Slashers We Love: “Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”

Arguably considered the best of the entire series (excluding one), Dream Warriors takes the series into a more fantasy oriented extravaganza. It’s loaded with bigger budget, more characters, more of everything actually. The Nightmare series was on the brink of its multi-million dollar fame and before Freddy got watered down and basically shifted into his comedian phase we had this movie.

The movie has no seemingly apparent interest in part 2 and could easily be the 2 of the series since it expands from 1’s origins and never once mentions the events in 2. So this could actually be the REAL sequel to 1, I think 2 was too ahead of the mythology of the series and should have been made after Dream Child (5 in the series).

The plot focuses on the remaining “Elm Street” children all rounded up in the local mental hospital, where the skeptical staff tends to them. It seems Freddy is alive and kicking and is still terrorizing dreams. The movie opens with one of the children Kristen (Patricia Arquette) trying desperately to stay awake (by spooning down coffee grinds) and making models of the house she’s been dreaming of. Well efforts aside, she has a dream and we are basically thrown into a much different approach then the proceeded. The movie is bombarded with SFX, the Elm street house is pimped up to one spooky setting, and the first stalk sequence is a good example of what’s instore for the audience. Anyway, after barely getting killed by the Fredster, Kristen joins her fellow survivors in the asylum where quite conveniently joined up by part one’s heroine Nancy. She is now a dream doctor (or something) and once realizing what the kids are up against she embarks them on a mission to fight back. It is discovered that Kristen also has a gift of pulling in people to her …consciousness…in order for everyone to dream the same dream. Alas, when doing this Nancy is able to have every dreamer obtain a certain power, which they use to battle Freddy. That is basically the premise as the last half of the movie is a series of events showing some warriors do battle and fail, and the remaining warriors team up to use their efforts while the only kind doctor tries to bury the bones of Freddy in order to stop his reign of terror.

I admit I saw this movie at a young age, and doing so I easily invested a lot into the well rounded group of troubled teens. We have the easily likable Kristen, the uber cool tough Chick Taryn (Jennifer Rubin), the endearing mute guy Joey, the sympathetic chubby girl Jennifer in hopes of seeking fame, the nerdy (but cool) War craft reject/fantasy obsessed Will(who looks like Waldo from Where’s Waldo), and the so-called bad ass Kincaid (who more or less spends most of the movie yelling), I’m missing some of the others but you get the idea. Roger Ebert said in his review that he felt the movie gave him no sympathy for the characters and that was its biggest flaw, well I take that in stride. I had no trouble and it actually hurt when some of the kids died. Having that investment surly made the movie a much more personnel viewing. I cared.

The movie also runs rampant with SFX, imagination, cool visuals, slick audio and some whacked out death scenes (with a bitter cruel streak). So many of the movies scenes stick out for me, the Freddy snake, the Freddy puppet, the Freddy TV, the Freddy needle scene, the hallway of mirrors, Freddy’s basement and boiler room scenes, the Freddy demise. Any video game fanatic would appreciate the action that goes down (dreamers using skills to combat Freddy), and the mythology laid down in this entry certainly is very video game like. The mythology of Freddy is also more sketched out this time as we learn more of his origins and also discover what happens to the souls of the kids he kills (they are trapped in his chest and appear as a tormented screaming face). It seems the more souls Freddy obtains, the stronger he gets.

Angelo Badalmenti (Mullholland Drive, Twin Peaks) is the composer this time around brings one of the most unique scores of the entire series. It’s quirky and quite pleasing to the ears. I want it (this is years later, I have it). It brings a touch of class to the movie and compliments the imagery quite nicely.

The directing is quite inspiring (considering it’s his first movie) and he succeeds in balancing the cheesy jokes with the movies menacing sense of hopelessness almost effortlessly. You can tell the makers must have had a blast with this. I know I would have. The movie has a hopeless and nihilistic vibe that makes the jokes more passable.

Some flaws that I have to mention is that the warriors aren’t never fully able to use their skills towards the end, whether this was time restraints, money, or intentional it’s never clear, but it seems they could have had a bigger fight with Freddy, also after Freddy’s eventual demise the movie basically ends way too quickly, since I was 98% invested with the characters, I wanted to know the outcomes of all the survivors. It didn’t happen, making the last frame somewhat tedious.

All in all though, I consider this movie to be quite bad ass, and can proudly hold it’s head up as not only a worthy sequel, but a highly entertainment movie in general. This is the sequel I show to unfamiliar Elm Street fans, and on that note dare I say we have a “80s classic” on our hands?

–Vince Fontaine