- 1987 Follow up to A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
- Heather Langenkamp returns as Nancy Thompson
- Patricia Arquette’s movie debut as Kristen Parker
- The third highest grossing film of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise
- Developed by Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is a 1987 American slasher film directed by Chuck Russell. The story was developed by Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner. It is the third installment in the Nightmare on Elm Street series and stars Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Larry Fishburne, Priscilla Pointer, Craig Wasson, and Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger. The plot centers around the antagonist, who seeks to murder the remaining children of the parents who burned him to death. The kids are committed to a mental hospital where Nancy Thompson, whose parents helped to kill Krueger, works. Freddy does not know that Nancy is training the kids to control their dreams in order to fight him. The film was followed by another sequel, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, a year later.
In 1987, a year after the events of the previous film, Kristen Parker dreams herself into an abandoned house on Elm Street, where she is chased by serial killer Freddy Krueger. She wakes up, goes to the bathroom, and is attacked by Freddy again, who slices her wrist with a straight razor. Her mother believes that she is suicidal and sends her to Westin Hospital, which is run by Dr. Neil Gordon. At the hospital Kristen fights against the orderlies who try to sedate her because she is afraid of falling asleep. The intern therapist, Nancy Thompson, calms her down and earns her trust by reciting part of Freddy’s nursery rhyme.
Nancy is introduced to the rest of the patients: Phillip, a habitual sleepwalker; Kincaid, a tough kid from the streets who is prone to violence; Jennifer, a hopeful television actress; Will, who is confined to a wheelchair after a suicide attempt; Taryn, a former drug addict; and Joey, who is too traumatized to speak. Later, Kristen is again attacked in her dreams by Freddy and she unwittingly pulls Nancy into her dream; this allows both of them to escape. Kristen reveals that she has had the ability to pull people into her dreams since she was a little girl. Over the next two nights, Freddy throws Phillip off a roof in what looks like a suicide attempt and kills Jennifer by smashing her head into a television.
In their next group session, Nancy reveals to the remaining patients that they are the last surviving children of the people who banded together and burned Krueger to death many years ago. Nancy and Neil encourage them to try group hypnosis so that they can experience a shared dream and discover their dream powers. In the dream, Joey wanders off and is captured by Freddy, leaving him comatose in the real world; Nancy and Neil are relieved of duty. Neil is told by a nun, Sister Mary Helena, that Freddy is the son of a young nun who was accidentally locked in a room with hundreds of mental patients who raped her continually, and that the only way to stop him is to lay his bones to rest. He and Nancy ask Nancy’s father, Donald Thompson, where the bones are hidden, but he is uncooperative. Nancy rushes back to the hospital when she learns that Kristen is going to be sedated. Neil stays behind to convince Donald to help them.
Nancy and the others again engage in group hypnosis to reunite with Kristen, but are all separated by Freddy. Taryn and Will are killed by Freddy while Kristen, Nancy, and Kincaid find one another. The trio rescue Joey but are unable to defeat Freddy because he has become too powerful. Freddy senses that his remains have been found. He takes possession of his own skeleton and kills Donald and incapacitates Neil. Freddy returns to attack the others, but Joey uses his dream power voice to send him away. Donald tells Nancy that he is crossing over, but he is revealed to be Freddy in disguise. He stabs Nancy and prepares to kill Kristen when Nancy rises up and stabs him with his own glove. Neil awakens and pushes Krueger’s bones in a hole and douses them with holy water before dropping in the prayer cross. This seemingly destroys Freddy. Nancy succumbs to her wounds and dies.
At Nancy’s funeral, Neil sees Sister Mary Helena again and follows her; he loses sight of her but finds a tombstone that reveals her to be Amanda Krueger, Freddy’s mother. That night, he goes to sleep with an Elm Street house miniature on his nightstand; he does not notice its lights turn on.
- Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson
- Craig Wasson as Dr. Neil Gordon
- Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger
- Patricia Arquette as Kristen Parker
- Ken Sagoes as Roland Kincaid
- Rodney Eastman as Joey Crusel
- Jennifer Rubin as Taryn White
- Laurence Fishburne as Max Daniels (credited as Larry Fishburne)
- Bradley Gregg as Phillip Anderson
- Ira Heiden as Will Stanton
- Penelope Sudrow as Jennifer Caulfield
- Nan Martin as Amanda Krueger/Mary Helena
- John Saxon as Donald Thompson (special appearance)
- Priscilla Pointer as Dr. Elizabeth Simms
- Clayton Landey as Lorenzo
- Brooke Bundy as Elaine Parker
- Dick Cavett as Himself
- Zsa Zsa Gabor as Herself
- Stacey Alden as Nurse Marcy
- Paul Kent as Dr. Carver
Following the critical failure of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, New Line Cinema was unsure if they would continue with the series. Wes Craven, who wrote and directed the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, did not participate in the first sequel. He had not wanted the original to evolve into a franchise but co-wrote the screenplay for the third installment with the intention that it would end the series. The success of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors prompted a continuation of the series.
