Matt’s Walk Down Elm Street #3
Dream Warriors
Written By: Matt Parks
September 9, 2017

Dream Warriors had a lot of work to do to recover the franchise after the first sequel, and it does a solid job at returning the series to its roots.  Part three is the sequel that should’ve come directly after the original, and it successfully acts like it is by ignoring part two altogether.  It by no means is as good as the original, but is probably as good a sequel as we ever could’ve gotten.  Wes Craven returned to produce, and cowrite Dream Warriors, probably because he saw what happens when he isn’t attached to an Elm Street sequel, and his presence is an instant improvement from the second film. Wes’ original script, however was rewritten during production, so it ultimately wasn’t all Wes’ original vision.

Dream Warriors follows a group of suicidal teens who struggle with night terrors. We learn that they all dream about Freddy, and he is the reason that they are “suicidal”.  He kills them off one by one, and makes their deaths look like suicides.  The hospital has the patients convinced that they’re crazy, even though they all dream about Freddy, and know that they share the dream.  Nancy Thompson returns played by Heather Langenkamp once again, as an intern therapist of the hospital.

Written By: Matt Parks
September 1, 2017

 Langenkamp isn’t a very believable dream therapist, and really was more successful as a sleep deprived, angsty teen as with the original. Craig Wasson plays Dr. Neil Gordon, the head of the hospital, who struggles to believe Nancy about the real-world danger that the kids stare in the face of in their dreams, however he’s more understanding than the head nurse, who just assumes that the teenagers are crazy.  The story is passable, however hilariously similar to the teen drama Short Term 12, which would come out a little more than 20 years later.

I should probably elaborate on the patients of the hospital because it’s evident that the writers tried to give them all character, so that stakes were high throughout the movie. The lead (or final) girl, in this movie is Kristen Parker, played by Patricia Arquette, who essentially plays a more aggressive and erratic Nancy Thompson. Kincaid is essentially the angry, violent token black character that every 80s horror movie adores to reuse. Taryn is a drug addict, Will is a nerd, Phillip makes puppets, Joey doesn’t talk, and Jennifer wants to be on TV. The kids are cared after by a nurse named Max, who is played by none other than Laurence Fishburne (who is credited as Larry Fishburne, funnily enough).  Dream Warriors starts the franchise down a path of writing characters with mild character traits, just so that Freddy will ironically dispatch them based on their traits.  It’s a slightly funny concept, but doesn’t go far in character development due to the fact that one trait can’t build a whole character.

One of the biggest problems that I have with this movie was carried over from Freddy’s Revenge, Freddy’s powers are yet again inconsistent with the original.  In the original, the way Freddy kills you in the dream world directly effects the way you are disposed of in the real world.  With Phillip’s death, Freddy tears out his tendons to walk him out of his room as a puppet (because hardy har, Phillip makes marionette puppets), but the tendons that Freddy tears out in the dream remain intact in the real world.  This is so that the movie can be gory, but also make the deaths look like suicides. Another hole in the plot surrounds Jennifer’s death.  Jennifer’s head is smashed through a TV screen by Freddy as he screams the infamous line “Welcome to prime time, bitch!”. The scene looks cool, it’s nothing brilliant but it’s cool enough, the problem comes in when you realize that the hospital assumes it’s a suicide.  Not only was her head smashed through the screen, but the screen was at least 6 ½ feet in the air! It’s completely ignored, and is considered just another death in the hospital with no eyebrows raised.  Finally, in one scene, Dr. Gordon performs hypnosis to make the patients fall asleep, and for some odd reason, he also appears in the dream with them, implying he hypnotized himself… These are all pretty glaring mistakes, but for anyone looking for cheap thrills, they can be easily ignored. As a critic, I lack that ability, and assumed it was worth mentioning.

Dream Warriors remains interesting due to some new choices made within the dream world. Each of the kids in this movie has special dream powers to battle Freddy, which is cheesy popcorn flick garbage, but boy is it entertaining.  Kristen has the ability to pull people into her dreams, Kincaid is strong, Will becomes a Dungeons and Dragons knockoff character called “The Wizard Master”, and as Taryn puts it, in her dreams she’s “a badass”. By this I mean, she has a mohawk, piercings, and two switch blades. It looks extremely goofy, and unless you shop at Hot Topic frequently, you will audibly laugh out loud when you see her. Finally, Joey learns that when he yells in his dream, he can shout and make Freddy vanish. Ultimately, the dream powers serve no purpose other than giving the movie some cool action scenes, and writing characters out of sticky situations.

One of the bigger plot points is Nancy tracking down her now estranged father from the original movie to reveal the remains of Freddy to destroy them once and for all. This subplot does nothing more than drag the plot to fill screen time by making her dad reluctant to find the corpse because… conflict… I guess… Conflicts in a film are meant to keep you interested, not halt your film to fill run time.  It’s cool to see Nancy’s dad back, but it could’ve been executed in a much less sloppy fashion than we see here.

An interesting layer of lore is added to the movie when Neil Gordon meets “Sister Mary Helena”, who tells him that Freddy was created when his mother, a nurse in a mental institution, was imprisoned with hundreds of inmates who had their way with her.  The result was the psychologically damaged child murderer, Freddy Krueger. As forced as this subplot is within the movie, it’s cool to get more background on Freddy’s origins. It’s only cool, however, up until we learn that Mary Helena is just the ghost of Freddy’s mother returning to feed us exposition.  She conveniently also explains that to kill Freddy you must bury his remains with holy water.  Supernatural horror films frequently suffer from a character who conveniently knows everything about killing the monster, and Dream Warriors is no different.

By the end of the movie, Freddy is “successfully” killed when his remains get holy watered by Sergeant Thompson and Dr. Gordon, but both Nancy and her father are killed in the process.  Nancy’s death sets up what will be a recurring trope in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise: killing off the final girl from the previous film so that the living girl can continue her legacy.  It’s an interesting trope that refreshes characters throughout the franchise, but the newer final girl is never as interesting as the last.

Dream Warriors isn’t a great movie, but is definitely the best sequel in the franchise.  It’s worth watching for fans of the original, and sets up a glimpse of hope for the rest of the franchise.  Upon entering the fourth film, The Dream Master, I quickly realized that that glimpse of hope was only a mirage on my Walk Down Elm Street.  Dream Warriors scores a 6 out of 10 as a Nightmare film, however as a standalone film the best I can do is a 5 out of 10.