of the best of the series is A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.

 

Kicking off with a young woman, Kristen, played by a very young Patricia Arquette, we find she’s stalked in her dreams by our dream monster, Freddy Kreuger. After Freddy makes it look like she attempted to slice her wrists, Kristen is sent to an asylum with several other teenagers who are all also terrorized in their dreams. What sets Dream Warriors apart from the first two entries, and even the series as a whole, is that Kristen has the ability to bring people into her dreams with her, a supernatural power that allows the teens to fight back inside their dreams.

Terror Tuesday Report: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors


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The Film

A cadre of suicidal teens are remanded to the care of a mental health facility. Trouble is, while inside, horrific nightmares become a shared problem. When the kids begin offing themselves in the most bizarre ways, it becomes apparent–to the kids at least–that something far more sinister is taking place than unstable psyches. When the newest resident of the facility begins discuss a recurring, charred-faced figure haunting her dreams the others realize they too are being visited by this sweater-clad madman. With a little help from the facility’s newest intern Nancy, the truth is finally revealed, but will be in time to save their lives?

Dream Warriors is often haled as the best of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels and, while I agree, I don’t find it particularly well-done. There are elements that work exponentially better in this film than any other sequel and the concept is laden with potential. But it gets squandered in favor of cheap visual gags masquerading as scares; a problem all too familiar to this franchise. I do like that Freddy is used very sparing for the first chunk of the film, solidifying his legendary status. I also appreciate the return of palpably cool John Saxon to the series as it is my firm assertion that he should have played every police chief character in ever horror film of the 70s and 80s.




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