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A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Tonight's Feature Presentation

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Craig Wasson, Patricia Arquette, Robert Englund, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman

Written By: Wes Craven (also story), Bruce Wagner (also story), Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell Directed By: Chuck Russell

The Short Version

Freddy finally gets a decent sequel and conveniently forgets the one that came before.

You don’t technically need to have seen the original movie before this one, but it helps a lot.

Like it or not, this is where Freddy picks up his game show host personality.

What happens in the last ten minutes is something of a surprise.

It’s hard not to have fun with A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CHEESE POPCORN.

Made for snacking!  Hey, wait… is this stuff burnt?


Pairs Well With...

BOURBON IN A FLASK STYLE BOTTLE.

When you’re done with the bourbon, you can use the bottle to collect some holy water in case you need to deal with the bones of a maniac.

“I said: where's the fucking bourbon?”


Here you have it, folks: the trifecta that is A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.

First, Freddy Krueger finally gets a decent sequel, and he also has the good sense to pretend the first sequel never happened.

Second, the story told in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street comes full circle.  (Technically, you do not have to have seen the original first, but I strongly suggest that you do so to get the most out of this one.)

Third, be it for good fun or ill tidings, this is where the screw turns and Freddy stops being a nightmarish monster in favor of being Death’s own game show host.

It’s time for this franchise to transition from grisly horror into commercial powerhouse; ready to board the train?

As our story begins, we meet Kristen (Patricia Arquette, in her debut role).  Kristen is doing her very best to stay awake (including taking spoonfuls of raw coffee grounds washed back with Diet Coke), because – uh-oh – she’s having nightmares about a burned up man with knives at the ends of his fingers.  Needless to say, we all know him as Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, Wishmaster), but Kristen hasn’t gotten that formal yet.  When she nods off this time, however, Freddy makes enough of an impression to get her to slit her wrist in her sleep, which in turn makes enough of an impression to get her placed in a psychiatric ward.

As it turns out, she’s not the only one in the ward who’s been dreaming about Freddy.  Needless to say, the regular doctors on staff don’t believe either Kristen or any of her fellow patients when it comes to the reality of Freddy, but they’re all quite shocked when the new intern says that she does.  The intern’s name is Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp, Shocker), and it turns out that she and Freddy got acquainted six years back…

After A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge had its run, just about everyone associated with the franchise went home with a lesson or two.

Anyone and everyone learned that even though lots of people came to see the movie once because it had Freddy’s name on it, not so many of them liked what they saw, and they really didn’t like the direction that Freddy had taken in trying to have someone else kill for him.

The fact that lots of people did come to see the movie once made Wes Craven realize that maybe his idea had franchise potential after all.

New Line realized that they got away with one, but that to keep the fans happy, they should come back with things that worked before, like the newly enthused Wes Craven and some of the cast from the first movie, and just ignore the second flick as though it had never happened.  But New Line also took to heart the lesson that fans didn’t like the direction Freddy had taken in another way, and so instead of completely pulling back to what worked the first time, they cast off in yet another direction.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors has a lot going for it, even if the subtitle sounds like the name of a Deepak Chopra book.  Wes Craven developed the story and worked on the screenplay.  One of the other guys working on the screenplay was some dude named Frank Darabont, getting in his first feature film writing credit.  (He’d go on to direct and do the screen adaptation for a little movie called The Shawshank Redemption.)  Heather Langenkamp is back.  Angelo Badalamenti – who'd soon be flavoring all of David Lynch’s stuff – has the score under control, and hey, the flick’s got Dokken.  How can you go wrong in the 80s with Dokken?

