A Nightmare on Tim's Street: Day 3

Senior Editor Tim Ryan is enchanted -- and freaked out -- by the Dream Warriors.

Day Three: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Now that's more like it. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors is perhaps the best Nightmare yet. It features a strong ensemble cast and a vicious, darkly comic sense of invention -- and, perhaps most importantly, it builds upon the Freddy mythology without repeating itself. The result is a sharp, tense, and smarter-than-average movie that finds the series back on firm ground.

Dream Warriors marks the return of Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), who's been strongly influenced by Freddy: she's now a psychiatrist specializing in dream therapy. Her expertise is desperately needed at the Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital, whose staff doesn't believe the tales of tormented dreams from a group of teenagers have attempted suicide.

Thus, it's up to Nancy to save the teens, the last of the children whose parents killed Freddy years back. Soon, she discovers that one of her patients, Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette, making her big-screen debut), has the ability to pull others into her dream, a power that Nancy believes may be a key to defeating Freddy once and for all. Meanwhile, Nancy's sympathetic-but-baffled colleague Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson) is visited by a wise, mysterious nun, who hints at terrible events in the hospital's past -- and reveals details of Freddy's traumatic conception. As Nancy and Neil try to devise a plan to rescue their charges, Freddy begins yet another campaign of mayhem, picking off the hospital's patients one-by-one.

Dream Warriors doesn't have the novelty of the first Nightmare, and its plotting and character development are spotty as usual. It also traffics in plenty of shopworn fiction cliches: the antagonistic, paranoid residents of the mental facility seem drawn from your typical Agatha Christie yarn, and half-glimpsed specters haunt the grounds in the tradition of The Innocents. In addition, the hospital's head doctor, Elizabeth Simms (Priscilla Pointer), is the least empathetic cinematic medical professionals since Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. However, it gets a big boost from its fine cast -- this is the best-acted movie of the series so far, and the performers generate more sympathy than their thin characters would ordinarily merit. In particular, Laurence Fishburne makes the most of a minor supporting role, bringing a sense of tough-but-fair warmth to his turn as one of the hospital's orderlies.

Most importantly, the consistently high quality of the series' special effects reaches an apex in Dream Warriors, and that's the key to the franchise's success so far: rather than horror movies, the Nightmare films can best be seen as gristly art projects. There are several stellar, twisted moments in Dream Warriors -- like the scene in which Arquette is trapped in a room while the walls collapse; when a marionette morphs into a claymation Freddy; or the gristliest killing via television since Videodrome. Some of these surreal effects wouldn't look out of place in a Michel Gondry movie.

It's also worth noting that, thus far in the series, the Nightmare movies have shown surprising restraint (to me, at least) in the areas of gore and shtick. Freddy's a little more of a wiseguy in Dream Warriors -- he delivers such dubious one-liners as "This is it! Your big break in TV!" before jamming a girl's head into a television screen, and "Feeling tongue-tied?" after tying a boy's arms and legs to bed with his serpentine tongue. Still, there are witty cameos from Dick Cavett and Zsa Zsa Gabor, a few genuinely bone-chilling moments, and a mix of exuberance and craft that make Dream Warriors the most purely enjoyable entry so far. (One nit to pick: isn't it a bit, um, pretentious to include an Edgar Allen Poe quote in the opening credits?)

Tomorrow, we'll do a little more dreaming with A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. With action-meister Renny Harlin behind the camera, does Freddy have more tricks up his red-and-green sweater sleeves, or can I expect a hellish descent into mediocrity? Check back tomorrow to find out.

Schedule of Nightmares:

Comments

inactive user

Jared King

Nice write up. One of the better entries, although the first is still the best.

Apr 23 - 03:46 PM

Dave J

Dave J

I agree, nice write up and the first is still is the best!!

Apr 23 - 03:57 PM

Kol

Joe M

Yeah. The first is definitely the best but this is close!

Apr 24 - 01:34 AM

Geary U.

Geary Ussery

1 of my faves too

Apr 23 - 03:56 PM

Dave J

Dave J

I agree, nice write up and the first is still is the best!!

Apr 23 - 03:57 PM

Kol

Joe M

Yeah. The first is definitely the best but this is close!

Apr 24 - 01:34 AM

Dave J

Dave J

Hypothically, if some never seen a single "Nightmare" film before, I think the question is whether or not this film could hold up "if" this one were to be screened first before watching the first and second one!! And the answer is that the first one has to be seen but can skip the second to really understand this third installment!!!

Apr 23 - 04:10 PM

RamALamADingDong

That Guy

I know many people love this one. I am not one of them. I found it overly silly and never suspenseful. The story was better than the homoerotic second movie but still pretty bad and nothing compared to the original. Is it better than Jason the Zombie or Michael Myers the Cult Messiah? Yes. But I couldn't stand to see more Freddy movies until New Nightmare and Freddy vs Jason.

