A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors ★★★★★

'Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors' is probably my overall favorite in the series, even more than the first and 'New Nightmare', which is really saying something. For me, this time it is personal, for real. I spent 1987-1988 more often than not incarcerated in private for-profit adolescent psychiatric hospitals which existed primarily to defraud the insurance programs of worried parents, the worry largely manufactured by the private for-profit adolescent psychiatric hospital industry. Maybe your child is using drugs, maybe your child is listening to heavy metal, maybe your child is engaged in self-mutilation, maybe your child is a satanist, maybe your child has a severe mental illness. What is awesome is that these were not mere scare tactics. By and large, we were a bunch of drug-using, heavy-metal-listening, self-mutilating, mentally-ill satanists. But culture had declared widespread war upon these adolescent adaptations to living in late XXth Century Amerikkkan Empire. We were the enemy, and these were the camps they rounded us to and drugged us and incarcerated us in, with zero (or near-zero) consent for treatment on our parts. What is really really awesome is that 'NOES 3' gets exactly the culture of psych hospital kids in the late 80's, a culture which existed only briefly, shut down by the dawn of the 90's, when insurance companies figured out they were being milked as cash cows, and with the mass use of SSRI's on nearly the entirety of the civilian population, they switched to an industry-standard max of 90 days in, mostly just 3 days for observation and back on the street when it has become clear you have failed to kill yourself again. The story was thought up by Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner, who wrote the screenplay too, along with Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont, and it is the perfect environment, the perfect group with which to tell of the larger impact of Freddy Krueger on a whole group of damaged kids. This is a movie that knows that your damage can be your strength. What you have learned through trauma and hurt can be what keeps you alive through that which would otherwise kill. Mental illness, awareness of other planes of being, different states of reality, expanded modalities of the world, a keen sense of the wrongness of things at the root of the built environment, the release and endurance and sense of agency brought by self-hurt (note: i do not advocate self-harm. I did enough of it to know not to do it), these things are ultimately adaptive to an entire world which is inimical to your very existence and has labelled you a pest, a parasite and a threat. 'NOES 3' also gets right the fact that many people running these things, as nurses, orderlies, doctors are actually kindly people who may or may not be in touch with the kids they are trying to assist, or may not have proper context for concrete help, but are mostly not wardens/sadists/zealots/creeps. Also in this movie, we get the fully amazing Patricia Arquette, who acts the heck out of her role as chief Dream Warrior, the return of Heather Langenkamp, who acts here as shamanic guide figure to the kids, someone who has gone through the fire and passed out the other side, changed, and Larry Fishburne, who, as always, rules. The rest of the cast is also beyond solid. Robert Englund's Freddy is here a vast, amorphous, metastasizing existential threat, composed of dread itself, opportunistic and universal, more a malevolent minor deity than individual personage. What is more, this movie deliberately positions itself in line with earlier institution-set melodramas like 'The Snake Pit' and 'Shock Corridor', as well as dungeon party-quests. There is John Saxon drinking in a bar called 'Little Nemo's'!! Also the Dokken Theme Song! I cannot separate this film from that time in my life, nor would I want to. This movie directly validated my experience and that of my peers. It told us we weren't the enemy, weren't a waste, were not losers. We could be Dream Warriors in our becoming, and we could fight rather than let ourselves die, and that even if we must die, it is always better to fight. All hail!!!

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