The challenge of the Nightmare on Elm Street films is that they need to create fear in an environment where the normal rules don’t apply, which makes scares that would be shocking in a realistic context less effective. The second sequel answers this challenge by not trying to be a horror film; it’s more of a supernatural thriller, set in a psychiatric ward populated by tormented teenagers.
It’s structured like a mystery, where the doctors and patients alike try to work out what’s causing the recent spate of suicides (Freddy Krueger, duh) and how to stop them. The solution is ultimately something to do with “dream powers” – hence the sub-title – but this largely serves as an excuse for some Argento-esque surreal setpieces, portrayed in vivid colours and accompanied by an impressive, theatrical Angelo Badalamenti score.
These setpieces, excessive and grand, are the best reason to watch the film. A Freddy-snake consumes a young Patricia Arquette, a sleepwalker is steered to his death as Krueger’s mannequin, his tendons the strings and – in the most effective scene – Freddy’s iconic blades become syringes, piercing the (literally) weeping holes in the arm of an ex-drug addict. It’s campy, but there’s genuine artistry on display.