A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (1987) Review: ’80s Magic
“If you think you’ll get out alive, you must be dreaming.”
Synopsis: A psychiatrist familiar with knife-wielding dream demon Freddy Krueger helps teens at a mental hospital battle the killer who is invading their dreams.
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Dream Warriors is the first of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise that worked for me. I didn’t find the first one scary, and the second one was too ridiculous for me to take seriously. But Dream Warriors managed a surprisingly strong blend of Freddy’s wacky creativity and sympathetic horror. As usual, there were a lot of interesting kills. Much more importantly, though, the movie managed to include an additional layer of horror: the teens being threatened by Freddy (Robert Englund) are further endangered by the very people trying to save them.
It’s easy to empathize with almost everyone in the movie – the scared teens facing Freddy in their dreams, the troubled staff trying to understand a rash of apparent suicides. Both sides feel helpless to combat the situation at hand, which is particularly powerful to me; I find that helplessness more horrifying than the macabre displays and screeching claws Freddy is known for.
Despite a couple of filmmaker missteps at the end of the movie, I found myself very invested in Dream Warriors. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of Nancy (Heather Langenkamp as a mentor to the trouble teens (Patricia Arquette, Rodney Eastman, Ken Sagoes). There were a couple of weird choices that I think the movie would have been stronger without – you’ll know which I mean when you see them – but all in all, the strength of the story makes it work.
In fact, for all the silliness of its premise (and at times, execution), Dream Warriors is surprisingly well put together. Yes, it’s a very ’80s flick – and yes, the manner in which the teens take the fight to Freddy strains any suspension of disbelief you may have. But in a world with a supernatural killer, their methods are actually fairly sound. (If you can forgive the ’80s hair and magical effects, that is.) Dream Warriors is definitely a Codex Mortis favorite in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise; don’t skip this one.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: B+
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