Retro Review: ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’

This years marks the thirtieth anniversary of one of the best sequels in the horror genre, nightmare3A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. True there was a Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, but it proved to be largely forgettable, leading to Wes Craven returning to his franchise with an idea for the next film. This threequel proved to be the next logical step in the Nightmare franchise as it took the plot of the original and built on it.

A new group of kids have now taken up residence on Elm Street, placing them right in the path of Freddy Krueger. To remedy this, their parents send them to a mental hospital to be picked off one by one by the fedora wearing dream demon. The hospital staff scrambles to come up with a solution to what is happening, luckily their newest intern Nancy Thompson knows exactly what is going on. Nancy is now older and wiser but still kicks as much ass as she did in the original Nightmare. She takes these kids in the mental hospital and trains them to use their dream powers to fight back against Freddy Krueger.

The origins in this film lie with Wes Craven, the writer and director of the original Nightmare on Elm Street. At the request of New Line, after the lukewarm response to Nightmare 2, he came back to give his ideas for where the franchise should go next. Taking his plot and running with it was the legendary Frank Darabont and director Chuck Russell. Together they craft the perfect continuation of the Freddy Krueger saga, and expanded on the mythology. We see the character of Nancy grow and move in a logical direction. They also give audiences a bit more of Krueger’s origin making him more of a monster than he already was. They also made the wise decision to move the action  away from Elm Street, and into a mental hospital which is a great creepy setting for the flick.

I have always held to the belief that the best horror villains are defined by the hero who nightmare1actually has the courage to stand up to them. Jason dealt with Tommy Jarvis, Dracula had Abraham Van Helsing,  Michael had Laurie Strode, while Pinhead had Kirsty Cotton. For Freddy Krueger his nemesis was Nancy Thompson, played by Heather Langenkamp, who returns in this installment of the franchise. Both Langenkamp and Robert Englund give their all in playing these iconic characters. Robert Englund is truly having fun in this role, even ad-libbing some of Freddy’s most iconic one-liners. This was the beginning of the more comedic Freddy we would see in later installments, but here Englund finds the perfect balance between the humor and horror. Langenkamp knew exactly where to take the character of Nancy, she is older granted, but still has the fighting spirit which allowed her to best Freddy Krueger when she was a teenager. The conflict between these two characters is the driving force behind this movie, and the addition of John Saxon returning as Nancy’s father just adds to it.

The Dream Warriors who find themselves in Freddy’s path are more than just fodder for the audience to mark time until they’re sliced up. Instead each of them in wonderfully crafted and given their own distinct personalities and characteristics. This means we as the audience actually care when they fall asleep and and are preyed upon. It was almost imperative that each teen is given their own individual personalities, not only does it give them a weakness for Freddy to exploit, it also gives them a power to fight back against him. Chief among this new batch of kids is Patricia Arquette, who makes her cinematic debut. Arquette’s Kristen is built up to take Nancy’s place as Freddy’s next rival and the young actress proves to be more than capable of the task.

Of course with any good slasher flick the kills have got to be memorable and Dream Warriors delivers on that front. Of course everyone remembers Freddy shouting “welcome to primetime bitch!” while smashing a girl’s head through the television, but there are many other ways he dispatches his victims in this movie. To fight it out with a recovering drug addict, Freddy changes his trademark claws into needle for a psychological edge. There is also the famous scene where he uses a child as a marionette and walking them off of a roof, and of course the famed Freddy turning into a worm. Director Chuck Russell and his crew make great use out of the practical effects at there disposal to deliver some truly striking visuals.

nightmare2A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors has more than earned its place among the best horror sequels. Under the guidance of Chuck Russell we see Freddy further cement his place as a full fledged pop culture icon. It is grander in scale than the original, yet it never loses focus of the kind of movie it is. The performances from the cast are stellar, especially Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund. All of this plus a kick-ass metal song from Dokken, make this flick a must see for horror fans.