Review – ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’

The third 'Nightmare' is when the series truly hit its stride!

Review by J.T. Johnson

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: February 27, 1987
DIRECTOR: Chuck Russell
WRITERS: Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell
MUSIC: Angelo Badalamenti

So, you’ve already had a sequel that was a hit, but it didn’t quite connect with audiences in the way that you wanted it to. What do you do? Well, the easy answer is to return to the original creator of the series to see if he can help right the ship.

This is exactly what New Line Cinema did when they approached director Wes Craven to break the next story in the series. His idea was that Freddy had grown so much stronger since we last saw him that it can’t take just one lone teenager to stop him. You would have to band together with other kids who are going through what you’ve been through with Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) there to help mentor the new kids.

The script that Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner turned in was apparently way more violent and surreal, so writers Frank Darabont and Chuck Russell came onboard to revise the script. Russell was also hired to direct the film. Their addition to the film is the added humor and a more coherent plot than what was originally written.

In this film, a young girl named Kristen (Patricia Arquette) is sent away to a mental hospital after an encounter with Freddy. Once there, she meets other kids such as the mute Joey (Rodney Eastman), hard ass Roland (Ken Sagoes) and former drug addict Taryn (Jennifer Rubin) along with others. They have all been threatened by Freddy in their dreams and their main doctor, the good natured Dr. Neil (Craig Wasson) can’t seem to understand why he keeps losing his kids.

This is where Nancy comes back into the picture as a doctor who has had these experiences before. With her help, the other kids soon realize that they can fight back. Meanwhile, both Nancy and Neil try to discover how they can put Freddy down once and for all.

This movie is way bigger than the previous films and it shows just how powerful Freddy has become since we last saw him. Whether he becomes a giant snake head, turns you into a human string puppet or uses the fears of his victims against them, this is one monster you don’t want to tangle with. Robert Englund also does a great job not only maintaining Freddy as a viable threat, he also gleefully leans into the sadistic humor of the character, adding another level to the pop culture icon.

The rest of the cast is great as well. Langenkamp’s return is a welcome sight and Nancy is a great mentor for these new kids. The main kid is Arquette as Kristin and here we get an early glimpse of how talented Arquette is as an actress. Meanwhile, the other performers are all solid as well including Wesson as Neil and a young Laurence Fishburne as the kind orderly named Max.

Out of all the sequels, “The Dream Warriors” is easily my favorite. There were more entries that I enjoyed quite a bit, but none did a better job of balancing the horror and the humor than this film did. The movie went back to what made the first film work in the first place and turned everything up to 11. Thankfully, the payoff was successful and we the audience get to benefit from the film’s creativity.


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