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The return of Freddy Krueger creator, Wes Craven (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, SCREAM), and the original film veterans Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon in this third installment of the series helps elevate A NIGHTMARE ON ELMSTREET 3: The Dream Warriors into a better sequel than its predecessor (the much maligned A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: Freddy's Revenge). But Craven's minimal role as co-screenwriter is felt from first frame to last as the horrors from the first film are replaced by comic book swashbuckling.
Hardly surprising now considering the film's director is Chuck Russell (THE MASK, ERASER), who also co-wrote the screenplay with Craven, Frank Darabont (the critically-acclaimed writer/director of THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THE GREEN MILE), and Bruce Wagner (WILD PALMS [TV]).
It's been six years since the events in the first film. Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette; STIGMATA, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD) is Freddy's latest target, and her nightmares have driven her to a suicide attempt (or was it Freddy who slashed her wrists?). Placed in a hospital for troubled teens, she meets with fellow haunted insomniacs who are a mixed batch of Breakfast Club-style teens typical of late 80s movies. There's basket case/junkie Taryn (Jennifer Rubin; BAD DREAMS, SCREAMERS); obnoxious wise guy Phillip (Bradley Gregg; STAND BY ME, FIRE IN THE SKY); stereotypical black bad ass Kincaid (Ken Sagoes; PROJECT X, ROSEWOOD); uppity actress wanna-be Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow: DEAD MAN WALKING ); Dungeons & Dragons geek Will (Ira Heiden; ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK); and mute, lovesick Joey (Rodney Eastman).
They're all under the care of Dr. Neil Gordan (Craig Wasson; GHOST STORY, BODY DOUBLE), and Dr. Elizabeth Simms (Priscilla Pointer; CARRIE, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE). The psychiatrists make little to no headway with their charges until Nancy Thompson (Langenkamp; A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, Wes Craven's NEW NIGHTMARE), now a grad student in psychiatry, arrives on the scene. And with her comes the identity of their tormentor, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, DEAD & BURIED, URBAN LEGENDS, STRANGELAND, PYTHON), returned from the dead to kill off the last of the Elm Street children, whose parents were responsible for burning him alive.
But this time, the would-be-victims have an advantage. While sleeping, Kristen has the ability to bring other dreamers into her nightmares. Under Nancy's direction, the teens form a super-powered dream team, capable of fighting Freddy on his own turf - and hopefully destroying him.
In the waking world, Neil has been contacted by the mysterious Sister Mary Helena (Nan Martin), who reveals to him the details of Freddys disturbing past, and instructs him that to destroy Freddy, his body must be buried in holy ground. Nancys father, Lt. Donald Thompson (John Saxon; BLACK CHRISTMAS, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE), is the only person who knows where Freddy's corpse is - and his attitude, as carried over from the first film, remains one of disbelief.
The many contributing writers explains why there's so much going on in this film. The basic premise is what drew me in the first time I saw it, but unfortunately, the film never lives up to expectations. The Dream Warriors never face Freddy as a team. They are separated and dispatched one at a time without too much of a struggle despite their dream powers.
The film also suffers from its stereotypical teen characters, as well as that of the closed-minded Dr. Simms. Watching her banter with her patients and undermine the efforts of Nancy and Neil makes one wonder how she got a job working with adolescents to begin with. That being said, the screenplay still manages to give its many characters a defining trait - Kristen paints gruesome works of art, Jennifer burns herself with cigarettes, and Phillip builds marionettes.
Loaded with imaginative visual and special effects including Ray Harryhausen-type scenes featuring a claymation marionette and a skeleton, as well as Freddy utilizing such objects as a television set and a bathroom sink to strike at his victims, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: The Dream Warriors earns three shriek girls.
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