Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Studio Line: New Line Cinema - If You Think You'll Get Out Alive, You're Dreaming.

Born the bastard son of a hundred maniacs, demented killer Freddy Krueger is back for fresh victims in this hallucinatory shocker co-written by original creator Wes Craven (Scream 1, 2 and 3).

The last of the Elm Street kids are now at a psychiatric ward where Freddy haunts their dreams with unspeakable horrors. Their only hope is dream researcher and fellow survivor Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp of the original Nightmare), who helps them battle the supernatural psycho on his own hellish turf.

Starring Patricia Arquette (Bringing Out The Dead, Stigmata) and Academy Award-nominee Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Hoodlum), "Dream Warriors is both a horrific and hysterical trip!" (L.A. Herald-Examiner).

Director: Chuck Russuell
Cast: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Craig Wasson, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Jennifer Rubin, Laurence Fishburne
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9, standard 1.33:1; audio English DD 5.1 & Digital Mono; subtitles English; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 31 chapters; rated R; 96 min.; $24.98; street date 8/22/00.
Supplements: "Jump To A Nightmare" Scene Navigation; Original Theatrical Trailer. DVD-ROM Features: Read The Screenplay While You Watch The Film!; New Dream World Trivia Game -- Test Your Nightmare Knowledge!; Up-to-the-Minute Cast, Crew, Trivia Info and More!
Purchase: DVD | The Nightmare on Elm Street Collection | Freddy's Favorites: Best of A Nightmare on Elm Street - Soundtrack

Picture/Sound/Extras: A-/B-/D-

After A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, the disappointing initial sequel to the surprisingly successful ANOES, the series clearly needed a jolt if it were to continue to experience any popularity. 1987's A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors provided exactly the kick needed to jumpstart the franchise and it remains one of the better films in the series.

ANOES 3 picks up where ANOES 2 probably should have started: with the further adventures of the first film's protagonist, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp). Actually, the story doesn't truly focus on her, as she doesn't enter the tale until it's already well underway, but she becomes a prime participant in the activities and her engagement is crucial for the movie, whereas ANOES 2 almost seemed to function in its own special universe.

This sense of continuity adds a connection lacking in ANOES 2 and it immediately makes ANOES 3 a more compelling and stimulating film; this is the true follow-up to the original after the preceding aberration, and though it's not a great picture, it remains one of the very best of the series.

This tale starts in a manner similar to the first two: a teenage girl (Kristen, played by Patricia Arquette) is terrorized in her dreams by our old buddy Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). When her injuries are mistaken for a suicide attempt, her uninvolved mother checks her in to a mental hospital where she's grouped with other teens who have serious sleep disturbances.

Not coincidentally, it turns out that there's something else that links them, but I'll leave that minor surprise for you to find if you watch the film yourself. Since the staff at the hospital seem unable to figure what's happening to the kids, eventually grad student Nancy enters the picture and gets down to business.

ANOES 3 succeeds because it doesn't attempt to replicate the exact formula of the first film. ANOES 2 came across too much like a weak remake of the original, and its attempts to deviate from the "rules" seemed misguided at best. Unlike that picture, ANOES 3 clearly functions within the same universe as the first movie, but it also makes a strong name for itself.

Actually, I think a valid comparison between the two films views ANOES as similar to Alien while ANOES 3 expands the plot ala Aliens. The first projects in both series stayed with a fairly small, claustrophobic focus, but the sequels in question broaden the horizons and take the stories into new realms. While ANOES 3 doesn't deviate to the degree seen in Aliens, it does incorporate some similar themes, especially since this movie casts Nancy as a scarred survivor who becomes a mother/protector to others.

Not in a million years do I think ANOES 3 is one-tenth as good as Aliens, but it works very well for part of its series. Actually, I used to be very fond of the film but my passion has cooled quite a bit to the point where I still like it but not to an extreme. Part of that stems from the fact it seems awfully dated; the corny music and outfits have not aged well.

