In the name of Loric, King of the Elves, Demon begone!
–A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
“The following is a contributor post by the Teal Time Mage.”
Greetings, all you intrepidly inquisitive individuals! I’m the Teal Time Mage, and nostalgia and mythology are my stock and trade; this is especially true for the 80s and 90s!
I’m overjoyed that the years of my childhood are getting quite the resurgence, thanks to such films as BumbleBee and Captain Marvel. Video games have likewise sparked a massive interest in retro-gaming from the aforementioned eras with the release of “Classic” systems from the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Sony’s PlayStation (the latter of which many, including myself, are hyper-critical of), with a future Sega Genesis Classic to arrive this coming fall.
Comparing the two pop-culture genres, I couldn’t help but reminisce about all the great movies and games I’ve witnessed over the years, and it was at that moment I had an epiphany: is there a cause and effect ratio between the silver screen and the gaming world? Purely speculation on my part, but I hope to find the connections, both outright and obscure, between movies and retro-games with a segment I call “Videogames and the Films that May Have Inspired Them”. These segments aren’t meant to be taken as truth or fact, but rather to get you, the reader, to ponder the realm of possibility. Bear in mind this article will contain spoilers aplenty, so if you haven’t seen or played either of the works discussed, I highly recommend you do. I’ll just wait here with my bottle of Surge and Dunkaroos… alright, in the immortal words of Mario: “Here we goooooo!”
It was the late, great director Wes Craven who said “I think of horror movies as the disturbed dreams of a society.” And you can find no better example of his philosophy than in the film A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors, the third installment in his legendary horror film series. Released in 1987, Dream Warriors focuses on Kristen (played by Scream Queen Heather Langenkamp): she’s a troubled young woman who has a terrifying encounter with the murderous spirit of Freddy Krueger, a serial killer who was burned alive and resurrected as a nigh-omnipotent and malevolent dream spirit who stalks and kills defenseless children in their sleep (but damn, Robert Englund rocks a great fedora). Kristen is then sent to a mental hospital, only for it to be revealed that she can “pull” others into her dreams. This culminates in Kristen confronting Krueger in the dream world with a group of misfit insomniacs whilst Freddy’s physical remains are destroyed in the real world, finally defeating him.
Imagine playing a videogame where you enter someone’s dream, and all you can see is a misshapen dungeon fraught with twists and turns as you hear bloodcurdling screams in the background beside pulse-pounding music: this is the world of Alundra, an action RPG released on the PS1 in 1997 by Matrix Software (considered by some to be a spiritual successor to another game, Landstalker). Alundra tells the tale of the titular young elven traveler, who is warned in his dreams about an ancient evil being named Melzas terrorizing the island village of Inoa; the residents are revealed to be killed in their sleep while suffering terrible nightmares. Alundra discovers that he can enter people’s dreams and destroy the demonic entities that are plaguing the innocent townsfolk. Traversing both the waking and dreaming worlds, our hero raises a mysterious castle from the lake and ventures forth to investigate; he finally discovers Melzas’ true physical form and destroys the dream demon with holy fire. The game focuses on heavy topical themes including depression, religious extremism, mental illness, and suicide. One of my favorite games for the PS1 and boasting an incredible English translation by Working Designs (of the Lunar series fame), Alundra is without question a game you should immerse yourself in! But for the sake of brevity, I’ll continue with my analysis. Nevertheless, if you want a more in-depth look at this hidden gem, check out this review by my good friend and fellow gaming enthusiast, The Hyperactive Coffee Mage.
All right, now that we have a nice frame of reference for both sources, let’s travel to the surreal subconscious that has baffled the likes of Freud, Jung, and Nietzsche, where sinners and saints stand bare at the dark reflections of the human mind. It is within this nocturnal netherworld that we shall dare to discover if Alundra may have been inspired by A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
Now, where should we start looking for similarities for these two vastly different mediums? No, it isn’t the lackluster sequels that were being pumped out by both franchises (I cast thee out, Alundra 2 and Freddy’s Revenge!), but rather we need to focus on the daring dreamers that serve as the main characters: the “Dream Warriors” if you will. Both Kristen and Alundra are warned in their dreams about a terrifying evil that is stalking them, be it a claw-gloved serial killer or an ancient demonic entity. These subconscious encounters leave both of our heroes isolated from the outside world and confined to “prisons” of sorts. In Alundra’s case, he is shipwrecked on an island with no other option but to stay at the village of Inoa with the kindly blacksmith Jess. Kristen, however, has a more personal trial: she is admitted to Westin Mental Hospital where she and others like her are routinely sedated and studied with no hope of escape. Kristen is only comforted by Nancy (Patricia Arquette, returning from previous entries in the franchise), a kindly therapist who survived Freddy’s initial reign of terror.
Most importantly of all, both Kristen and Alundra have the special gift of entering other people’s dreams. For Alundra, it originates from his being the last of the Clan of Elna, who are “Releasers” capable of dream walking. Kristen’s case is not explicitly made clear, but we can assume it’s due to extrasensory perception she possessed ever since she was a child. Kristen and Alundra also show remarkable prowess in the dreaming world: they can both accomplish amazing feats of agility as well as combating literal nightmarish threats (and the occasional mind-numbing puzzles to boot). These dreams can have lasting effects as well; our protagonists often suffer terrible losses, be it the haunted villagers of Inoa being killed by Melzas, or the quirky misfits in the asylum being murdered by Freddy Krueger. This leaves a heavy emotional toll on both Kristen and Alundra. It’s interesting to note that both the videogame and film climax with our heroes at a funeral where they are giving prayers to their lost friends. Wow, they’re almost like mirror images of each other (right down to their lusciously long flowing hair) in terms of origin, role, and climax. Does that seem strange to you? Let’s delve a bit deeper.
