A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is a treasure trove of kick-ass concepts, blending horror with supernatural fantasy twists and turns, humor, mystery, a monster, and a satisfying tinge of coming-of-age 1980s drama. Sure, many prefer the original Wes Craven film, but some still hold Chuck Russell’s Dream Warriors as their favorite of the entire series. It’s no great mystery why. Whereas most horror franchises risk getting stale by the third installment, this film actually rejuvenated Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), expanded his backstory and legacy, and possibly made him even sicker and more twisted than before (I discuss his depiction in more detail in this article).
(NOTE: This is a fan-made trailer but, in my view, it’s better than what they came up with officially.)
However, let’s not forget the Elm Street kids and the hell Freddy puts them through. It’s hard to pick a favorite attack or kill from this movie. Patricia Arquette made her film debut as Kristen Parker, and when Snake Freddy attacks her through the floor, it is a hugely memorable moment. One could either be terrified or respond in a fit of laughter, and not in a dismissive way (the look of Snake Freddy is surprisingly realistic). My favorite kill from Dream Warriors is Phillip (Bradley Gregg), who Freddy transforms into a human puppet. It’s truly one of the freakiest horror scenes I have seen committed to the screen.
Pleasantly Surprising Aspects of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
In addition to the character’s return, it’s refreshing to see that Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp – our interview) has retained her cognitive abilities and is not insane. If you recall, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge made it sound like Nancy had lost most of her marbles, if not all of them. In Dream Warriors, we see she’s at least gathered most of them back up and is ready to toss them all at Krueger. Granted, for whatever reason, we don’t get to see Nancy display any unique dream powers, but maybe she’s such a bad-ass she didn’t need any extra gifts.
I also enjoy that, in a way, Freddy Krueger comes across almost like a disease or malady, doing everything he can to get at the patients with his infection. The story highlights Freddy as a byproduct of social ills. So, oddly enough, maybe Dr. Simms (Priscilla Pointer) isn’t so far off when she calls the dreams “the by-products of guilt” and “psychological scars stemming from moral conflicts and overt sexuality.” In a roundabout way, she may even be right. Of course, ordinary dreams don’t come equipped with a razor glove that can carve you up for real!
What the Elm Street Kids Represent
By this point in the Nightmare on Elm Street saga, life’s ordinary, mundane joys simply aren’t enough to keep the youth out of trouble. For example, you couldn’t use a shopping mall to comfort Kristen, who has much bigger issues than her mother (Brooke Bundy) could ever understand. The same could be said of every other Elm Streeter depicted in Dream Warriors. Obviously, this serves as a solid metaphor for society aiming to scapegoat problems faced by the youth, like someone saying, “Maybe that kid committed suicide because he listened to Ozzy Osbourne!”
When Freddy, who represents real death, pounces, the victim either awakens in the real world, terrified, or they’ll end up dead or seriously injured. Either way, the teenager is going to deal with trauma. The adult world, not knowing the truth, assumes they just need to head back into the dream world along with Freddy, and no one sees through these ordinary assumptions. It’s not like the grownups are all evil. They mean well, but they fail to take the underlying issue seriously and only see it as a “group delusion.” Honestly, I don’t think one needs to be of a religious mindset to appreciate the questions raised by this bizarre, supernatural scenario.
I may have taken A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors too seriously here, analyzing it a bit too deeply, and maybe even treating it as too special. After all, it’s just another dumb slasher movie, right? Even on the surface level, this movie still delivers. Freddy’s costume and the overall look are still menacing, and he’s undeniably one of the most weirdly stylish slashers in all of horror. In fact, I think Freddy’s iconic glove is still somehow an underrated aspect of the character, and it’s proof that Wes Craven was entirely capable of genius design moments.
Also, the hospital setting becomes sort of its own villain here, with the Westin Hills kids struggling within its confines and barely learning how to evade Freddy. Dream Warriors invites the viewer to ponder, “Would I be able to survive until the next morning against a deranged Freddy?” Freddy stabs and injects Taryn (Jennifer Rubin) with a lethal dose of drugs, kills Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow) through the TV set, tricks poor Joey (Rodney Eastman) with a sexy nurse ruse, and so on.
Nan Martin is compelling as the nun, Craig Wasson is likable as Dr. Neil Gordon, and Roland Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) has that can-do attitude that’s just irresistible. Basically, there are so many things that make Dream Warriors a gem of a film, and I hope you agree. If you hated it before, I invite you to watch it again with a fresh perspective. Maybe after reading this, you will think it sucks a little bit less. I sincerely think there is something for an average viewer to love within this labyrinthine psychological slasher flick.
What are your thoughts on A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors? Let us know in the comments!