Craven’s very first concept for the film was to have Freddy Krueger invade the real world: Krueger would haunt the actors filming a new Nightmare on Elm Street sequel. New Line Cinema rejected the metacinematic idea, but years later, Craven’s concept was brought to the screen in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
Discussing the more humorous elements in the film, director Chuck Russell stated, “I looked at what [series creator] Wes Craven did and said, ‘This is absolutely great and terrifying.’ But I felt that by the time I came along on 3, the way to go was to make the whole idea of dreams and nightmares into a carnival and go further into the dreams and make Freddy Krueger more outrageous and add more of an element of dark humor. That worked and the series went in that direction from then on.”
In interviews with cast and crew in the DVD extras, it is revealed that the original idea for the film centered around the kids separately traveling to a specific location to commit suicide. Later it would be discovered that the common link between the youths was that they dreamed of Freddy Krueger. Since suicide is a taboo social issue, the story line was abandoned. Some aspects of the idea remained in the film.
In the original script by Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner, the characters were somewhat different from what was eventually filmed. Nancy was not a dream expert nor any kind of mental health professional. Kristen (named Kirsten in this script) only stayed in the institution for a short while and she had a father. Neil’s last name was Guinness and his character was much younger. Dr. Simms’ last name was Maddalena, Taryn was African-American, Joey was the one who built the model of a house and had trouble getting around (although he did not use a wheelchair), and Philip was a thirteen-year-old. Will’s name was originally Laredo, he had long hair, did not use a wheelchair, and was the one who made the clay puppets. This script also described the ranch house where Krueger was born and that is the house that shows up in the kids’ dreams rather than the Elm Street house. Contrary to the film, Donald Thompson knew from the start that Krueger was real and still alive.
Krueger was missing and Nancy wanted to find him. When she finds him, Nancy learns that Krueger is obsessed with finding the house where he was born so he could burn it down. In the original script, there is a romance between Nancy and Neil and they have sex. There are scenes and lines that are reminiscent of the first film. There is no mention that Krueger’s mother had been a nun or that Freddy was born of rape. Both Joey and Kincaid are killed. The deaths in this script were more grotesque; Krueger was not as talkative and he was more vulgar. Freddy is killed by Nancy by using his own glove, not by holy water. In Jeffrey Cooper’s novelization The Nightmares on Elm Street Parts 1, 2, 3: The Continuing Story (1987), the original Craven and Wagner version of the Nightmare 3 script is adapted, rather than the Russell and Darabont rewrite. As such, the book version of the story is different from the finished film.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film and a fan favorite is the sequence that takes place in the junkyard during the film’s climax. The junkyard sequence and the set itself were the product of art director Mick Strawn. Mick also handled some special effects sequences on the film, and became production designer on the sequel. The sequence was so popular that it appeared again in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. The junkyard sequence was filmed in Pacoima, California, for both films.
Lisa Wilcox and Lezlie Deane, who would later be cast as Alice Johnson and Tracy respectively in the following installments, have both reported as having auditioned for roles in Dream Warriors previously. Dick Cavett allegedly handpicked Zsa Zsa Gabor personally after being given the opportunity to choose who he thought should appear in his show and be slaughtered by Freddy. According to Robert Englund, all of her reactions and dialogue was completely improvised:“Ms. Gabor, who was probably just grateful to be asked to appear in a movie again, apparently didn’t read the script or bother to do any research on the Nightmare flicks. I guess her agent told her, “I have a job for you,” and all she said was “Great. Vhat time zhould I zhow up, dahlink?” not realizing that she was about to throw down with a burnt-to-a-crisp serial killer. During the fake talk show where she’s interviewed by Dick Cavett, all her reactions seen on film were 100 percent genuine. She didn’t know who the fuck Freddy was, so when I jumped out, she had a mild freak-out.”
The theme song, “Dream Warriors”, was written and performed by the American heavy metal band Dokken. The single was a success and a decision was made to include heavy metal songs in the soundtrack of the sequels.
In the opening sequence of the original VHS release of the film, a hard rock instrumental version of the song “Quiet Cool” plays. When the film was released on DVD, “Quiet Cool” is replaced by “Into the Fire” by Dokken which was the song in the original theatrical release.
The film was released theatrically in the United States by New Line Cinema in February 1987. It opened in 1,343 theaters, grossed $8.9 million, and debuted at number one during its opening weekend. It made $44,793,222 at the domestic box office making it both the highest-grossing film for the studio that year and the 24th highest-grossing film of 1987. It is the third highest grossing film of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise after Freddy vs. Jason and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
In the Australian state of Queensland, the movie was banned by the Bjelke-Petersen government because of its drug references, specifically the scene where Freddy’s glove becomes a number of syringes and he injects Taryn with an amphetamine overdose. In 1990, the newly elected Goss government abolished the Queensland Film Board of Review and the film became available through normal market channels. The Australian public at the time thought the ban was absurd, as the film was not very graphic.