Despite that factor, ANOES 3 remains a fun and splashy entry in the series. Director Chuck Russell manages to keep the action light and engaging. Notably, this film marks the first appearance of the glib, wise-cracking Freddy who would become so famous; in the first two movies, he was much more blunt and serious. Now he's the Henny Youngman of the slasher set. It's tempting to knock this aspect of the film because of the excessively comic tone that would appear in later efforts, but I shouldn't fault an original due to problems with its imitators. Within this environment, the comedy works well and adds spice to the affair.

Although I don't consider A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 to be a great film, it remains light and frothy fun. The movie goes for a more action-oriented feel than the first two pictures and it largely succeeds in that realm. Despite some flaws, it offers a generally compelling experience and makes for one of the better horror flicks of the Eighties.

The DVD:

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors appears in both its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the letterboxed image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the widescreen edition was watched for this review. Of the first four films in the series, ANOES 3 easily offers the best picture; although it contains some issues, it usually looks quite good and holds up nicely after 13 years.

Sharpness seemed very strong, as the film appeared crisp and detailed from start to finish; as was typical of the first two movies, some of the interiors look a little murky, but they remain accurately-depicted. Moiré effects and jagged edges were minimal, and I also noticed only a few examples of artifacts from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV. The print itself seemed wonderfully clean; I detected a few speckles but that was about it.

Colors appear fairly true and bright, with some very well-saturated hues that display no signs of bleeding or noise, even during the scenes that utilize red lighting. Black levels seem nicely dark and rich, and although shadow detail can come across as slightly heavy, it usually looks appropriately dense. The budget for ANOES 3 clearly exceeded that of the first two films and it shows, as this one presents a smoother and more vivid image than those pictures did.

ANOES 3 offers a choice between the original mono mix that appeared theatrically and a new Dolby Digital 5.1 track; I opted to watch the film accompanied by the latter, though I occasionally flipped between them for comparison. For most of the film, the soundtrack to ANOES 3 appears to be the least active of the first three pictures; had the soundfield not come alive during the film's third act, I probably would have given it a lower rating than I did. Happily, the remix makes much better use of the surrounds at that time and creates a more satisfying sound experience. For the most part, spatial use is limited, but the final third creates a very nice soundstage, even with some effective use of split surrounds during scenes like the one in which Freddy rips up the padded room. I would prefer that the whole thing sounded that good, but at least the audio comes through in the end.

The track's quality appears stronger than those of the first two films, however; although all three come from mono mixes, it's clear that budget increase helped out in this department. Dialogue shows the most improvement, as it sounds consistently natural and clear, with little of the flatness that dogged the first two movies. Effects are more of a mixed bag, but they also show increased fidelity and crispness. The music sounds about the same, which isn't surprising since it's a similar synthesizer score. At least the low end improves in this film, as it comes across as noticeably more taut and deep. The track still is nothing special, even considering the movie's age, but it provides a pretty good experience.

The supplements of ANOES 3 are sparse. We get the "Jump to a Nightmare" feature, which lets you pop immediately to a specific Freddy scene ala the usual "scene selections" menu, plus we have seven cast and six crew biographies. As with the first two films, these biographies come from the press kit that accompanied the theatrical release of the movie; the filmographies have also been updated, however.

Nightmare 3 includes some DVD-ROM content as well. It features the screenplay - which can display corresponding scenes as you read - and gives us part six of the "Dream World Trivia Game". The latter provides 20 questions about the movie; if you correctly answer at least 13 of them, you get a congratulatory message but nothing special. (The games found on the boxed set's discs provide a code that you can use to access a final contest on the eighth DVD, but that feature disappears here, for logical reasons.). I found these questions to be pretty tough, but not impossible. They vary from try to try, so while you'll probably encounter some of the same queries each time through, the roster of posers isn't set in stone.

Finally, the DVD contains web links to New Line's Nightmare On Elm Street home page and to "up to the minute" details on the film's cast and crew. That means if you click the link, it'll send you to IMDB's facts.

When I first watched ANOES 3 last year, it created a slight sense of disappointment since I'd remembered the film so positively from late Eighties viewings. However, I still liked it, and a second screening showed the movie's strengths better. It's not a classic, but it provides some sleek and cheeky thrills. The DVD presents very strong picture with adequate sound but few extras. If you're in the mood for a light horror film, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 remains entertaining and is worth a look.

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