Review : A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3 : Dream Warriors (1987)

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3, directed by Chuck Russell and released in 1987, is widly considered the best entry in the franchise. Bringing back Wes Craven to draft the script, this new installment remains true to the original film while being bigger, better and stronger.

Freddy is back haunting children’s dreams. Kristen is having a recurring nightmare and one night, while sleepwalking, she accidentally slits her wrist. Her mother sends her to a psychiatric hospital specializing in troubled teenagers. Kristen meets a group of kids who are all having the same nightmares. The teenagers soon find out they now have a new precious ally to fight off Freddy : their new dream therapist, Nancy Thompson.

Dream Warriors uses all the ingredients of the original film and improves them to provide the most entertaining entry in the franchise thus far. The best idea the writers came up with was to have Freddy face an entire group of protagonists instead of simply picking them off one by one, slasher style. What I especially enjoyed was how Freddy uses each character’s weakness to torture and murder them. This makes the kills much more sadistic and memorable.

The strenght of the film resides in its characters. First, Freddy is better than ever, still spitting out one-liners (including the classic “welcome to prime time, bitch”) and being more creative than he’s ever been to dispose of the poor teenagers. We also learn more about his past, expanding the mythos of the iconic character. Our protagonists are all likeable characters, each with their strenghts and weaknesses. They are unfortunate children who haven’t done anything wrong to deserve what is happening to them. The adults around them (parents, doctors and medical staff), though acting with good intentions, never try to really understand them…until Nancy comes along ! Bringing back her character was a fantastic idea since it’s not a short cameo to satisfy the fans : she has a very important role in the film but never puts our protagonists in her shadow. John Saxon also comes back for a minor role.

Dream Warriors brings us out of Elm Street for the first time and offers a brand new playground for Freddy, who uses the new location (the psychiatric ward) in the best ways possible. The film brings us the best kills so far, each one being more creative than the last. The practical effects are especially great from Freddy’ chest of souls to a fantastic Ray Harryhausen stop-motion sequence.

It is rare enough for a sequel to be as good as the original but having one which almost surpasses it is a miracle….or the result of the hard work of talented people who love and respect the material they are working with. Dream Warriors is my favourite film in the franchise and I (obviously) highly recommend it !

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