Hello Geeks and Ghouls, Famous Monster here. Well, it’s finally October and you know what that means? Breast Cancer Awareness 5Ks? Good guess. Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Delicious, but no. Halloween? YES. Horror movies? DOUBLE YES!
Welcome to 31 Days of Horror, where I’ll cover at least two noteworthy horror films a day for the entirety of the month. That’s 31 Days of Horror and 62+ scary movies perfect for a cold, dark October night. Be sure to visit Geeks of Doom every day this month for a double-shot of chills and thrills!
WELCOME TO PRIME TIME, BITCH! Today’s one-two punch of horror features Chuck Russell‘s 1987 film, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Adrian Lyne‘s surreal 1990 film, Jacob’s Ladder, two films guaranteed to keep you up at night!
Kristen ‘wakes’ from her nightmare and goes to the bathroom, only to discover she’s still asleep and encounters Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), who slashes her wrists with his finger-knives. When Kristen wakes up, she is holding a razor blade to her wrist. Her mother mistakes the incident as a suicide attempt and sends Kristen away to Westin Hills, a psychiatric hospital.
There she meets other kids with sleep disorders: Joey (Rodney Eastman), a mute; Taryn (Jennifer Rubin), an ex-drug addict; Kincaid (Ken Sagoes), a tough black kid with attitude problems; Phillip (Bradley Gregg), a talented sculptor; Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow), a wannabe actress, and Will (Ira Heiden), who is confined to a wheelchair due to an earlier suicide attempt.
These are the last of the Elm Street kids – the remaining children of the parents who burned Freddy Krueger alive. When Kristen has another terrifying dream, she reveals a secret ability to bring others into her dreams by bringing Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) into the dream to assist her…
That Creepy Scene:
The gruesome, tragic death of Phillip (Gregg) in Dream Warriors is perhaps the most disturbing sequence in the entire Elm Street series. As the resident sleepwalker of the Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital, Phillip is known for staggering through the halls of the facility at night.
One night during his sleep, Krueger comes for Phillip – transforming into a terrifying stop-motion string puppet. Krueger then morphs into his familiar old self and slashes Phillip’s legs and arms – using his tendons to parade him through the halls of Westin Hills like a marionette to the building’s rooftops. Freddy slices the tendons and sends Phillip plummeting to his death; an apparent accident (or suicide) to the doctors at the hospital.
The best of the Elm Street series, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is a surreal fantasy-horror film with a great premise, impressive special effects, and an ensemble of talented youngsters (Arquette in particular).
There’s a sense of bleak fatalism that sets Dream Warriors apart from its more comical, outlandish successors. Director Chuck Russell (The Blob) injects this Elm Street sequel with an unexpected undercurrent of sadness that emphasizes the the tragedy and hopelessness in the Elm Street kids’ lives. These are six troubled kids in a psychiatric ward, some of them have even attempted suicide – the best ensemble of kids in any slasher flick.
It’s obvious a great deal of care was put into the production of Dream Warriors, with intricate sets and above-average performances. It turns out the third time really is a charm, as Englund finally finds the character and embodies him completely. Krueger is perfectly balanced here: half gleeful troublemaker and half bastard son of 1,000 maniacs.
There’s tons of personality to not only the kids and their motivations, but to the twisted, demented dreams they have. The actress gets her “big break in TV” and has her head smashed through a television while the ex-drug addict ‘overdoses’ on fear courtesy of Freddy’s knives-turned-syringes fingertips. The wheelchair kid obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons becomes an all-powerful Wizard Master, who is dispatch by Krueger he retorts, “Sorry kid, I don’t believe in fairytales!”
In the way no one says ‘Motherfucker’ quite like Samuel L. Jackson, no one says ‘Bitch!’ like Freddy Krueger. Memorable lines such as “Welcome to prime time, bitch!” and the eerie moment when he carves, “Come and get him, bitch!” on Joey’s chest have come to define the supernatural stalker’s personality. This film has it all: nurse nudity, fantastical ’80s dream deaths, a Jason and the Argonauts-esque stop-motion skeleton, and a holy ritual that turns infamous child molester into a spinning disco ball of light and holy goodness.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors proves that sequels don’t necessarily have to be inferior films. I actually find Russell’s film to be superior to Craven’s 1984 film in nearly every aspect. It’s a shame the 2010 remake by Samuel Bayer focused on recreating Craven’s film practically shot-for-shot instead of embracing the entire series and incorporating the best elements from the previous films. While I would still consider John Carpenter’s Halloween the best slasher film, Dream Warriors is no doubt one (if not the) most definitive horror films on the ’80s.
Consider following up Dream Warriors with Adrian Lyne‘s 1990 film, Jacob’s Ladder. The film stars Tim Robbins as Jacob Singer, a Vietnam War soldier who undergoes a mysterious, traumatic experience on the battlefield. After the war, Singer can never quite remember exactly what happened to him in Southeast Asia and finds it impossible to free himself from his anxieties over the recent tragic death of his young son (Macaulay Culkin).
Soon, Jacob’s grasp on reality begins to slip as strange, horrific events surround his everyday life. He is nearly splattered by a subway train, pursued by faceless demons, and begins to see reptilian tails and horns protruding from the bodies of those he meets on the street. Jacob is unsure if the chaos he’s experiencing is reality, or only exists in his mind…
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