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John’s Horror Corner: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), perhaps the most rewatchable of the series and loaded with creative and fun kills.

September 13, 2015

nightmare_on_elm_street_threeMY CALL: Featuring a very different setting and more creative kills, this may be the most re-watchable NOES film. The franchise is getting slightly sillier, but it remains eerie and dark. MOVIES LIKE Dream Warriors: First off, you should first see the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985). Other classics everyone should see include Poltergeist (1982; discussed at length in our podcast episode #16), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and The Hills Have Eyes series (1977). For more recent horror with a similar sense of humor try Wishmaster (1997) and Hatchet (2006).

The saga continues as Freddy returns to kill off “the last Elm Street kids,” whose parents took part in burning the child murderer Fred Krueger to death years ago. Director Chuck Russell (The Blob) delivers this third franchise installment in a mental hospital (6 years after the events of part 1) which houses several teenagers who all share the same nightmare of a man with claws on one hand, a burnt face and an ugly sweater. Coming to their aid, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp; A Nightmare on Elm Street) returns to Springwood with a Master’s Degree in psychology and supports the young patients’ claims, which are largely dismissed as mass hysteria by the staff. How convenient [diabolical laugh].

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The five troubled teen patients are an eclectic bunch and include Patricia Arquette (Stigmata), Rodney Eastman (I Spit on Your Grave) and Jennifer Rubin (Screamers, Bad Dreams). You’ll also enjoy a young Laurence Fishburne (Event Horizon, The Colony) as an orderly to round out a solid cast in this surprisingly well written horror movie in which, as seems to be a trend in the NOES franchise, Freddy’s menace becomes increasingly iconic of sick humor rather than terror.

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The by-now iconic Freddy (Robert Englund; Wishmaster, Hatchet) returns as the same demonic power with the red and green sweater, a single clawed glove, a face still-moistly burned beyond recognition, and a penchant for painfully raking his claws over metal objects. However, unlike part 1 and Freddy’s Revenge, Freddy is now more outspoken and no longer hides in the shadows like a mysterious boogeyman. He has a much more active role on screen.

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What makes this sequel completely dissimilar to its predecessor is that it doesn’t take place in the residences or high school on Elm Street. The mental hospital offers an eerie new medium for Freddy, and a convenient one since the hospital staff readily considers the teen deaths (as they mount in the story) to be the suicides of troubled youth!

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Another interesting touch is that, in their nightmares with Freddy, each of the teen dreamers retains a sort of special power they always had in their dreams. A wheelchair-bound Dungeons and Dragons dork becomes a physically capable wizard, the hard-ass attitudinal token black guy has super strength, the drug addict becomes a mohawked punk knife fighter, the mute gains the ability to speak, and our heroine becomes an acrobat. These abilities help them combat Freddy in the dreamworld while, in turn, Freddy uses their fears and weaknesses against them.

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This third installment also plays with the rules of Freddy’s dreamscape. In part 1 we were introduced to the terrifying notion that someone can kill us in our dreams (and we really die!) and Nancy was able to pull Freddy into reality, part 2 removed from us not only control of our dreams but also control of our body while awake, and now in Dream Warriors people can pull each other into their dreams and Freddy is able to depart the dream world and enter reality on his own—which doesn’t seem to follow “the NOES rules.” That last bit (Freddy choosing to crossover into reality) may seem like a horrible rule violation, but I forgive it. It happened only once, it was prefaced with his increased power from accumulating souls, and it made for a great scene in which he possessed his own burnt remains (a charred skeleton) to prevent Nancy’s father (John Saxon; Blood Beach, A Nightmare on Elm Street) from burying his remains on holy ground. Watching the skeleton battle Nancy’s father and the hospital psychiatrist was pure joy!

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This sequel has also (thankfully) steered clear of the perverse awkward unease of Freddy’s Revenge, instead offering more diverse kills to the Krueger formula. The wrist tendon puppeteering scene was brilliant and very hard to watch; “welcome to prime time, bitch” is one of Freddy’s best lines ever; a cripple faces the wheelchair from Hell; an addict meets a syringe-fingered Freddy; Joey and the sexy Freddy-succubus nurse was a great teen-fantasy-gone-wrong; and the Freddy-snake swallowing scene was appropriately shocking, unique and gross. Overall, this was the Freddy movie that started making the kills “fun” in addition to being creative. Freddy’s dreamscape has become a twisted carnival funhouse.

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This is the kind of sequel the franchise deserves! We call back to many elements that worked before, like replacing shadowy, steam-spewing boiler rooms and the creepy power plant where Freddy worked in life with the junkyard where his remains were hidden; instead of face impressions on Nancy’s bedroom wall and Freddy’s form emerging through Jesse’s stomach and his claws piercing through his fingertips, we find Freddy manifesting himself through a television set; where once Freddy licked through the phone or lengthily licked the stomach of Jesse’s love interest, he now tethers a teenager’s limbs in a sick fantasy; and rather than slicing off his own fingers or revealing his own brain, he uncovers his soul-embedded chest. Also continuing to flavor the franchise, we revisit Nancy’s dilapidated dreamworld house and unnerving little girls, likely the ghosts of Freddy’s victims. I should add that I still enjoy ALL of the practical effects in all three of the first NOES films. Sometimes the simplicity makes it more gross, weird, off-putting, or even a bit funny; and thrillingly FUN.

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Oh, right! And Dream Warriors has contributed to the Freddy mythology in the form of Amanda Krueger, a ghostly nun tells the horrible story of Freddy’s conception, the product of rape in a mental hospital. “Son of a hundred maniacs.”

Being presented in a completely different style, this is not comparable to the original. It remains a fun movie experience and well worth the ride for the first time or for a good re-watch. It certainly made me smile.

 

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2015 8:52 am

    Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors is still my favourite sequel in the series. It really expands the mythology of the series, especially the dreamscape, and the scenes you highlight are some of the best moments and deaths in the entire series! I always enjoy watching Dream Warriors!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 14, 2015 9:04 am

      This was definitely where the “fun” of these horror movies became more about zaniness than creepiness while still somehow keeping a largely straight face during the dark humor. Dream Warriors and Dream Master were my favorites from my youth.

      • September 14, 2015 3:24 pm

        Those two films were the best of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, they got the blance between horror and the craszyness just right, and the effects were superb. Think I’ll have to give both of these films a rewatch over Halloween!

  2. September 13, 2015 6:46 pm

    This one is terrific! Though in all honesty, I could rewatch the entire franchise ad infinitum. 😉

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 14, 2015 9:03 am

      Haha. For sure. I rewatch them all about every 5 years. I watch more, but there are too many movies out there.

  3. Victor De Leon permalink
    September 14, 2015 3:33 pm

    Good write up, John! My favorite NoES sequel, with New Nightmare rounding it off. Saw this one in the theaters when it was first released. I love when Freddy recognizes Nancy. “YOU!” …awesome stuff! so bad ass.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 14, 2015 3:55 pm

      You know, New Nightmare seems to be quite divisive. I posted this on a NOES FB page and some other horror pages and while everyone agrees that part 3 is perhaps the best sequel. However, a bunch of people either say New Nightmare is their next favorite or LEAST favorite.

      • Victor De Leon permalink
        September 14, 2015 7:28 pm

        That’s interesting. Had no idea. Always thought that NN was pretty unanimously well received. Oh well, horror film buffs are a fickle lot, bro.

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