HOLLYWOOD—Sequels seem to happen all the time in Hollywood nowadays, but how often does a sequel actually surpass the original. I would say 98 percent of the time it never happens. That rare occasion you have an “Aliens,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” or “The Godfather Part II,” but a horror flick that can easily compare to the original is “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.”
Ok, I’m not saying this installment is better than the original, but its damn close. Not only does it welcome the return of our heroine, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), but introduces a troupe of characters that the audience identifies with as they battle dream stalker Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). This entry was notorious for transforming Freddy from a terrifying character to witty psychopath.
I would argue that “Dream Warriors” delivers a careful balance of wit and comedy, with scares. One minute you can laugh and the next you are literally on the edge of your seat; that’s not an easy task to deliver in the horror arena. When crafting horror having a villain that is an equal adversary to our protagonist is crucial. In this case, Nancy is the heroine, but she is not alone, Kristen (Patricia Arquette) and other survivors from Elm Street band together to tackle a formidable foe.
The movie delivered some visuals back in the 80s that are unlike anything that had been seen before on the big screen; dreams have no limitations so the viewer can only imagine the chaos that can truly happen in a dream, even if we’d like to think it’s impossible.
Robert Englund brings another dimension to Krueger, one of wit that hadn’t been seen before the third installment in the franchise. What is also great is his ability to deliver a wrath at times that is truly frightening. This is a madman who is unstoppable to some degrees; and while the victims have no direct impact on Krueger’s untimely death, he takes no mercy in eliminating anyone that he sees as a potential threat to his madness.
This movie has terrific pacing, from a thrilling opening, to a climax that sets the stage for a finale that warns the audience that the hero doesn’t always make it to the end. At times, it’s a treat to see a beloved character bite the dust, it just reiterates that things are not always happily ever after as we expect. It doesn’t hurt that the movie has a few twists that upon first viewing is not as obvious as we’d like to think it is. So why does this movie work so well? Well I’ll be honest, the fact that Wes Craven who wrote and directed the first movie, returns to craft the script.
He brings a new element to the franchise that actually rebooted the series in my opinion after the disastrous “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2.” Some sequels should never be made, and that was one. He didn’t just reinvent a character audiences loved, I’m speaking about our heroine, but he also managed to change the audience’s perception of the villain. We’re somewhat rooting for him, which we shouldn’t be doing.
The bad guy should always be banished, and in this case, I think the audience has mixed feelings about his demise. I will acknowledge the narrative leading up to the shocking climax is perfect. That level of suspense prepares the audience for some surprises, and the way the villain is dismantled is quite unique to say the least. It’s not overly gimmicky or unbelievable to a degree.
I’ve always harkened “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master” as being one of my favorites in the franchise, but as much as I hate to admit, “Dream Warriors” gives me a new appreciation for crafting a film that comes damn close to outdoing the original.