A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 - Dream Warriors (1987)


Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp, Shocker), the original scream queen, is now a psychiatrist whose specialty — surprise, surprise — is abnormal dream behavior. Nancy accepts a position at the Springwood Mental Institution where a group of teenagers are having night terrors. She knows Freddy Krueger (Richard Englund, Eaten Alive) is back and she’s determined to finish him off for good.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Sleep. Those little slices of death. How I loathe them!”

Sequels tend to be treated like ugly stepchildren and for good reason. More likely than not, sequels are devoid of creativity. Also, sequels cost more and make less money. Directed by Chuck Russell (The Mask and Eraser), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors managed to buck the trend. It’s almost universally considered the best sequel and I have to concurred with the critical mass.

The film series’ creator Wes Craven had refused to participate in the first sequel (A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge) because he thought that A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) had a complete arc. I can see where he was coming from and I applaud him for turning down a job on principle.

After the success of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), Craven realized that he had misjudged the possibilities of his creation. He came up with an original story that was turned into a screenplay with the help of director Russell, Frank Darabont (The Green Mile), and Bruce Wagner (Maps to the Stars). The hard work of the writers really pays off; the film has a density that’s rare in a production of this vintage, and the whole thing finds a nice way of bringing the franchise full circle. The ending is so good that the rest of the series feels anticlimactic.

Not only is the script rock solid (I particularly liked Krueger’s back story), but the film also sports some of the most imaginative visuals of the series — there is great imagination on display here! The stop-motion skeleton is delightfully Harryhausian (it is, perhaps, a tribute to Ray Harryhausen’s 1963 production Jason and the Argonauts).

I also enjoyed the make-up effects and production design. The climax is very exciting. My only gripe is the introduction of humor, which paves the way for the comical Krueger of later films. I’m not a fan of Heavy Metal, but I did think the song “Dream Warriors,” written and performed by the group Dokken, was quite good. Angelo Badalamenti (Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive) wrote the original score.

Heather Langenkamp makes a welcome return to the series as Nancy. John Saxon (The Appaloosa) also returns as Nancy’s father. Craig Wasson, fresh from his success in Ghost Story (1981) and Body Double (1984), is very good as Dr. Gordon.

The cast also includes Laurence Fishburne (What’s Love Got to Do with It and The Matrix) as a nurse and Priscilla Pointer (Carrie and The Fury) plays Dr. Elizabeth Simms. Funny cameos by celebrities Dick Cavett and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Film début of Patricia Arquette (True Romance and Boyhood).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Any list of the best movie sequels has to include A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors — a fun, scary, highly inventive film that surpasses expectations. It should have ended here, but we all know how that goes… Color, 96 minutes, Rated R.

Followed by A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

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