31 Days of Horror: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

We all have our favorite Elm Street movie, and this is mine. Hands down. This wasn’t my first go-round with Mr. Krueger as a kid, but this movie both terrified and delighted me in a way that has stuck with me all these years. I would be so bold as to call it one of the best horror movies ever made. And I know I’m not alone in my assessment of Nightmare 3.

What makes it stand out so much among the others? Well, if you have ever read any of my reviews here on The Horror Syndicate you know I am big on mood and atmosphere and this film has such a dreamy, ethereal quality to it. The music, cinematography, lighting, and effects all conspire to create an environment where we are never sure what is the dream and what isn’t. And most importantly, Freddy is still scary here. Yeah, he cracks wise a little bit, but he’s a creature in the shadows still, his voice deep and guttural, a demon prowling an endless labyrinth of a boiler room. He’s a sick, sadistic predator; one who likes to play with his food before he eats it. One scene that always sticks with me is Kristen running down the hall with the little girl in her arms, hearing Freddy’s footsteps echoing behind her, when she gets stuck in the muddy quagmire, and we see his shadow first looming large on the wall and he appears around the corner, running towards her, claws out, only for her to break free at the last second, his glove swiping only air; we know the whole time he could kill these kids whenever he wants but he likes to torture them with their worst nightmares first.

The look of the movie is so fucking terrific. The house, the boiler room… even the sparse environment that is Westin Hills, the quiet room, the plain halls, as well as the inexplicably gothic towers of the old wing of the hospital looming above it all. Again, I hate to belabor the point, but everything is so dream-like: Freddy in the mirror, turning the facuets into his hands; the snake bursting the floor and chomping down on Kristen. It’s an ambitious movie from a visual effects standpoint when you realize that they did not have a huge budget to play around with, but all the money they did have made its way onto the screen.

We all know by now that Wes Craven’s involvement wasn’t as hands on as the original film, here he serves as one of four screenwriters and executive producer, but nevertheless the movie has that Craven magic about it. One thing I love is that they manage to expand Freddy’s backstory without fucking up the original mythology. I love the creepy nun, Sister Mary Helena, and the whole idea that Freddy is the result of such a horrendous crime visited upon an innocent young girl. Of course it would take an act of such evil to create Freddy Krueger.

One of the reasons this movie is so awesome is the cast. The kids are all great, especially Patricia Arquette. That was a smart move casting her; there’s something a little off-kilter about her, she has some eerie intangible quality. But the entire ensemble of disturbed teens really make this movie. Jennifer, Will, Taryn, Philip, Joey, Kincaid… you can’t not like these kids. Of course, John Saxon is back and is terrific as Nancy’s broke-down, drunken dad. I would be remiss here if I didn’t point out that Nightmares 1, 3 and 7 are often lauded as the best of the series by the fans and (aside from Robert Englund as Freddy) they all have one thing in common: Heather Langenkamp. I have always thought she is such a wonderful actress. There’s something special about her, especially when she plays Nancy; she has that girl-next-door look but there’s something tragic just below the surface. I know her experiences with a real-life stalker drove her away from acting for a long time, but I am always amazed she didn’t become a much bigger star. She deserved to.

Nightmare 3 has some of the best and most memorable kills in the entire series. You can’t talk about this movie without talking about Philip being controlled like a puppet with his veins coming out of his arms and legs. It’s gross and the make-up effects are so fucking well done!! Jennifer’s death is another highlight, famous now for Robert Englund’s ad-lib “Welcome to Prime Time, bitch!” before he smashes her head into the TV. Now that I think about it, after this movie the sequels were pretty much bloodless until New Nightmare (I’m not counting Greta’s unrated death scene they cut from part 5).

I can’t recall exactly how many times I rented the VHS of this movie from our local video store when I was a kid, but it was enough for me to have memorized pretty much every line in the whole damn film, so many chestnuts like: “I said where’s the fucking bourbon???”
One thing’s for sure, it turned me into a full-fledged Freddy fanatic. I watched it the other night to refresh my mind for this article, and I think it holds up pretty damn well for a movie that’s over 30 years old. It has a timeless quality to it, one of the things that make it so great. Grab your copy, borrow one from a friend, or rent it from VOD and enjoy this horror classic to get in the mood for the Halloween season!!!

About Brian White 31 Articles
I am a lifelong horror junkie, musician, and writer. I recently published my first collection of poetry, Shadow Land, which is available on Amazon. I'm 38 years old and I live in Canton, Ohio.