The villains also seem to mimic each other both in form and function. Freddy relies on people’s fear to keep him strong in the dreaming world, which is why he kills to maintain his potency. Melzas, by that same virtue, invades the dreaming villagers of Inoa to sow death and despair; this culminates in the townsfolk praying to their God for salvation. And who do you think this “God” is? Yep, it’s Melzas, using people’s misplaced faith in him as the source of his strength (as Meia calls it, “the pyramid scheme from hell.”). Notice too that both respective dream eaters have their physical remains in the real world destroyed in order to be finished off for good. For Freddy, it’s by having his bones unearthed in a hidden junkyard and summarily doused with holy water. For Melzas, his remains must be uncovered at the bottom of a lake and burned with holy fire. So it is not only the heroes, but the villains as well who share similar characteristics and character arcs. Could it be that Dream Warriors inspired the look and feel of Alundra?
The last bit of sleepy similarities I want to make is that of the tertiary characters found in both film and game; they complement each other almost flawlessly. We’ve already covered Jess and Nancy, but Nancy may also relate to Meia, a fellow dream walker who’s had prior dealings with Melzas in much the same way Nancy has had past experiences with Krueger. One can assume that Doctor Neil from the movie can be viewed as a strong inspiration for Septimus from the game in that both are seen as scholarly academics using logic and science to butt heads with Nancy’s/Meia’s gut instinct.
The victims of the nightmares between the film and game boast many similar traits when you break down the individual characters contextually. The PS1 game has a strong-willed young woman named Nadia who, when asleep, causes psychokinetic blasts of concussive force. Nadia can be somewhat traced back to the film via Taryn, a rebellious runaway who feels empowered within her dreams and becomes more capable and powerful (the way in which they are both killed by their nightmares can also denote a shared archetype). The stoic hunter Kline from the village of Inoa can be linked to Westin Mental Hospital through the strong and fearless Kincaid as they both seek to protect their surrogate homes from outside threats. Alundra’s friend Sybil could likewise be attributed to the character of Will, due to the fact that Will foreshadows the events of the film from playing his D&D in much the same way that Sybil reveals to Alundra what is about to transpire through her clairvoyant dreams (their tragic fates can therefore be seen in tandem). The lovable Joey from the film may have inspired surfer-boy Bonaire from Alundra, as both are easily misled by their respective sexual fantasies involving a seductive blonde woman luring them towards their impending doom. The village priest Ronan can be interpreted as a good match for Dr. Simms from the mental hospital: both seek to impede the efforts of the heroes because of their own willful ignorance facilitated in extreme faith towards their idols, be it religion or scientific fact. Last but certainly not least is the orderly Max (played by Morpheus himself, Laurence Fishburne); from a certain point of view, Max can be a good reflection of Giles from Inoa as they are both blindly following their superiors despite the morally questionable and deadly consequences they bring about.
Keeping in line with tertiary characters and plot mechanics, both respective stories feature help and guidance from an otherworldly figure. In the film, this role is played by Sister Mary Helena, revealed to be the ghost of Freddy’s mother as she offers advice on how to defeat the nightmarish fiend. Meanwhile, Alundra has the character Lars, who is also a spirit that guides Alundra towards his goal of stopping Melzas.
Perhaps the most obvious scene from Alundra which shows Dream Warriors’ sphere of influence is towards the end of the game. At this point, the citizens of Inoa join hands in a circle to galvanize their strength to fight Melzas in their dreams, almost exactly as when all of Nancy’s friends sat in a circle in order to fight Freddy Krueger within a shared dream. But the connection doesn’t end there, as one village girl from Alundra asks: “We will arrive in the same nightmare as… dream… warriors?”
Heroes, Villains, and now even the supporting cast show deep roots between the film and the game, seemingly showing a connection. And that connection offers validity to the suggestion that Dream Warriors may have inspired Alundra.
When you combine all of the shared characters and storylines from both the film and the videogame, one can find many links between the two. Both share a similar form of characterization be it from the heroes, villains, or supporting characters. Both also feature similar forms of narrative and pacing as they likewise transition from a premonition of doom, to isolation of the hero, and finally the physical destruction of the dream monster at the story’s end. The utilization of supernatural ghosts as a form of narration is repeated as well. When you have both heroes harnessing the power to enter people’s dreams as “Dream Warriors”, you can find a powerful sense of cause and effect within the symbolic representation of Wes Craven’s “disturbed dreams of society”. Therefore, it is very possible to see that the film A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors may have inspired the PS1 video game Alundra.
Final Rating: Highly Likely
Thanks, guys! Which Game/Film combo would you like to see next month?
The Teal Time Mage lives at a fixed point in time that is set between 1991 and 1997. Outside of his time vortex of nostalgia, he writes horror short stories, cosplays, and coordinates for various charity groups. Find him on Twitter @ArosElric, on Facebook @ArosElricCosplay, on Final Fantasy XIV’s Cactuar Server under the name “Aros Elric”.
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Categories: Cause and Effect Ratio