johnlink ranks A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

On to the next NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, this one is supposedly one of the good ones. I went into it thinking that it had better be, or that I might not actually make it much further into the series. So what is the verdict?

A-Nightmare-on-Elm-Street-3-Dream-Warriors

I watched A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3; DREAM WARRIORS (1987) on 10.18.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

There may be no seemingly middling sequel in horror history with this unique an assembly of future names. Patricia Arquette was certainly not a huge name when she landed the lead. Larry Fisbhurne had yet to change his credited name to Laurence. And, quietly, the script is co-written by a young upstart named Frank Darabont, a full seven years before he would make a name for himself with THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.

Having these people in it doesn’t inherently help the film, but each of them is a part of why this is a successful sequel. After a second NIGHTMARE MOVIE which stood alone, but not very well, this is a movie which serves as a direct sequel to the first film. Heather Langenkamp is back as Nancy Thompson, only this time she is a Grad student who shows up at a mental hospital to help a bunch of kids who are seeing Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) in their dreams. Nancy is aided by a well meaning doctor, Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson), who ultimately buys into this idea that these kids are truly in danger from their night visions.

Directed by Chuck Russell, who would later go on to helm a short list of films as varied as THE MASK and ERASER and THE SCORPION KING, this film sounds fairly nondescript when it comes to horror films. Yet, somehow, this is a movie which manages to work better than either of its two predecessors. The nightmarish quality feels truly horrible, rather than random. The danger is real, even if some of the rules of what Freddy can and cannot do are still being made up as they go along. In the first film, the attacks in the dream world manifest themselves in the real world. But the movie series would have a hard time keeping that up without it becoming noticed by parent and doctors and the government, so the films instead have Freddy scare them in their dreams and make them do something to themselves in the real world, be it a razor cut or jumping off a building. Despite this adjustment, the movie delivers on the gore and horror.

That is not to say that this is a great or perfect movie. The dialogue is much improved over previous installments, but still contains obtuse characters who serve to be naysayers. A final battle between the bones of Freddy and Gordon is absolutely brutal and dated. Just as the movie is getting to a powerful climax, that battle grinds things to a halt.

But, really, it does not kill the entertainment factor this one provides. This is a legitimate horror film with a large cast of decent actors who aren’t just victim number one and victim number two. The psychiatric ward setting turns this into the BREAKFAST CLUB version of a horror movie, and that somehow works for this.

Again, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 is not any kind of classic, but it is surprisingly the best film in the series through the first three movies. The acting is better, especially from Heather Langenkamp. It could use a few less Patricia Arquette screams, but it is hardly the first horror movie to be accused of just turning its heroine into a scream queen.

SCORES

FILM: 5; MOVIE: 8; ACTING: 6; WRITING: 6; BONUS: 1

Call me old fashioned, but if you are going to feature not one, but two great Dokken songs at major points in the film, then you get a bonus point from me (even if one of those major points is the end credits, but still…).

5+8+6+6+1=26

FINAL SCORE: 6.5

 

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~ by johnlink00 on October 19, 2014.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)”

  1. The fight with the skeleton just makes you wish you were watching Jason and the Argonauts. This movie could have used Harryhausen’s talents. Can’t wait to hear what you think of part 4 and 5! Honestly, I like part 4. That was the first NOES movie I saw as a kid.

  2. Great review – Glad you liked it, and yes those Dokken songs rock. Dream Warriors, classic. Good luck with Part 4.

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