The Nightmare Series: 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 is back and she’s determined to finish him off for good.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Sequels tend to be treated like ugly stepchildren and for good reasons. More likely than not sequels are devoid of creativity. Also, sequels cost more and make less money. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, directed by Chuck Russell, managed to buck the trend. The film received mostly positive reviews; it’s also one of the highest grossing films of the series. It’s almost universally considered the best sequel and I have to concurred with the statement.

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. 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.

I particularly liked Krueger’s back story. My only gripe is the introduction of humor, which paves the way for the comical Krueger of later films. Not only does the script is rock solid, 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 Jason and the Argonauts). I also enjoyed the make-up effects and production design. The climax is very exciting.

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) wrote the original score.

Langenkamp is convincing as the matured Nancy. John Saxon 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. Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) has a small role as a male nurse. Cameos by Dick Cavett and Zsa Zsa Gabor. With Priscilla Pointer (Amy Irving’s real-life mother). Film début of Patricia Arquette (Boyhood).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Any list about 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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