Gabe Rodríguez’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Welcome to prime time, bitch!"
Here's a sequel that's surprisingly better than it has any right to be.
Just to recap, I thought the first film introduced a good villain and premise, but the story kind of fizzled out as it went along (I've read this was due to studio interference). The second entry was just a complete mess, with the only redeeming elements being its call-backs to the first film.
DREAM WARRIORS feels like where the filmmakers finally figured out what they had on their hands. The fantasy rules now feel established, Freddy Krueger is given an origin story, and the horror and fantasy elements feel much more solidly merged. That's what happens when both Wes Craven and Frank Darabont work on a screenplay. Plus Chuck Russell is an underrated director.
It was smart of the film to change its setting to a psychiatric hospital and have most of the main characters be patients and troubled youths. Instead of the usual high school setting where all the teenagers act like generic teenagers and say stupid things, the group dynamic that builds here feels much more resonant, since all these kids are damaged in some way. Heather Langenkamp is still not a great actress, but at least her role carries more depth to it this time.
And of course, there's Robert Englund as Freddy. Englund was already the best thing in the first two films, but this time you can tell he's really having a lot more fun. Freddy has much more personality this time around, and gets a lot of one-liners. I almost feel like the director told Englund "Just do whatever you want."
The dream sequences are also unique and trippy, feeling more surreal than the first two entries. Obviously hundreds of horror films have featured characters getting killed, but there is some really clever filmmaking in how these particular kills are visualized.
DREAM WARRIORS isn't perfect. It still has moments of hokey dialog and campy FX. And there's an overall '80's vibe to the film that keeps it from feeling timeless. Still, this is a nice note to stop watching the franchise on.