Heather Langenkamp - Nancy Thompson
Robert Englund - Freddy Krueger
Craig Wasson - Dr. Neil Goldman
Patricia Arquette - Kristen Parker
John Saxon - Lieutenant Thompson
Ken Sagoes - Kincaid
Jennifer Rubin - Taryn
Rodney Eastman - Joey
Bradley Gregg - Phillip
Priscilla Pointer - Dr. Elizabeth Simms
Laurence "Larry" Fishburne - Max
Year - 1987
Score - 4 Howls Outta 4
In 1984, Wes Craven wrote and directed A NIGHTMARE TO ELM STREET. Not only did it introduce the world to Dream Master Freddy Krueger, but it was a huge success for the fledgling New Line Cinema. In 1985, producer Robert Shaye wanted another NIGHTMARE, but Wes Craven wanted no part of it because he never thought his film should be a franchise. Craven handed his rights over to New Line, giving Shaye permission to release the very homoerotic A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE. Even though critics and fans dismissed the sequel, the film still managed to make more money than its predecessor. Realizing that the direction of the horror series was a bit farfetched for most fans, Shaye pretty much begged Wes Craven to direct and write the next installment of the franchise. Craven accepted the offer, wanting to end the franchise once and for all.
His first idea for the film was to create a NIGHTMARE film where Freddy Krueger would invade the real world. New Line felt this was a bit too extreme for horror fans [because we're obviously stupid] and rejected the idea [although New Line would use it 7 years later for WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE]. So Craven went for another idea where the Krueger story would end once and for all as Freddy would hunt down the last of the Elm Street children, bringing Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon back from the original NIGHTMARE to bring the series full circle. And while Craven and New Line still had disagreements over the final version of the film, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS was released in 1987 to a huge fan reception [including myself].
Six years after the original NIGHTMARE, Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) is suffering from really scary dreams about Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). After a failed suicide attempt, Kristen is sent to a psychiatric institution. Kristen is then associated with other haunted teenagers who many see suicidal, but are really being haunted by nightmares. Dr. Neil Goldman (Craig Wesson) doesn't know how to help these teenagers, until Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) arrives. Telling these teenagers the story of her battle with Freddy and her nightmares, it gives them strength to possibly overcome the Dream Master. During a group session, Nancy learns that each teenager has a gift that could be used to combat Freddy in the dream world [Kristen's being the most important as she can bring people into her dreams at whim]. With a new purpose, Nancy, Neil, and the teenagers decide to end Freddy's terror once and for all.
Out of all the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films, DREAM WARRIORS is my personal favorite. It pretty much takes everything that was great about the original and takes it up a notch or two. The dreams are more elaborate. The visual effects are a whole lot better. There's more action. The story is a little more involved. There's more backstory on Freddy Krueger. I remember watching this on VHS in 1988 for the first time. Man, I couldn't get enough of this film. I loved the characters. I loved Freddy. I loved the dream sequences. And the music from Dokken was freakin' awesome. I think I wore that tape out because I kept watching it and watching it. I think it was mainly for my crush on Heather Langenkamp. Sigh. Good times to be had by all.
I think what really makes DREAM WARRIORS stand out is the improvement of the visuals. The SFX team really did an outstanding job on this one due to a bigger budget. That Freddy snake-like thing is still insane after all these years. The Phillip puppet dream is awesome and still makes me cringe. And watching Joey get tongue-tied [literally] is still a pretty neat visual. The Freddy skeleton scene toward the end is pretty cheesy now [I actually laughed at it] but it was the 1980s and I friggin' love the 1980s. So I'm down with it. And that nurse's boobs - holy cow. Best visual of them all! Very impressive stuff all around.
