A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors ★★★★

Freddy has given up on taking over the body of some hapless teenager and is back to slaughtering teens in their dreams in "Dream Warriors". He has targeted the "last of the Elm Street children" (the offspring of the people who torched him originally) and has infiltrated their dreams to such an extent that they are now in a mental institution. Of course, that will not save them from the evil machinations of Freddy Krueger. But a new therapist who has arrived at the institution, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp, our heroine from the original "Nightmare") just might. She knows they aren't crazy and, with one of the teens being able to pull the others into her dreams for assistance (Patricia Arquette), they might just stand a chance against America's Favorite Child Murdering Burn Victim.

This was the only "Nightmare" sequel I had seen before (aside from "Freddy Vs. Jason" and "New Nightmare", which I didn't consider REAL "Nightmare" sequels for some reason?) and I was originally underwhelmed by it. In fact, this might have been the first "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie I ever saw. Anyway, it originally left me cold but, as I mentioned previously, I was snobbish toward these films initially. I considered myself above the horror genre despite devouring Stephen King novels, which makes no sense. Anyway, I don't have the time to figure out what was going through my head when I was a teenager. Honestly, this seems like an exercise in futility. All I know is that I have definitely turned around on this movie. I actually loved it this time around.

Anything can be an art form, and gore effects are no different. I don't usually enjoy gore just for its own sake, but there's such a nasty, inspired creativity and craft to the kills in these films. The idea of people being killed in their dreams allows the filmmakers to come up with all sorts of crazy gore-soaked scenarios and be truly imaginative with them. "Dream Warriors" has some of the most imaginative kills so far: the puppeteering bit is inspired nastiness, and the thing with the junkie girl's arms is really wicked and extremely unsettling. "Dream Warriors" has superb gore effects. I was able to wince at some of them while still admiring the sheer artistry and invention behind them, and that's rare.

I also liked that we had some protagonists that fought back effectively against Freddy this time. This group of teens were more compelling than the standard slasher-movie fodder. Also, this is the film where they develop Freddy Krueger's origin and mythology a tad more, and it's a nasty but inspired bit of business. Englund is definitely jokier with his performance here (this was where the Freddy schtick really got cemented) but he still strikes a nice balance of creepy and campy. Plus, you'd have to be a real curmudgeon not to enjoy seeing Freddy slice up Zsa Zsa Gabor (between this and "Beetlejuice" I really loved what Dick Cavett was doing at this stage of his career as well). Also, this is just a solid script with solid characters (helps to have Chuck Russell AND Frank Darabont on the screenplay) and some genuine imagination behind it. That's clearly the main reason this all works as well as it does. The score just kind of lays there, though, in my opinion. Aside from his work with David Lynch, I honestly don't think Angelo Badalamenti is a very good composer. And I don't buy that Craig Wasson could intimidate John Saxon into doing ANYTHING.

But despite a couple of minor quibbles, "Dream Warriors" ranks right up there with the original "Nightmare", in my opinion. Freddy is a monster worthy of favorable comparison to the original Universal Monsters as far as iconic antagonists go, and the movies he appeared in were just as fun as those films. These were the Universal Monster movies of the 1980s. I may be late to the party on these flicks, but I totally understand what those Metal/Fangoria kids on the school bus were raving about now.

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