A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

December 9, 2011

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors should have been Part 2 of the series. It picks up the main character from Wes Craven’s fine horror movie (played by Heather Langenkamp) and ties up a number of loose ends from the original film. It’s also an okay movie, which 2 was not.

The children of Elm Street continue to have nightmares dominated by that mad spirit, Freddy Krueger (let’s say it: the geekiest name in horror filmdom). Langenkamp returns, now grown and with a degree in dream studies, to help some teens in a hospital psych unit.

This installment plays some of the same dream/reality games as the original film, but it’s most successful as a straightforward horror show. Krueger’s deviousness is imaginatively rendered; there are some truly starling special effects in this film, and a few shots—such as the image of a giant ghost Krueger dangling a dreaming kid from marionette strings—that raise the hair.

This film even boasts some decent acting. Not from Langenkamp, who has grown Brooke-vapid since the first film. But Craig Wasson (Body Double) is solid as the doctor in charge, and amazingly enough, a few of the teenagers are actually very good.

Craven worked on the script, which might explain the return to form—there’s a great twist ending about a mysterious nun, plus this classic description of Freddy: “The bastard son of a thousand maniacs.” But director Chuck Russell keeps coming up with offbeat ways of seeing things. In one scene, a teen is watching Dick Cavett interview Zsa Zsa Gabor on television when Cavett suddenly metamorphoses into Krueger. Surely this is a sign of promise—or, at least, of a wicked sense of humor?

First published in the Herald, February 1987

I don’t remember talking to anyone else who ever agreed with me about how “Freddy Krueger” was a hilariously un-horrific name, so maybe it’s just me. The cast also included Patricia Arquette, Jennifer Ruben, Laurence Fishburne, and John Saxon. And Cavett-as-Krueger? Sublime.