What does a production company do after it follows it’s breakout hit horror film with an introspective look at a young man’s homosexual awakening? (Link) Well if you're producer Robert Shaye, you go back to well! Chuck Russell’s 1987 film A Nightmare on Elm Street part 3: The Dream Warriors features the return of subjective reality, a high body count, both Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and Donald Thompson (John Saxon), and-most importantly-women!
Kristin Parker (Patricia Arquette) is having, you guessed it, sleeping problems to the point where it appears to her negligent mother (Brooke Bundy) that Kristin’s trying to kill herself. Little does she understand is that Freddy’s (Robert Englund) back once again to terrorize the teens on Elm Street. Little does Freddy understand is that when teens are trapped in a mental ward because of their group psychosis, said teens will unionize! Under Nancy’s leadership, the troubled teens of Elm Street learn that they each have a unique “dream power” that can be used against Freddy. But will it be enough to send Krueger back to hell? Well, no, but luckily psychologist Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson) is armed with holy water and a crucifix. Wait, isn’t that for…? Nevermind, he seems confident enough.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of this installment of the NoES series. Dream Warriors is essentially the Goldfinger (1964) of Freddy films in that it solidified the formula that would define every film to follow. It introduced the “one defining character trait/ironic death” motif, the dream power, Freddy’s control over the dream setting, the opening quotes, and the bizarre methods of death. Dream Warriors also brought back the gimmick of Freddy killing people in a manner that was explainable in the real world, thus throwing suspicion off him. Because blaming a dead man that murders people through dreams is completely plausible.
The death scenes in this installment are grotesque. The artery-strings on Phillip (Bradley Gregg) still make me cringe. Whereas Taryn’s (Jennifer Rubin) track mark mouths are simply wrong. And then there’s Dick Cavett. Dick Cavett attacks Zsa Zsa Gabor with Freddy’s glove. You can't mock that.
Equally important is the defining of the Freddy character. After two films, Freddy is now in the spotlight. He’s using superpowers and cracking the jokes that audiences would identify with him forever after. Also important, the “soul chest” is shown for the first time, explaining how Freddy gains his evil powers and stores the souls of his victims.
Except for A New Nightmare (1994) and Freddy vs. Jason (2003), every subsequent film follows the Dream Warriors mold. And with good reason, Dream Warriors is just a good horror film, the result of great filmmakers like Chuck Russell, Frank Darabont and Wes Craven working together to make THE 80s supernatural slasher. And if that’s not enough, Dokken plays the title track over the credits. Dokken.