Terror Tuesday Report: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors

Posted by Brian Salisbury - February 22nd 2011 @ 8:44 pm

The Film

A cadre of suicidal teens are remanded to the care of a mental health facility. Trouble is, while inside, horrific nightmares become a shared problem. When the kids begin offing themselves in the most bizarre ways, it becomes apparent–to the kids at least–that something far more sinister is taking place than unstable psyches. When the newest resident of the facility begins discuss a recurring, charred-faced figure haunting her dreams the others realize they too are being visited by this sweater-clad madman. With a little help from the facility’s newest intern Nancy, the truth is finally revealed, but will be in time to save their lives?

Dream Warriors is often haled as the best of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels and, while I agree, I don’t find it particularly well-done. There are elements that work exponentially better in this film than any other sequel and the concept is laden with potential. But it gets squandered in favor of cheap visual gags masquerading as scares; a problem all too familiar to this franchise. I do like that Freddy is used very sparing for the first chunk of the film, solidifying his legendary status. I also appreciate the return of palpably cool John Saxon to the series as it is my firm assertion that he should have played every police chief character in ever horror film of the 70s and 80s.

But there is a disconnect between the film we are set up to see and the film that is ultimately executed. Subtitling the film The Dream Warriors suggests a climactic, or least a heretofore unseen, showdown between Freddy and a group of people equipped to potentially level the playing field. Indeed the plot device of the girl who can pull people into her dreams at will would suggest that this was the initial intent of the film. But this interesting detour from the standard structure is abandoned before it’s fully explored; muddled by hackneyed kills and superfluous Freddy origins. I know this will sound ridiculous, but no film could have benefited more from a montage than Dream Warriors. When they finally get around to going into the dream as a group, not a single person knows what the hell they are doing; something to which they refer in a throwaway line that serves only to identify this plot hole. Perhaps if they had constructed even a halfway decent training montage the pacing could have been tightened and two of the warriors wouldn’t have been killed within seconds.

Boy oh boy, Freddy sure does like calling people “bitch” doesn’t he? Sorry, just something I found childish and irritating.

The one thing I do really love about this film is the Dokken song/video “Dream Warriors.” It is six different kinds of 80s-tastic and provides a suitable underscore for the film if you’re lucky enough to hear it before you see the film; as it doesn’t show up until the credits.

The Reaction

As I mentioned, this was a special birthday screening for my friend, and Ain’t It Cool New mainstay, Eric Vespe. As one would expect, the crowd was a collection of horror geeks from the city that seems to breed and/or attract them in droves; myself included. The clips and trailers put together to complement the film were pitch perfect and set the mood for an evening of obsession-affirming greatness.

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  1. February 25th, 2011 | 2:40 pm | #1

    I saw this in the theaters as a kid. Funny as hell watching this now.

  2. Carrie
    February 28th, 2011 | 1:32 pm | #2

    Speaking of funny horror films (be it intentional or unintentional), Tromadance 2011 is coming up April 22-23 in Asbury Park, NJ. It’s completely free to go and is a great way to support up-and-coming filmmakers. I would love to see a post on this blog about it!

  3. March 9th, 2011 | 11:21 am | #3

    I think that’s the best review of Dream Warriors that I’ve ever read, Brian. I found your site because I was trying to decide which one of the Elm Street sequels to watch this evening. After your review, I’m going to watch this one – and will probably see it in a new light.

    I also agree about the continued use of the word “bitch.” Freddy – and, indeed, Englund – deserved better than that.

    On a “slightly” different subject, do you think Englund should have reprised his role in the remake?

  4. September 19th, 2011 | 8:15 am | #4

    Part 3 is my favorite in the series after the original. Though Freddy has more comic lines than in the previous two films, he was still tongue-in-cheek scary instead of trite and laughable. This one has good characters you can care about and evocative, interesting death scenes.

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