Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Directed By: Chuck Russell
Written By: Wes Craven
Patricia Arquette
Robert Englund
Heather Langenkamp
Larry Fishbourne

I read the script for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors before I rented the film — I went into the movie knowing every bit of dialogue, every death sequence, and every plot turn. And yet, even in a film that no longer held any surprises it still managed to freak the hell out of me.

Let’s backtrack here:

I started watching horror films in the days of BetaMax and VHS, where the horror section of movie stores were decorated with oldschool cover art. Where movie boxes looked exciting, let alone the films themselves. Where I lived, the local video store was a hopping place, and horror films were often difficult to get ahold of since they were constantly being circulated. And when I was first discovering the classics of horror, I was eager andimpatient to get ahold of every horror film I possibly could. When I was forced to wait for films to be returned to the rental place, it ultimately led me to discover one of the greatest resources out there: screenplay archives. Yes, when I wasn’t watching horror films, I could be found in front of the computer for long hours combing through the scripts for films that weren’t readily available. A horror geek in every sense of the word, but proud to be one.

So when people wax nostalgic when reminiscing about their first time seeing Dream Warriors, I too think back to how I first experienced the movie: as black text on a white background. But even the script sent chills up my spine upon first read. Predominantly set in a psychiatric ward, a group of troubled teenagers all happen to share the symptom: Freddy Krueger. Unlike the children of the previous Elm Street films, these kids aren’t entirely powerless against the dreamwalker. Each one has a unique ability in the dreamworld which they can use to fight their crispy-skinned boogeyman. The Dream Warriors, led by veteran Krueger survivor Nancy Thompson, must band together and take on their worst nightmare. But Freddy has been growing stronger, fed by the many souls of his past victims. The question remains: will the Elm Street teens have what it takes to take down evil incarnate?

Well let’s face it, these films are about one thing and one thing only: Freddy Krueger. So how does he stack up in this film? As any fan of this series will tell you, Freddy is truly in his element here. Dream Warriors basically marks the point at which Freddy was the perfect blend between sadistic comedian and all-out fright icon. This is the film that many consider to be the true sequel to Wes Craven’s original, and maybe rightly so since they nailed the character of Freddy so perfectly. But Dream Warriors is about more than just creative killings and special effects (though the film boasts a variety of sick slayings and an ample share of memorable effects), the film is great because the story is so solid. It does for Freddy what Halloween 2did for Michael Myers, expanding the mythology and introducing the character of Krueger’s mother, as well as shining a dim ray of light on the formerly unknown origin of Freddy.

Lastly, the cast cannot be ignored. Dream Warriors is significant in that it marks the first feature film appearance by Patricia Arquette who takes the lead role as heroine Kristen Parker, as well as features a very early appearance by Morpheus himself, Laurence Fishburne (though credited as “Larry Fishburne”). It was also a very welcome sight to see the original cast reprising their roles, including Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson, and John Saxon as her law-enforcing father.

I love this film, but it’s definitely one of (if not the most) intense installments of the series. It’s not something I can just toss on in the background because I wind up getting drawn into the story and the beautifully shot scenes. Unfortunately, fans of the series would be taken on a rollercoaster ride over the course of the next three installments and would have to wait almost a decade before the release of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare to see Krueger restored to his dark, sinister roots.