By the way, you should include the Tomameter for each one. And one thing I miss from the F13 write ups are the body counts and other trivia items.

Apr 23 - 04:54 PM

Zombies happen.

Serpent T Rainbow

Oh yeah, where are the body count stats, I knew there was something missing...

Apr 23 - 05:13 PM

Tyler V.

Tyler VanZanten

I completely agree, although I must add that I saw this for the first time last year so the visuals weren't quite that great to me. I mean claymation freddy? A lot of the deaths were too gimmicky to invoke any sort of fear.

Apr 25 - 05:38 PM

zach f.

zach firanski

third one is good but the first one is the best

Apr 23 - 04:55 PM

Stoney Beers

Brice Metzker

This is one of my favorites of the series, I love how the kids make up their own characters in the dreams to fight freddy. Although it is a bit more on the comedy side, it really is one of the better Freddy movies. Its all down hill from here until New Nightmare rolls around. I can't wait to read the butchering (pardon the pun) reviews for the next 3 installments!

Apr 23 - 05:07 PM

dj Mark

Mark Marquis

I agree. I think what makes Dream Warriors so entertaining is how the characters take control of their dreams and fight back. Although most are not successful, there is a sense of companionship and ingenuity on the part of the victims that most slasher films lack. In Halloween or Friday the 13th, teenagers are just cattle to be slaughtered. Freddy enjoys toying with his prey, but in this film, the kids learn a few of Freddy's tricks to turn the tables. It's a bunch of kids matching wits with an unstoppable force. That's a powerful concept when you're 15.

Apr 24 - 05:11 PM

BLaCKWoLF

BLaCKWoLF .

Well said DJ Mark.

Apr 25 - 02:34 AM

Elixor

Daniel Klooster

Hit the nail on the head. This is exactly what makes this one so good. The first one is still the best 'horror' film though.

Apr 26 - 06:30 AM

greg b.

greg baltzer

My favorite of all of them!

Apr 23 - 05:13 PM

Zombies happen.

Serpent T Rainbow

Oh yeah, where are the body count stats, I knew there was something missing...

Apr 23 - 05:13 PM

libertysunbeam

john jones

Its not my favorite but almost tied with nightmare one. the only mistake the original series made was removing heather langenkamp as the lead (much like hellraiser removed its main and score) and removing the great nightmare music and watering it down. all these franchises remove thier scores wich is why alot of them tank, along with actors (terminator, bond, star trek, batman, etc).

The only problem is wich is why they had a hard time writing her back into the story is wes craven didnt plan on any sequels, hence nancy getting it at the end of 1 in the kruger mobile insinuating that she was trapped in freddys dreamworld (why they had the surreal slow down and kruger car). wes sold the rights to new line and doesnt get anything from the remake, who sold it to micheal bay. wes hates the remake, i hate the remake for lying about not asking robert who's not to old for freddy. most horror actors are also older so i dont know what the new kids are complaining about (hopkins 60 even 50ish doing silence, vincent price, christopher lee (who's in his 80s doing star wars) and the saw villan actor (50 with grey hair).

one of the original things wes and robert did with englund is to make freddy have a personality and give one liners, something villans didnt do. 20 somethings who poo poo freddys talking didnt understand that only heavy breather slasher villan movies were being made with the exception of star wars's darth vader and freddy was suppose to be like the joker in batman, insane and giving funny one liners. nightmare 1 and 3 and feddy vs. jason are my pic of nightmare movies worth watching.

Apr 23 - 05:15 PM

libertysunbeam

john jones

thats did with freddy, nice job on the article.

Apr 23 - 05:17 PM

libertysunbeam

john jones

halloween, friday and texas chainsaw originals are examples of non talking heavy breather villan mains lol.

Apr 23 - 05:18 PM

rle4lunch

Chad W

Next good one in the series will be New Nightmare.

Apr 23 - 05:58 PM

DeeJay RA

Steven Couras

This was the best, I loved this movie as a kid.

Yes, you should include the Tomameter for each one, and the body counts and other trivia items.

My picks in order from the best to my least fav.

-Nightmare on Elm Street 1 (the best)
-Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (awesome)
-New Nightmare (my top 3, i kinda like equally to be honist)
-Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (kinda underated, not that bad)
-Nightmare on Elm Street 5 (has a gothic vibe to it, was not the best but with the look and score it felt very gothic and kinda darker then the previous 2 or 3, its just ok)
-Freddy Vs. Jason (ehh it was ok, i liked it, but not the best, still a fun movie though)
-Freddys Dead (this is good as a movie by itself...as a sequal it kinda sucked)
-Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (this was the worst in the series, i rewatched it not to long ago, its not as a bad as a thought as a kid but still the worst in the series)

Apr 23 - 06:40 PM

Trav A.

