The A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise faced a serious setback after its sophomore venture. Luckily, the razor-sharp wit and bloodlust that people had some to expect from the original was back with bite in 1987, with the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. The franchise made a wise decision to essentially ignore that Freddy’s Revenge had ever happened and brought back some of the favorites of the original for a second go-around.
Dream Warriors finds the “last of the Elm Street children”, the kids of the vigilantes who killed Freddy Krueger years ago, placed in a mental institution under the care of Dr. Neil Gordon and Nancy Thompson, from the original. With no one believing them, except Nancy who has experienced the terror before, Freddy begins to take the children down one by one. Only when they realize that each is enabled with special powers in the dream world are the children able to fight back against their tormentor.
Honestly, there’s a lot to love about Dream Warriors but one of the undeniable elements is Freddy’s Revenge. A franchise is only as strong as its weakest sequel and with an abomination like Freddy’s Revenge in the line-up, a strong follow-up like Dream Warriors is even more appreciated. That’s not to say that Dream Warriors can’t stand on its own, but its placement in the series is a key factor.
Another undeniable element of the fun is that Freddy is back in fine form. While the Freddy from the original had a mixture of menace and macabre humor, this Freddy has fun with his power. while some could easily view this as campy, I think it establishes this great villainous dynamic. With so many other slasher figures, such as Michael or Jason, they don’t have a voice. Freddy uses his voice to toy with his victims. It builds up this whole cat-and-mouse routine as he lurks in the shadows. This is where the storytelling of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 truly shines. Most people don’t think of the storytelling as a part of the slasher world, since so many slashers ignore it, but Dream Warriors does a fairly proficient job of enriching the story world of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.
However, this should not mean that the slasher elements, the blood and guts that many slasher fans have come to expect, are completely ignored. In fact, Dream Warriors easily has some of the greatest kills in the series. To give you an idea of one of the more memorable ones, Freddy takes the tendons of one of his victims and uses them to control his victim, much like a puppet. To be honest, it’s the best kill of the movie and arguably the franchise. But there is plenty to satisfy the gore craving of many slasher fans while appealing to those who long for more narrative focus from their horror films.
Fresh off the failure of Freddy’s Revenge, the third film re-invigorates Freddy. With a killer cast and the playful menace that people have come to expect from Freddy, this is a welcome addition to a franchise that was jeopardized with its second film. Dream Warriors return to form is welcome and even improved upon this time around. Ultimately, it is the combination of smart storytelling and standard slasher fare that make Dream warriors such a successful venture for the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.