The good news is that all of the above works.  Overall, the story and the screenplay are solid.  While the dovetail between this and the first film isn’t quite as smooth as it was between Halloween and Halloween II, it’s still a very good direct sequel that keeps the spirit of the original film’s story intact, and builds upon it with some interesting new lore.  (I will say, though, that the revelation about Freddy’s conception was just a few hundred feet over the top.)  The idea that Nancy went on to study psychology with an emphasis on sleep and dream disorders makes perfect sense.  (Aren’t all psychologists supposed to enter the field to solve their own problems, anyway?)  Similarly, the burnout of her father (John Saxon, Enter the Dragon) and his fall from Sheriff to security guard also makes sense.  The idea of how the remainder of the “Elm Street Children” are brought together is well-considered and creatively executed, as is the means by which the skeptical doctor (Craig Wasson, Body Double) is made to understand the truth of what’s happening.  The entire cast is one of the most sympathetic collections of slasher bait you’re ever going find.  The first dream sequence is genuinely creepy, and hey, you stay through the end credits just to jam to Dokken.

All of that is the good news.

How you feel about the rest of it depends largely on how you feel about Freddy turning into a game show host.

In the first film and even in the second, Freddy did what his other slasher brethren do: he stalked his victims and eventually killed them.  Sure, he may have played with them a little bit along the way, but he was, at heart, a stalker, and in the dream sequence that introduces us to Kristen, we see that approach taken, too.  Beyond that initial sequence, however, Freddy starts to undergo a personality change.  It’s not about him stalking anymore so much as it is about how he’s going to toy with the victim first.  In some ways, one can look at it as a precursor to the formula of the Saw movies, except that the victim has no way to win.  The concept of chase has been traded for the concept of theatre with Freddy as the MC.

Visually, one can’t deny that it works, especially since Freddy tailors his tortures to the personalities of the victims he attacks.  The guy who makes marionettes (Bradley Gregg, Stand By Me) has viscera yanked out through his arms and feet in what is an extremely gruesome effect, and he himself becomes a marionette with those viscera serving as the strings by which Freddy controls him.  The girl who wants to be a TV star, Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow, After Midnight), is watching the Dick Cavett Show of all things when suddenly Dick Cavett morphs into Freddy (wow) and is about half a second away from wasting Zsa Zsa Gabor (I totally wanted to see that happen, too; I wished they’d let that play out) when suddenly the screen goes snowy and Freddy becomes the TV itself, and kills Jennifer by yanking her headfirst into the screen.  And as for the horny kid (Rodney Eastman, Deadly Weapon), I’ll just say that I’m glad Freddy had the decency to wait as long as he did to appear, because the gratuitous nurse nudity was definitely a plus.

So yes, it’s fun.  And for this movie at least, it’s still close enough to what came before to not feel like something’s wrong… but at the same time, it isn’t what came before, and anyone with any sense has to realize that once this cat’s out of the bag, it’s not going back in.  Let’s face it: who comes back after turning into a game show host?

This is when being aware of the larger picture isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Do yourself a favor and just enjoy A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors for what it is and not as harbinger of anything else, because on its own, it’s a blast. Indeed, to be completely honest, I had more fun with this movie than I did with the original.

Unfortunately, the further along the movie goes, the more sharks end up being jumped (the skeleton sequence actually reaches the point of being a facepalm for both quality of effects and simple senselessness), and climactic battle doesn’t necessarily feel like one until – well, I’ll let you discover that for yourself.  Let’s just say that if you don’t know already, this movie is capable of pulling out a surprise or three.  And as far as those jumped sharks and the declining quality of effects are concerned, they never reach the point of killing the movie.

Indeed, as far as old school slasher sequels go, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors fares pretty well.  One can actually call it “good” while still wearing a straight face.  I’ll even go so far as to say that if you own A Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s worth picking this one up, too, just to bring the story of the first movie full circle.

Bottom line, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is everything that A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge wasn’t, and that overall is a very good thing.  In the grand scheme of things, this may be the flick where Freddy turned commercial and started to take the game show route, but here, at least, it all works, and as the true follow-up chapter to A Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s definitely worth your time as a slasher fan.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, December, 2011


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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