One of horror’s greatest Part IIIs, Chuck Russell’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987 – read our retro review here) is largely successful for expanding upon Freddy’s backstory, broadening his powers and exploring the mental architecture of the dreamscape. By this point in the series, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) was an odd mixture of one-dimensional evil and vengeful flair. While we had glimpses of his powers, they seemed more limited to the dream world in the original. Part 2 changed that considerably once Freddy possessed Jesse. At one point, the demon literally leaped out of the dream world and attacked a pool party, using the non-dream environment against them.
Freddy’s Powers and Preferences in Dream Warriors and What They Mean: Freddy’s Reach
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors continues the trend of complicating Freddy’s reach but in a manner more consistent with the original. Here, Freddy’s influence is more directly linked to the dream world. For example, he manipulates Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) into slashing her wrist, which is an interesting variation on his penchant for razors.
That’s not to say Krueger doesn’t bend the rules, however. When Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson) and Donald Thompson (John Saxon) threaten to bury Freddy’s bones in hallowed ground, the maniac somehow breaks the “dream” rules by bringing an auto graveyard to life. Of course, Freddy’s skeleton comes back to life and has razor-like claws to slash at the nerdy Dr. Gordon!
While this seems to go against the canon rules, Freddy’s ability to break free from the dream world was hinted at in the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Ultimately, it may be that Freddy has always had the ability to carry on in the real world, but prefers a greater degree of safety in dreams. There’s an apparent vulnerability in having his victims fall asleep, as he can manipulate their mental state, shaping their dream environment to suit his sick desires.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors also builds more upon the “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you” nursery rhyme, which is something he appears to take great pride in. As an entity who feasts on fear, Freddy is no longer merely a serial child murderer. He is beyond what he was while he was alive.
A Playful Deviant
There are so many great examples of Freddy’s power here, which seems greater than in the first and second films. Specifically, Freddy uses sexual fantasies against Joey (Rodney Eastman), turns Phillip (Bradley Gregg) into a human puppet and exploits Taryn’s (Jennifer Rubin) fear of going back to heroin. One of the film’s oft-remembered scenes is of Jennifer Caulfield’s (Penelope Sudrow) vivid dream sequence of talk show host Dick Cavett attacking Zsa Zsa Gabor! Freddy then becomes the TV and kills poor Jennifer, but not before delivering his iconic quote. All of these scenes suggest someone who much prefers the power he wields in the dream world. In other words, Freddy may have always been able to leave people’s dreams, but he feels more vulnerable in the outer world. It’s complicated, isn’t it?
Have A Little Faith
In a certain scene in the original Nightmare, it gets even more complicated when a Christian cross seems to harm Freddy. Holy water also does some major damage, which makes Freddy almost like a vampire in this film. However, there is an interesting dynamic to that whole premise: It might not even matter whether the weapon is from Christian symbolism or not, as long as it showcases the conviction of a person’s faith, something that can either weaken or temporarily destroy Krueger. In other words, even an atheist could conceivably screw Freddy up if they believed strongly enough in their power to do so. In fact, the Dream Warriors can combat Freddy better if they have faith in their own abilities.
However, Freddy has many tricks up his own red and green sleeves, including changing into a frickin’ phallic snake to attack Kristen! I’m sure that someone out there has a fan theory that Dr. Elizabeth Simms (Priscilla Pointer) is psychically in league with the Fredster! I don’t personally think so, but who knows? It may be a bit like how Pennywise is linked to the townspeople of Derry, Maine, and that town’s twisted past. Speaking of twisted pasts…
More of Freddy’s Backstory
This film does a great job of filling in Freddy’s backstory while still allowing some mystery. We learn that he is the son of Amanda Krueger/Mary Helena (Nan Martin), a nun who was accidentally locked in an insane asylum where she was raped by 100 inmates. Although she barely survived, she eventually gave birth to Frederick Charles Krueger, who would go on to become the Springwood Slasher and the dream demon we all know and love. Though this backstory doesn’t reveal all the eccentricities behind Freddy’s character, it provides more insight into where his mania came from. For one thing, we know there was some genetic potential for him to become deviant.
Even though Amanda Krueger may have been a decent mother, her being a nun wouldn’t have made for the easiest, most straightforward childhood. Future films reveal even more about this background – perhaps even too much – although many details of his experiences were left to one’s imagination. However, it’s implied in A Nightmare On Elm Street: The Dream Child that Amanda had killed herself while depressed, making her own spirit unrestful. We also get a stronger taste of Freddy’s abandonment and abuse in the often unfairly maligned Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. A tragic character, Freddy’s life was full of hatred.
Freddy’s Chest of Souls
There are so many memorable scenes in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors that it’s impossible to fairly assess them all. However, one simply has to analyze the infamous Chest of Souls scene and what it implies about our main antagonist. It’s easy to see the chest of souls as a cool gimmick for this particular film, or maybe even something Freddy invented to freak out Kincaid (Ken Sagoes), Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and Kristen. However, the series implies that Freddy is indeed a powerful spiritual force, so it’s no stretch to assume that he does collect souls. Parts 4-6 elaborate more on this to the extent that Freddy seems to require souls for nourishment, feeding the idea that he’s animated not just by anger but by some strange psycho-physical need. Just as a snake must be at peace with its own predatory nature, so must Freddy be totally into his own.
Though it’s often characterized as making Freddy more humorous, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors manages to balance sick humor with a creepy backstory. It should be noted that Freddy did joke around a good deal, even in the first Nightmare on Elm Street venture. Plus, why wouldn’t a twisted freak like Krueger play with his food a little bit? It’s in his nature, damn it!
What are your thoughts on Freddy Krueger as depicted in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors? Take a stab at it in the comments section!