Horror franchises, and more specifically the slasher subspecies, are often characterized by producing an unending string of sequels. Traditionally these continuations are notoriously bad, and we simply slug our way through the monotony and laughable scripts to see our favorite villains create a steady stream of carnage. Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” series saw a total of seven films, a “Friday the 13th” crossover, and a reboot. Unlike many sequels, “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” is a genuinely enjoyable perpetuation of Freddy Krueger lore. Aided by Wes Craven’s masterful writing, a return by Heather Langenkamp, and of course the always enchanting Robert Englund, “Dream Warriors” is a sequel actually worth your time.
It’s been two years since Freddy’s last rampage, and Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) is suffering those recognizable nightmares. In the dream world, Freddy slits Kristen’s wrists, which her mother mistakes for a failed suicide. Kristen is therefore hospitalized, meeting a group of similarly haunted teens. Treatment at the institution isn’t successful, until Nancy Thompson (Heather Langeknamp), Freddy’s victim from the original 1984 film, returns.
Nancy, now a doctor, isn’t the scared kid we remember from the first “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” She’s figured out how to combat Freddy, and offers assistance to Krueger’s new batch of prey. While the previous installments focused on one character being hunted, “Dream Warriors” features several teens, and the group dynamics are a nice twist. Roland Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) is your typical macho dude. There’s Taryn White (Jennifer Rubin), the reformed drug addict. Joey Crusel’s (Rodney Eastman) a kid so scared he can’t talk. We’ve got a puppeteer, Philip Anderson (Bradley Gregg). Will Stanton (Ira Heiden) is now disabled after an attempted suicide. Finally, there’s the budding actress Jennifer Caulfield (Penelope Sudrow).
Each of Freddy’s new victims comes from a decidedly different background, and accordingly group dynamics come into play. It’s like plucking middle schoolers from various lunch room tables and placing them together. Nancy, now much more knowledgeable, informs the children that they aren’t powerless in their dreams, and teaches them to adopt various skills with which to fight Freddy, hence the subtitle dream warriors. Like their varying personalities, each teen’s powers are unique, and the diversity lends a fresh perspective to the familiar “A Nightmare on Elm Street” formula.
It’s a real treat to see Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp, and Robert Englund reunited. Craven’s story and writing are top-notch. He infuses fantasy and action elements with the slasher flick, concocting a delicious recipe. Langenkamp’s battle-hardened Dr. Thompson is radically different than her frightened Nancy from the series opener, and her familiar face is much appreciated. Robert Englund, however, absolutely steals the show. We love Freddy Krueger in part because of his tongue in cheek antics, and Englund is on point as ever. In one scene he smashes Jennifer’s head into a TV, then exclaims “welcome to primetime, bitch!” The creativity afforded by dreams is fully taken advantage of, particularly with the kids’ transformations into their warrior personas.
“A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” is a great return for Freddy and Nancy, continues the franchise while adding new qualities, and there’s a deeper exploration of Freddy’s lore. We actually get a Krueger origin story from Sister Mary Helena (Nan Martin), a fascinating inclusion which helps establish “A Nightmare on Elm Street” as a franchise, not a mere sequence of sequels. Ultimately, “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3” makes you thankful that Freddy keeps coming for you, therefore resulting in more Elm Street flicks.