he first thing you notice about "NOES 3: The Dream
Warriors" is the seamless transition from waking scenes to dream scenes.
Director Chuck Russell ("Eraser")
handles the camerawork fluidly, which is one of many reasons "NOES 3"
is so much better than Jack Sholder's "NOES
2". Also of note is the screenplay by then-newcomer Frank Darabont, who
would go on to make a career out of adapting oddball Steven King stories into
critically acclaimed movies.
It's now many years after the events of the original "NOES",
and Freddy is once again on the rampage. This time he's targeting a group of
troubled teens in a mental hospital. All the teens suffer from terrible
nightmares, so much so that they will do anything to avoid sleep. The adults, of
course, are of no help whatsoever. Enter Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp),
now all grown up and a doctor to boot. (Apparently her status as a mental
patient ala exposition in the previous sequel was just bad rumors?) Nancy
arrives at the hospital and begins to teach the kids how to defend themselves
Besides offering up a slightly higher bodycount (although
not that much higher), "NOES 3" proves to be a lot more ambitious in
its "dream world" renderings. The special effects employed for the
surreal dream experience is quite remarkable, even pretty good for 1987.
Director Chuck Russell is able to bring out the over-the-top nature of the
dreams in ways that Craven couldn't in 1984. Besides being visually more
stimulating, "NOES 3" also sheds light on the history of Freddy,
courtesy of series founder Wes Craven, who returns to contribute the story. The
screenplay also returns the series back to its roots, including ground rules
like staying awake at all cost or risk death.
Of course "NOES 3" doesn't completely erase the
memory of "NOES 2",
as can be concluded by the silly ending involving the re-animated skeletal
remains of Freddy Krueger. (If Freddy was originally burned to death, shouldn't his skeletal remains also
have been burned to ashes?) Also, the
presence of Freddy's psychokinetic powers, which surfaced in the last sequel,
shows up again when Freddy turns a car junkyard into a carnival in the waking world.
While "NOES 3" doesn't completely undo all the strange abnormality of
Sholder's sequel, it does enough good things to give the series renewed life, as
well as returning a better sense of what the series is all about.
While original series Fair Hair Lead Langenkamp returns as
Nancy, the new Fair Hair Lead in "NOES 3" is Patricia Arquette
("Nightwatch"), who plays Kristen, a teen who has the power to
"pull" people into her dreams. At the hospital, we meet the other
teens currently being stalked by Freddy, including tough guy Kincaid (Ken
Sagoes) and ex-junkie Taryn (Jennifer Rubin, "Screamers").
The subtitle, "Dream Masters", refers to the teens as they learn to
master their dreams, becoming fantasized versions of themselves. For instance,
Kincaid dreams of being super strong, while Taryn dreams of being a
None of this is to say that "NOES 3" is a
perfect sequel. It still has a number of problems, many of which stems from the
"dream powers" concept. As Morpheus said to Neo in "The
Matrix", these kids haven't yet learned to "free their mind".
While the characters acknowledge that in their dreams they can do anything, they
are still nevertheless easy pickings for Freddy. Sure, they fight back, but
they're still too "human" in comparison to Freddy, who makes all sort
of crazy things happen in the dream world. Granted, the kids are new at this,
but how far is the distance between a guy who turns himself into a wizard and
going all the way from there?
The acting in "NOES 3" is decent across the
board, although returning heroine Heather Langenkamp does look a bit silly with
that white streak in her hair. I guess the streak was meant to indicate that she
had grown up, although I think she was still in her mid-20s when the film was
made. Anyway, Langenkamp is too stiff in the role, coming off as a weak
thespian, a fact that I abhor having to make especially since I reveled in her
character's return. Unfortunately I'm forced to admit that she's not a very good
actress back in 1987. (She makes a second return to the series in "NOES
7", so I'll have to see if she's improved since.)
Besides Langenkamp, also returning is John Saxon in a
lengthy cameo as Nancy's father. Now a drunk and security guard, Saxon helps
psychiatrist Craig Wasson locate Freddy's remains in order to bury it, and
(supposedly) kill the supernatural killer for good. Although an obvious adult
authority figure, Wasson's character gets exemption from the Stupid Adult Syndrome on the
basis that, in an attempt to get into colleague Nancy's pants, he trusts her. The rest of the adults, needless to say, are as
useless as Anna Nicole Smith in a round of "Jeopardy".
It must be mentioned that "NOES 3" seems like a
world away from "NOES 2",
and not just in the story, but also in the look. Made two years after Sholder's
sequel, "NOES 3" is so much more polish and expensive-looking. Is it
possible that this second sequel had a bigger budget, or were the filmmakers
just better this time around?