Why I like A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
(Poster image by Jason Edmiston)
1) I gotta start this one up with a controversial point: I think that the original Nightmare on Elm Street film hasn't aged all that well. It's a good movie and has some great imagery, but it's also very dated.
2) One of the best things about NoES movies is that the teenage victims tend to be better-developed than most slasher movie characters. We need to know who they are so we know what Freddy will use against them. And who is more vulnerable to the depredations of Freddy Krueger than a bunch of kids in a mental health facility?
3) I like that this movie brings back Nancy Thompson from the original movie. Nancy is one of the best final girls in horror history. She's smart, proactive, brave, and resourceful. We rarely get a chance to see final girls after they survive, but I like that she's become a youth crisis counselor. She didn't break down, she didn't become paranoid, she took her experiences with Freddy and turned it into something positive.
4) The kids in this movie are awesome. While none of them seem particularly unwell, they all have strong personalities and meet the challenge of Freddy Krueger head-on like a bunch of mini-Nancys. My favorites are the punk rocker and the wizard master.
5) This is right before Freddy got super-goofy in part four. He's got a sense of humor, but it's deeply cruel. One of the most famous kills is when Freddy jams the would-be actress into the television. He says "This is it, Jennifer. Your big break in TV! Welcome to prime time, bitch!" before he smashes her into the screen. It's funny, but not ha-ha funny. It's the bleakest, blackest humor imaginable, which makes it the perfect fit for Freddy Krueger.
6) The fight in the graveyard is pure Harryhausen. The junkyard itself looks like a Gothic reimagining of urban decay, with the stacks of cars framing Freddy's grave like an arena. I really like John Saxon, especially after Enter the Dragon and his epic battle against Krueger marks the highlight of the film.
7) There are some great scare scenes in the movie. Most people favor the aforementioned TV smash, but my two are the veins-as-marionettes for sheer squick factor, and the "sorry kid, I don't believe in fairy tales" death of the Wizard Master, because that's the way I'd probably go.
8) Larry Fishbourne
Conclusion: The saga of Freddy is ultimately one of inherited guilt. The kids are paying for the sins of their parents, and we can see the strain it has taken on the last of the so-called Elm Street kids. They are aided and empowered by sympathetic adults, but they ultimately confront and defeat Freddy themselves. Dream Warriors is a story of youthful can-do spirit. It's all the Scooby-Doo and Hardy Boys stories I loved as a kid, with a compelling monster for them to go up against.