A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS – Angelo Badalamenti
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
As a way of continuing to capitalize on the unexpected success and popularity of the first two films in the series, the producers of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise continued the story of the maniacal mass murderer Freddy Krueger in 1987’s third film, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Directed by Chuck Russell, the film stars Patricia Arquette as Kristen, a young woman who dreams of Freddy (Robert Englund), and who is subsequently sent to a psychiatric hospital when the wounds from her encounter with Freddy are mistaken for a suicide attempt. At the hospital Kristen meets her fellow patients, a doctor named Gordon (Craig Wasson), and a trainee therapist, who turns out to be Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), from the original Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Gradually the patients begin to realize that they are the surviving children of the parents who killed Freddy in real life, and that he is now trying to finish off the job.
The score for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors was written by Italian-American composer Angelo Badalamenti. Having spent the majority of his musical career as a pianist, electronic composer, and pop music arranger, Badalamenti did not properly enter the world of film music until 1986, at the age of 49, when he was asked by his friend David Lynch to be Isabella Rossellini’s singing coach on the film Blue Velvet. Badalamenti ended up appearing in the film as a piano player, and scoring the film too, and its subsequent success led to him being offered jobs elsewhere in Hollywood. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 was Badalamenti’s first job post-Blue Velvet and, while there are some interesting textures and ideas from time to time, what really emerges from the score is the feeling that Badalamenti was still finding his feet, musically speaking.
The first thing that listeners will notice is that, by and large, Badalamenti’s synth samples are terrible. Whereas composers like Harold Faltermeyer and Brad Fiedel were at the cutting edge of electronic film music in the 1980s, creating works of comparative sophistication, many of their peers – especially in the horror world – were working with significantly inferior equipment, and with significantly lower budgets, and so had to be creative with whatever they could get their hands on. Badalamenti was clearly working with much more primitive equipment on A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, and as such the sonic limitations of the score are immediately apparent. Working within these constraints, however, Badalamenti still was able to create some unusual textures and sounds, giving the score an eerie, otherworldly feeling that matches the dream world that Freddy Krueger inhabits. Much of the score is quite dissonant and challenging, making use of harsh electronic textures and rhythms overlaid with a small orchestral ensemble of mostly strings, with a few bits of live percussion, a small woodwind section, and a solo trumpet.
As was the case with Christopher Young’s score for A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, there is very little in the way of reference to the thematic ideas from Charles Bernstein’s score for the first Nightmare on Elm Street here. Hints of the iconic Freddy theme appear very briefly in the “Opening” and in subsequent cues such as “Snake Attack” and “Quiet Room/Wheelchair/Icy Bones,” but the allusions are few and far between, and for the most part Badalamenti goes his own way with the score. Disappointingly, the score doesn’t really develop any sort of central thematic ideas of its own, so instead Badalamenti relies on a wide range of different electronic textures and rhythmic ideas to try to keep the score fresh.
Badalamenti’s score pulses restlessly, underpinned by drones and grinding noises, driven forward by an array of stabbing, thrusting chords that seem to mimic the threatening flourish of Freddy’s finger-knives. Cues such as “Puppet Walk,” “Snake Attack,” “Quiet Room/Wheelchair/Icy Bones,” “Rumbling Room,” “The Dream House,” and “Is Freddy Gone?/Trouble Starting/Prime Time TV/Icy Window” embrace all manner of electronic dissonances and creepy textures; Badalamenti throws everything at the score in the hope that it elicits some sort of visceral reaction from the listener – creepy stingers, heartbeat flutters, piercing whines, off-kilter piano textures, even oddly inquisitive ‘howling dog’ noises, all underpinned by a constantly changing rhythmic core. It often sounds like a complete mess – and, frankly, it often is – but there’s something charming, almost endearing, about the chaos. You really get the sense that Badalamenti was trying really hard to come up with sounds and textures that were new and interesting, but it’s equally clear that he had no filter. It’s like he came up with 30 different ideas, but instead of limiting himself to the ones which truly work, and crafting a score around this smaller set of techniques, he just used all of them, even the bad ones.
Some moments of more lyrical harmony do occasionally peek through the madness. “Save the Children” features lush synth strings and a more emotional style which appears to show the genesis of the signature Badalamenti sound that would develop in scores like Twin Peaks. Later, “Deceptive Romance” features a pretty theme for flute and guitar, but gradually becomes more dissonant as it progresses, at one point even adopting a staccato buzzing noise that sounds like a piece of broken office equipment. Both “Magic Butterfly” and “Dreamspace” are lighter, with fluttery woodwind ideas, crystalline synth tones, and moody, hazy ambiences. On the other hand, “Taryn’s Deepest Fear” is completely insane, beginning with a sequence for 1980s rock guitars and sampled applause, and finishing with a chase sequence for drum pads, electronic stingers, and chaotic rhythmic patterns that go all over the place.
The final three cues – “Grave Walk,” “Nursery Theme,” and “Light’s Out” – feature some slower, moodier writing for sampled cellos, skittery strings, music box glockenspiels, and dreamy textures dripping with faux-relief, but never allow the listener a truly satisfying thematic resolution. In fact, the final three-note flash of Charles Bernstein’s theme at the very end intentionally alludes to the fact that the man in the battered red-and-green sweater will be back for more.
The score for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Freddy’s Revenge was released on CD by Varese Sarabande at the time of the film’s release – it was one of the label’s first CD releases, in the old VCD series – but it has been out of print for quite some time and physical copies are now difficult to find. The score has also featured in several compilations, including the “Best of Nightmare on Elm Street” set released by Varese in 1993, and in the Nightmare on Elm Street 8-CD collector’s edition box set released in 2015. Collectors should note that none of the releases include the film’s theme song, “Dream Warriors,” which was written and performed by the American heavy metal band Dokken, and which was very successful in the pop charts back in the day.
I have always found it very interesting to go back and listen to the very first scores in a composer’s filmography, especially when said composer has gone on to enjoy a long and distinguished career in film music, as Angelo Badalamenti has. Listening to A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 now, one would never anticipate that Badalamenti would subsequently write such outstanding works as Twin Peaks, Cousins, The Comfort of Strangers, The Straight Story, A Very Long Engagement, Secretary, or Stalingrad; the lack of compositional sophistication, and the lack of thematic content, is immediately apparent, and does not seem to bode well for the composer’s future. Despite some flashes of cleverness, and despite my admiration for the way he tries exceptionally hard to overcome the technical limitations of 1980s synths, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Freddy’s Revenge remains one for the completists, and is only really recommended for fans of the series.
Buy the Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- Opening (1:50)
- Puppet Walk (3:18)
- Save the Children (1:25)
- Taryn’s Deepest Fear (3:05)
- Deceptive Romance (1:45)
- Snake Attack (1:56)
- Magic Butterfly (1:20)
- The Embrace (0:42)
- Quiet Room/Wheelchair/Icy Bones (2:41)
- Rumbling Room (1:15)
- Dreamspace (0:46)
- The Dream House (1:50)
- Is Freddy Gone?/Trouble Starting/Prime Time TV/Icy Window (4:32)
- Grave Walk (1:11)
- Nursery Theme (1:55)
- Light’s Out (1:00)
Running Time: 32 minutes 02 seconds
Varese Sarabande VSD-47293 (1987)
Music composed by Angelo Badalamenti. Orchestrations by Andrew Barrett and Joseph Turrin. Recorded and mixed by Ray Niznik. Edited by Earl Ghaffari. Score produced byAngelo Badalamenti. Album produced byTom Null.