Another reason I love this film is for the characters. I could relate to everyone in this film and not many films have the ability to do that. Having Nancy Thompson was a stroke of genius by Wes Craven. Seeing her older and still fighting her dreams makes us continue to sympathize with her even more than we did in the original. It adds a great level of continuity that FREDDY'S REVENGE lacked, making us care about this film a whole lot more. You also get a likeable psychiatrist in Neil, who must put aside everything he's learned to accept the fact that these teenage suicides are more than what appears on the surface. We're all cynical when strange crap happens and we usually have to see it before we can believe it. It's pretty much human nature. The teenagers are also very credible and we feel for each and every one of them. They all struggle with different things all caused by the same source, yet no one is willing to listen or believe them. How many of us have tried to tell authority figures our issues and problems and pretty much get ignored? We want these kids to stop Freddy and feel frustrated for them when the people who are supposed to be helping and protecting them look at them crazy and feel they have the answers for them. Craven, Chuck Russell, and the other screenwriters did a great job messing with our emotions, giving us a reason to care for the people we're supposed to be cheering for. Nice to have smart characters in a horror film. And I liked the idea of them having Dream Powers. If Freddy can have them, why can't his victims? And then there's Freddy Krueger himself, who is more of a focus here than in any other NIGHTMARE film at this point. And yeah everyone complains he becomes a one-liner machine, which pretty much makes him less scary than before. And while it's true that Freddy is more playful and comical, it's not as bad as the next sequel, THE DREAM MASTER, where it really goes overboard. As a matter of fact, I like the fact that Freddy is more verbal and a bit funnier. The guy can't stay scary forever and it gives the sequel a different feel than the other two. I still say "Welcome To Prime Time, Bitch!" every once in a while. I believe Freddy still has some edge here at this point that wouldn't be seen again until WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE in 1994. But I agree that this is pretty much Freddy became not just a horror fan's dream villain, but the mainstream's dream villain.
The direction by Chuck Russell is excellent. There's an edgy mood and atmosphere going on in this film. The camera moves extremely well, giving us a visual story that we can all read and understand. The use of sound is wonderful. The shooting of the special effects are mostly well-done [the skeleton scene was a bit awkward]. Lot of tension and suspense. It could have been a bit darker like the first two films but DREAM WARRIORS feels more like an action-horror film than just a plain "make you poop your pants" horror film. So it works all around. Russell would eventually remake the awesome THE BLOB remake, the very cool THE MASK, ERASER, and THE SCORPION KING. Not a bad resume for Mr. Russell.
The acting is also excellent. Out of all the NIGHTMARE films, this one boasts the biggest cast featuring actors who would go on and do some great stuff. Heather Langenkamp returns as Nancy Thompson, the heroine of the first film. She's still a bit awkward in her performance but I still love her so all is forgiven. She has that innocent quality about her that just makes me smile everytime she's on camera. Craig Wasson was very good as Neil. He was believable as a caring doctor and had some good chemistry with Langenkamp. His fight scene with that Freddy skeleton is classic though. Not sure if it's positive or negative though. Patricia Arquette knocks it out of the park as Kristen Parker. She can scream, act, and proves her worth in this film. She's gone on to do great stuff, deservingly so. Jennifer Rubin also impressed me as junkie Taryn. I love tough chicks and this girl was TOUGH. And she looks awesome as her Dream Character. Whooo! Ken Sagoes was okay as Kinkaid. He plays a loud-mouth "tough guy" to the point where he almost gets annoying but doesn't get to the point where I want Freddy to kill him. He's just too loud and manic for me. At least he cracks me up by calling Freddy a "pussy". I don't think he liked his fate too much in THE DREAM MASTER. Rodney Eastman is pretty much a mute as Joey but I really liked him alot through his body language and facial expressions. Those are signs of a good actor. John Saxon is always a welcome presence in any film he's in and THE DREAM WARRIORS is no exception. He doesn't really get to do a whole lot but just watching the man speak and act is enough for me. And Laurence Fishburne did really well as Max, the guy who pretty much watches over the asylum. Lot of charisma and personality - he's also done great things as well. Just a very well-acted film.
And before I end the review, I gotta say that the aftermath of the final confrontation with Freddy always gets to me. I won't spoil it if you haven't seen this one for whatever reason [get out from under that rock and watch this film!] but it always makes me sad. Losing a character you care about alot can have a strange effect on you, even though you know it's only a film. But it's such a great little bit of dialogue exchanged at this moment and it messes me up every time. I remember watching that when I was 7 years old. I think I pouted and frowned for 2 hours straight afterwards. It's a bittersweet happy ending in a sense. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who felt that way.
THE FINAL HOWL
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS is the example of a film sequel that gets it. It enhances things that were done in the films before it while not insulting the audience by giving us characters and a story we could care less about. While this film doesn't totally put Freddy Krueger into the mainstream yet, it definitely kicks the door open for it as the character becomes more in-your-face and comical as well. The franchise should have ended here on all accounts, but the film made a lot of dough. So that should tell you what happened afterwards. Does the franchise go downhill from here? Well, it depends on who you ask. But I think most of us are in agreement that DREAM WARRIORS is one kick-ass film.
DOKKEN - "DREAM WARRIORS"