Last year on The Witching Hour we looked at the character of horror icon Freddy Krueger. That piece was a retrospective of the character across the entire Nightmare franchise. Now I would like to take a closer look at on those films. Specifically, we are going over A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. There are a couple of reasons for this. For one thing, it marks the return of Wes Craven to the series. He was not involved in the previous film, Freddy’s Revenge because he originally felt that Freddy’s story was finished after the first movie in the series. Another reason is that I believe Dream Warriors begins a shift in tone for the Nightmare franchise. There is more humor in the scripts starting with this film along with more sophisticated special effects. As usual for the thirty + year old movies I look at, expect some spoilers.
By the way, this movie is the film debut for Patricia Arquette. Her brother David shows up too and would later go on to star in the Scream series – also from Wes Craven. Heather Langenkamp reprises her role as Nancy Thompson; she is an intern now and mentors the other Elm Street children.
Weirdly enough, this movie does not begin with someone in a nightmare. In fact, this is the only film in the entire series without a nightmare opener. Instead we are introduced to Kristen (Patricia Arquette) who becomes an important figure at this point in the series due to her ability to pull other people into her dreams. At the beginning on this movie we see Kristen building a replica of Krueger’s Elm Street house in an effort to stay awake (the same one Nancy used to live in). Oddly enough, Kristen has never been to this place but constantly sees it in her dreams.
Freddy does eventually try to kill Kristen in a nightmare but she awakens and manages to survive. Kristen’s wealthy mother sees the real world effects of the nightmare and sends her to a facility for mentally troubled youth. That was kind of a big thing back in the 80s and 90s. There was big business in getting parents to send their kids to these kinds of places. There Kristen meets the other teens on Freddy’s list – Remember that he attacks the children of the people who killed him years ago. These are the last of Elm Street children and all of them are here because their families interpret their attempts at surviving Freddy’s attacks as mental health issues. The doctors are not much better and one of them wants to give the teens sleeping medication which is really the last thing they need.
At this point we see the series begin to inject humor into Freddy’s kills. When Jennifer (an aspiring actress) is in Freddy’s literal clutches, he shouts, “Welcome to prime time, Bitch!” right before he plunges her head into the television screen. Ironically, that line was not scripted at all. Actor Robert Englund ad-libbed that moment and it worked out well enough to include in the movie. This dark humor would become prominent in the subsequent films due to the fans’ singling this scene out as one of their favorite moments.
At Jennifer’s funeral a mysterious nun approaches Neil, a doctor at the facility. She advises him that the unquiet spirit must be laid to rest which itself is a clue to defeating Freddy. She actually has a significant role in the series so keep an eye out for her.
Now we reach the weirdest part of the movie. Nancy meets with the teens and helps them to achieve their dream forms – the people they wish to be and in this dream form they have powers they can use to battle Freddy. This is where the subtitle of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors comes into play. One example of these new dream warriors is Taryn, an ex-druggie who dreams of being a beautiful and deadly … switchblade vixen?
Speaking of Taryn, she has one of the most fearsome nightmare scenes of the entire franchise. Actress Jennifer Rubin stated that she received letters from fans saying her portrayal of Taryn helped them to quit drugs so there’s that.
And then there’s Will. He needs a wheelchair to get around but he dreams of being an Elf prince-wizard thing and he actually manages to use magic against Freddy which marks the first time in the entire series when he looks afraid – if only for a moment.
At this point I do not want to give away too much more because there are some fun surprises in store. This was not the best of the series but A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors did change the tone of the franchise. It is certainly worth watching again when you are in the mood for something spooky.