The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has a long and storied history. The craziest thing about it being that a character, Freddy Kreuger, who originally started as a child murderer who was murdered by the Elm Street families, became an icon by the late 80s whom children looked up to and dressed up as during Halloween. Kids were buying Freddy action figures, calling into Freddy 900 numbers, and running around with razor claw gloves and Freddy masks. How did it get this far? There’s actually an amazing documentary that chronicles the history of A Nightmare on Elm Street called Never Sleep Again, which covers everything about the franchise and I highly recommend delving into it if you have any interest in the series. But even with nine movies under the franchise’s belt, one of the best of the series is A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
Kicking off with a young woman, Kristen, played by a very young Patricia Arquette, we find she’s stalked in her dreams by our dream monster, Freddy Kreuger. After Freddy makes it look like she attempted to slice her wrists, Kristen is sent to an asylum with several other teenagers who are all also terrorized in their dreams. What sets Dream Warriors apart from the first two entries, and even the series as a whole, is that Kristen has the ability to bring people into her dreams with her, a supernatural power that allows the teens to fight back inside their dreams.
The wheelchair bound geek, Will, becomes a wizard in his dream. The rebellious, drug addicted girl Taryn becomes a leather clad punk rocker wielding dual switchblades. It’s as goofy and over the top as it sounds but also immensely satisfying. And let’s not forget that along with a great cast, which includes Lawrence Fishburne as one of the orderlies and the return of Heather Langenkamp as Nancy and John Saxon as her father from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Dream Warriors has some extremely creative deaths and gore. A mix of practical effects and puppet work, it maintains the dark, gruesome feel of the first film, having one character pulled around like a marionette by his veins and another almost eaten by a gigantic Freddy snake. The effects are practical, over the top and to this day really stand up and make you cringe. It is a testament to the crew who worked on the film.
Unlike the first two films in the franchise, Dream Warriors isn’t as scary as the first or homoerotic as the second, but has a comical feel that endured in the rest of the franchise’s three movies made from 1984 to 1991. The lighter portions of the film keep the heavy social issues of sleep deprivation, medical treatments, drugs and the medical professionals apathy for their patients from weighing down the storyline. Nancy, our heroine from the first film, plays in to all aspects of the major issues in the film; she is now a student who is working with the teenagers and is still dealing with her own sleep deprivation, medical treatment, and is popping Hypnocil, a drug that stops dreams, like candy. Nancy’s character bridges the gap between the teenagers and what the medical professional perceive is happening to cause such intense reactions both in and out of consciousness.
This installment is often a fan favorite of the franchise and broaches important social issues that are just as relevant today as they were in 1987 without skipping a beat. It’s also a nice mixture of dark matter, comedic timing, over the top gore, and all around creepy atmosphere that few of the other Nightmare films are able to capture so fully. And who can forget the best thing about the movie? Dokken doing the theme track Dream Warriors! If that doesn’t have you singing along, you’re a heartless fool. With Dream Warriors Freddy Kreuger remains that lovable child murderer who invades our dreams to take revenge on those who put him in his grave.
With a film this popular the turn out was immense with tickets selling out days beforehand and people clamoring in the lobby to be on stand by. Spurred on by the excellent intro from Zack Carlson, the crowd was ecstatic throughout the film and one of the most iconic lines in this installment, “Welcome to prime time, bitch!” had people quoting along out loud and cheering. The showing was filled with fans of the series, with one guy even bringing along his Freddy claw and a hyped crowd chatting about the film afterwards, thrilled to have seen it on the big screen in glorious 35mm.