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(Spoilers for the previous two Nightmare on Elm Street movies are below).
Freddy’s Revenge was a less then compelling sequel, and as result for the third Nightmare film the series starts to go back to its roots. Returning to the fold from the original Nightmare on Elm Street film are Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), her father Donald Thompson (John Saxon), and of course Freddy (Robert Englund). The most significant return has to be Wes Craven, who returns exclusively in a writer’s capacity. The end result is a pretty entertaining horror movie, at the very least one that certainly improves upon the last.
Six years after Freddy’s first appearance in Nightmare on Elm Street, Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) begins to have dreams with Freddy in them. After nearly being killed, her mother thinks Kristen’s suicidal and has her committed to a mental institution where other kids are also having dreams with Freddy. As Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson) tries to figure out how to stop these horrible nightmares, he enlists the help of Nancy Thompson whom unbeknownst to him has previously battled Freddy, and is now able to keep him at bay with the help of a prescription drug called Hypnocil.
In Dream Warriors there is no underlying homo-eroticism, there’s no Freddy trying to recruit a successor, and there’s a very limited number of Freddy returns to the real world. Just by doing these things the movie’s already better than Freddy’s Revenge. Like the previous two movies there are underlying issues that are explored, and Dream Warriors is no exception as the film dishes out a heavy dosage of religious symbolism. Holy water, crucifixes, and nuns are aplenty, so much so that at times this movie feels like a parody of The Exorcist. Nevertheless, they are actually crucial in the protagonists’ fight against Freddy. The newly introduced religious aspects to the movie are definitely cheesy, but they’re the entertaining type of cheesy.
The mental patients turn out to be a fun new entertaining group of youngsters for Freddy to kill. There’s Philip a mute marionette masterminder; Will’s a wheelchair bound youth that dreams of being a wizard; Jennifer dreams of being a popular actress; Kincaid is the tough guy; Taryn is a former heroin addict who continues to struggle with addiction. Not only is this a diverse group of one dimensional characters, but the mental patients have the ability to manipulate Freddy’s dream world which results in a number of new and refreshing battles with Freddy. This is also the first Nightmare film to rely heavily on the use of one-liners, which Freddy uses in nearly everyone of his kills, and yes they’re funny.
The Nightmare franchise won’t win any awards for acting, but it’s nice to see the return of Nancy and her father. More of Freddy’s backstory is also revealed including who his parents were. The backstory is tied nicely into the location change at the mental hospital allowing the story to continue, and to at least make some sense, while expanding upon the original premise. It’s also worth noting that one of hospital’s orderlies, Max, is played by Lawrence Fishburne – best known for playing Morpheus in The Matrix. If only Max could have had Freddy dreams we could have seen a Morpheus vs Freddy battle.
Dream Warriors is not without its issues. There are added scenes that really don’t seem add anything to story like the orderly that harasses Taryn for being a drug addict. The lone scene where Freddy returns to the real world is also a giant special effects mess. It looks similar to how the final battle in Army of Darkness was executed, but unlike Army of Darkness this wasn’t supposed to be a horror comedy. Despite these issues, Dream Warriors makes a solid effort by horror film standards and the result is a fun horror movie that’s by no means great, but is definitely entertaining.