After the misstep of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, New Line resolved to make a better sequel, calling in series creator Wes Craven (with Wild Palms writer Bruce Wagner) to craft a more elaborate storyline (and set-piece bad dreams), casting more interesting up-and-comers as Freddy fodder (Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne) and giving director Chuck Russell (The Mask) something like an effects budget.
Heather Langenkamp, an appealing high school lead in the original, is miscast here as the world’s only teenage psychiatrist, and a white streak in her hair doesn’t help her get away with it. She’s also jostled on all sides by better actors trying to take the film away, which means that the central plot thread tends to get lost.
However, the film delivers amazing scenes in spades, bringing to life the sort of bizarre images which used to be found only on comic book covers: a boy’s veins are pulled from his limbs and used as strings to puppet-master him towards death, an antique tap grabs a girl’s hand and sprouts Freddy’s razornails, a victim is literally tongue-tied, a TV talkshow host (Dick Cavett) turns into Freddy and slashes guest Zsa Zsa Gabor (‘who gives a fuck what you think, Zsa Zsa’), Freddy’s bones rise from the grave as a Harryhausen-style skeleton and duel with cop John Saxon and shrink Craig Wasson in the scrapyard where he was dumped.
It’s always a pleasure to see obnoxious American teenagers slaughtered like dogs, but it’s especially nice to see them wiped out in such surreally imaginative ways.