A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors ★★★½

Directed by - Chuck Russell
Written by - Chuck Russell, Frank Darabont, Bruce Wagner and Wes Craven
Starring - Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Craig Wasson, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Priscilla Pointer and John Saxon

Set six years after the events of the original film, and ignoring the continuity of part 2, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 sees Freddy pitted against the last of the Elm Street children. After Kristen Parker (Arquette) is admitted to a psychiatric ward due to a perceived suicide attempt (actually, she was attacked by Freddy in a dream) she meets a group of teenagers who are also being haunted by Freddy. When Nancy Thompson (Langenkamp) arrives at the hospital as a nurse, she quickly realises what is going on and vows to help the teenagers destroy Freddy. Alongside Dr. Neil Gordon (Wasson), Nancy and the teenagers plan to enter the dream World and use their special dream abilities – the fantasy powers and personalities that they have outside of reality – to take Freddy down. It marks a major sea change from the previous two films but it works far more effectively than it perhaps has any real right to.

This film’s greatest asset is the return of Langenkamp as Nancy. Langenkamp isn’t the World’s greatest actress but she brings a charm and likability to the character of Nancy that was sorely missing from the second film. Even if everything else about the film was rubbish, it would still be nice to see Nancy taking on Freddy once again in the same way that it was nice to see Laurie Strode taking on Michael Myers again in Halloween H20. Her presence gives the film meaning and prevents it from being another story in which Freddy butchers a bunch of teenagers with whom we have no connection or feeling. The open-ended nature of the original film, and the fact that Freddy’s return was so badly handled in part 2, makes part 3 feel necessary, and it’s nice to get a rounded conclusion to the battle between the series’ two leads… at least until parts 4 and 7 anyway.

However, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 offers us much more than that and it is actually a fresh and exciting addition to the saga. What it lacks in scares it makes up for in creativity, resulting in a film that is hugely entertaining to watch. The concept of the “Dream Warriors”, cheesy though it might be, lends the film a sense of fun that is pitched absolutely perfectly. The film doesn’t resort to the lame jokes and immature death scenes of its sequels but rather it strikes the perfect balance between action, tension and dark comedy. Freddy (and, by association, Englund) is at his best here, maintaining the sick and twisted persona that makes him such an effective villain without the humour stepping much too far over into the realms of parody and absurdity (see the video game sequence in Freddy’s Dead for an example of what I mean…) His jokes range from the hilarious to the nasty to the ever-so-slightly disturbing and it works brilliantly. None of it is necessarily call “scary” but it’s certainly a huge amount of fun.

Much of the film rests on its ability to make the audience care and root for the characters involved. Unlike the original film, in which Nancy was the sole hero, this film gives us a small army of teenagers to get behind. Whilst some of them are bumped off rather quickly, they’re all pretty well-written (especially by the standards of an eighties’ horror film…) and as the film enters its final act, we have a number of characters whom we end up supporting. The cameo appearance of John Saxon as Nancy’s Dad is a great touch and it gives the film that classic Elm Street feel that is missing from all of the other sequels in the saga. The combination of old with new allows the writers to explore new avenues and to expand on Freddy’s backstory without straying too far from Craven’s original vision, and his particular input into the film helps keep it grounded.

Ultimately, this film is nothing more than a whole lot of fun. It’s entertaining, in the same way that Halloween 4, Jason Lives and Damien: Omen 2 are entertaining, without being scary and it tells a ridiculous but enjoyable story. Sure, the acting isn’t up to scratch – though Englund is superb as always and Langenkamp is far better here than she is in the original film – and some elements of the script are stupid but what more can you really expect from an entry into the Elm Street saga. Considering the series was already flagging after the failure that was part 2, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 is very refreshing. It’s not as good as the original film, partly because it doesn’t take itself remotely seriously and as such it lacks the imagination that part 1 offered, but it’s almost certainly as entertaining, if not more so. Well worth a watch for anyone who thinks all horror sequels are rubbish.

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