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A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

'Dream Warriors' manages to find the perfect balance between Freddy's quick witted one-liners, yet still maintaining his stance as a terrifying antagonist. I strongly believe that this is the most widely accessible incarnation of Freddy we get, before seeing the character falling completely off the edge in subsequent sequels. This is also the most creative Freddy we have seen, taking full advantage of his endless opportunity in the nightmare world and resulting in some perfectly executed kill sequences. Robert Englund is once again outstanding in the role of Freddy, cementing his place as a true icon within the horror genre.

Heather Langenkamp makes her long-awaited return to her iconic final girl role of Nancy. Surprisingly to me, her return serves a genuine purpose to the plot and not just as fan service. Nancy's return also provides some much needed answers to the lingering question as to where she has been since the events of the original. I really appreciated the time spent developing her character and giving us a more mature version of Nancy that we have previously seen. It was also refreshing to see such an iconic horror final girl return to a franchise and play a vital role without overshadowing the newest cast members.

Having the plot take place in a location other than '1428 Elm Street' this time around helps prevent the story from becoming stale and repetitive, whilst also providing a more convincing direction as to how these events would logically continue to unfold without raising suspicion to Freddy’s return. Having Freddy return to the same house time and time again is something I feel only has a limited believability. Bringing all these kids together in one unifying location and having Freddy utilise their vulnerability makes for an interesting take on the standard 'Nightmare' story. This also allows for a more convincing and satisfying conclusion for the audience as they all come together to take Freddy down, once and for all.

One thing that I found to be exceptional in concept was the introduction of the character abilities or their own unique 'powers'. These abilities provide a creative advantage against Freddy, and considering it is your own dream, it would only seem logical that you would have the power to manipulate it to a certain degree. Unfortunately, this is an idea that sounds much better in concept. In execution, it felt rather cheesy and borderline silly with certain characters. I'm not sure this is the sign of the times or if this was an intentional start in the direction the studio wanted to take the franchise moving forward in subsequent sequels.

Once entering the 'dream world', things start to take on a more creative and elaborate approach in set design. Something that we get a brief insight to during the bus scene in the opening moments of part 2, but disappointingly was never again utilised further in that film. In this entry we get more insight into the capability of Freddy’s control and powers of manipulation over his surroundings, an element of the film that I feel was executed perfectly by having such a fantastic practical set designs.

One thing I have to give this franchise credit for is its amazingly consistent use of practical effects work and 'Dream Warriors' is certainly no different. We get some extremely creative and iconic kills from Freddy in this entry. Such as, the needle glove used to kill Taryn (played by Jennifer Rubin), Phillip (played by Bradley Greg) who is used as a marionette doll before being lead to his suicidal death, and of course the legendary 'Welcome to prime time bitch' death of Jennifer (played by Penelope Sudrow). As well as all of these incredible practical kill sequences, we are introduced to a skeleton version of Freddy in the closing act that is a big highlight for me in this film, it's very reminiscent of the remarkable stop-motion animation used in 'Jason and the Argonauts' and looks fantastic.

Freddy's demise seems much more logical and purposeful in this entry. I'm not sure I found the religious aspect of it to be entirely convincing, but at least it had more meaningful development throughout the films runtime as opposed to the previous two entries in the 'Nightmare' franchise. I found the biggest failings in the films plot to be the segment of the story that revolves around Sister Mary Helena and the ultimate reveal being that she is Freddy’s mother, Amanda Krueger. This subplot felt rather convenient and comprises a lot of the mystery and unknowing, surrounding Freddy and his past.

Although I personally prefer the less comical and more horror centric version of these 'Nightmare' films, I can see how this film has become so widely loved and adored within the horror community. There is so much to appreciate here, from the well-developed story telling, to the excellent portrayals from the returning, and the latest additions to the cast. Unfortunately, I couldn't see past those cracks appearing that comprised the overall tone of what I perceive a Freddy Krueger film should be. The silly nature of how things unfold in the 'dream world' in the closing act feels more like a Saturday morning cartoon than a 'Nightmare' film, comprimising what had the potential to be the ultimate carnation of the character of Freddy Krueger. Whilst still a solid entry, it's not hard to see here where the wheels begin to fall off for this franchise.



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