Trav Allred

Holy cow, switch the first 2 and you got my order matched. Even your reasons are the same. Agree with you completely but I give 3 a slight edge.

Apr 24 - 02:53 PM

DeeJay RA

Steven Couras

Yea man, my top 3 i like equally to be honist.

Freddy was awesome as a kid and now as a 27 year old im looking forward to seeing this new one.

Apr 25 - 06:32 PM

DeeJay RA

Steven Couras

This was the best, I loved this movie as a kid.

Yes, you should include the Tomameter for each one, and the body counts and other trivia items.

My picks in order from the best to my least fav.

-Nightmare on Elm Street 1 (the best)
-Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (awesome)
-New Nightmare (my top 3, i kinda like equally to be honist)
-Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (kinda underated, not that bad)
-Nightmare on Elm Street 5 (has a gothic vibe to it, was not the best but with the look and score it felt very gothic and kinda darker then the previous 2 or 3, its just ok)
-Freddy Vs. Jason (ehh it was ok, i liked it, but not the best, still a fun movie though)
-Freddys Dead (this is good as a movie by itself...as a sequal it kinda sucked)
-Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (this was the worst in the series, i rewatched it not to long ago, its not as a bad as a thought as a kid but still the worst in the series)

Apr 23 - 06:40 PM

woundedmakers

Steven Bada

Its nice to see such high regards to New Nightmare on these posts. I always kind of assumed it wasn't much of a favorite among fans because of its wild concept and poor reception when it came out. I remember really appreciating what Craven was trying to do with Freddy in this one, even though I was pretty young when I first saw it. I'd say New Nightmare is the best sequel (imo), but I think I will watch Part 3 tonight. Its been a long time since I've seen it, and I really don't remember much of it.

Apr 23 - 07:06 PM

The.Watcher

The Watcher

I regard New Nightmare as the "true" sequel to the first movie.
I was frankly blown away by its concept, regarding it as the one of the best ever filmed and probably the last death spasm of Craven's career.
01. Nightmare & New Nightmare (Tie)
02. Part 3
All of the others should be burned in a huge bonfire akin to what the Nazis did to books.

Apr 23 - 10:38 PM

zetabosio

Jorge Gonzalez

The only thing I want to say is that, Tim, I'm loving your entries. I've been a fan of these movies for a such a long time, but lately I had the feeling that I didn't remember what I liked them so much. But now that you're sharing with us your experience, I'm remembering it all, even the small nuances and plotlines that I had almost forgotten entirely. It's been a great ride so far to read your first three impressions. I'm sure I'm going to miss be reading this once you've finished, and you're only so far in number 3!

Yes... yes... we all know what you're going to say about the rest of the movies. Believe us, we know!! We've watched them hundreds of times! But it doesn't matter, it's great that you're sharing this with us.

And for that, I want to thank you. Be sure, we'll keep reading.
Cheers man
JD

Apr 23 - 07:28 PM

Steve R.

Jared Ashkenaz

This was definitely my favorite. They got really creative and it even seemed more like a fantasy movie than a horror one to me.
I was very bored by 4 and 5.

Apr 23 - 08:47 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

Third was also my favorite when I was younger. But, I must say, that death by television scene wasn't that well done. Comparing it to Videodrome? you should know better!

And, the claymation fight scene in the mountain of cars was also pretty poorly done by today's standards.

Another thing, I wish some of the fight scenes lasted longer. Like the one with the heroin addict, the kid who could walk in his dreams, etc. Although, as a kid, I LOVED the scene with the half-naked woman who confined the guy to his bed by throwing tongues at him. . .

Anyway, I think this is in the top 3.

I still rank it, NEW NIGHTMARE (whatever that faux documentary film was) #1,
and a tie between this one and the first one.


I just saw a preview of this before KICK-ASS. Seems the new one will be quite gritty and more scary, pretty much no humor.

Apr 23 - 10:22 PM

Hot Pink Nation

Jason Thomas

I hate that sh_t "by today's standards"

Dude, this was a low-budget (yes, it was) genre movie from the 1980's. By those standards the effects are pretty good.

Apr 23 - 10:48 PM

The.Watcher

The Watcher

I regard New Nightmare as the "true" sequel to the first movie.
I was frankly blown away by its concept, regarding it as the one of the best ever filmed and probably the last death spasm of Craven's career.
01. Nightmare & New Nightmare (Tie)
02. Part 3
All of the others should be burned in a huge bonfire akin to what the Nazis did to books.

Apr 23 - 10:38 PM

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