Follow TV Tropes


Film / A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Go To

Those little slices of Death.
How I loathe them."

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is the third film in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, released in 1987.

Freddy is still plaguing the dreams of the teens of Springwood. Their condition is thought to be psychological, and several of them have been placed in a psychiatric hospital. Nancy Thompson, the Final Girl of the first film, joins the hospital staff, planning to help the kids to realize powers within their dreams and become the Dream Warriors to defeat Freddy.

Following the mixed reception of Freddy's Revenge, New Line managed to convince Wes Craven back to write a sequel that makes no mention of the events of the second film and brings back the protagonist of the original feature, Nancy Thompson. The film added more dark humor into the Elm Street formula by having Freddy make jokes and one-liners about his victims' plights, an aspect that would carry over into the subsequent sequels. It also establishes the pattern of Freddy tailor-making nightmares to play off each victim's unique fears and self-doubts.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital: The abandoned Westin Hills facility.
  • Actor Allusion: Freddy's bones knock Neil into his supposed grave and starts shoveling dirt on him. This references Neil's actor Craig Wasson being buried alive in Body Double.
  • All Therapists Are Muggles:
    • Subverted with Dr. Neil Gordon. He's one of the therapists trying to help the Freddy-plagued kids and while skeptical at first, he is willing to admit the possibility that they and Nancy are faced with a supernatural threat.
    • Played straight with Dr. Elizabeth Simms. She, unfortunately, assumes they're delusional and has one of them sedated: the worst possible outcome of this trope, under the circumstances.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • When Freddy explains he's been absorbing his victims' souls, he pulls off his shirt to demonstrate their tortured faces on his torso.
    • Joey, when he's suspended over a hellish, burning cavern, tied by four tongues to his bed frame and can't scream for help.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: As unbelievable as a ghostly Serial Killer murdering teens in their sleep is, Dr. Elizabeth Simms assumes that their nightmares are all just "manifestations of guilt" and completely dismisses the fact that they are all having nightmares of the same menacing figure. The fact that she continuously denies such things even as the bodies pile up is even more damning.
  • Badass Normal: Nancy, as she is the only character without a dream power, yet still is the most competent "dream warrior".
  • Big "NO!": Joey gets his voice back by shouting a Big "NO!" at the sight of the other protagonists being snatched away by the Mirror-Freddies.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Perhaps surprisingly for a 1980's slasher flick, completely averted. Both black characters survive the entire film, and one of them never even finds out the truth about Freddy.
  • Body Horror: When Freddy threatens Taryn with syringes full of heroin, her old injection scars turn into greedy, sucking orifices, clamoring for their fix.
  • Bond One-Liner: Freddy delivers one as he kills Taryn via a heroin overdose.
    Freddy: What a rush.
  • Bury Your Disabled: Despite having magic as his dream power, the wheelchair-bound Will doesn't fare any better against Freddy.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Freddy himself at the end of the "Dream Warriors" music video.
  • The Cameo: Zsa Zsa Gabor appears in a television interview with Dick Cavett watched by Jennifer.
  • Celebrity Casualty: Freddy Krueger kills Zsa Zsa Gabor while she is appearing on Dick Cavett's talk show.
  • Chained to a Bed: Freddy poses as Hospital Hottie to lure Joey into an empty room where he ties him to the bed. With giant human tongues.
  • Cigarette Burns: While watching TV late at night past the mandatory bedtime at Westin Hills Asylum, Jennifer puts out a cigarette on her hand in an effort to stay awake so Freddy can't come after her. It fails, and he kills her.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: With no other leads to go on, the police assume Freddy's murders are a wave of teen suicides. This includes kids apparently shoving their heads into wall-mounted TV sets (and it's an even bigger stretch if you count the deaths from the first movie).
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover has: Taryn with white '80s Hair rather than the black spiked mohawk and what looks to be daggers rather than switchblades; a male character wielding a metal mace although no such weapon appears in the film; a girl in the who middle seems to be a combination of Nancy and Kristen, with Kristen's long hair but Nancy's skunk stripe that goes down the middle of the hair; and Kincaid carrying a black billy club/baton even though he has no weapons. (It is of course possible this artwork was based on an earlier version of the script wherein the characters and/or their weapons and powers were different.)
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: While the heroes' lucid dreaming gives them superpowers, Freddy is still a Reality Warper by comparison. While their powers slow him down, they can't overpower him and are either killed or survive with sheer luck and determination.
  • Deadly Hug: Freddy kills Nancy by appearing before her as her father, so that he can get her close enough to kill her.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Freddy does it in one of Kristen's nightmares, decapitating her mother and presenting the head to it can bitch at Kristen for ruining her date.
  • Dem Bones: When Nancy's dad and Neil try to give Freddy's remains a proper burial, he possesses them briefly to kick their asses.
  • Determinator: Nancy herself, obviously, but also Neil who, despite getting beaten up and then knocked out with a shovel by Freddy's skeleton, manages to wake up, get the bones into the grave, and give him the Last Rites to put an end to him. Badass. 
  • Doppelgänger Attack: Freddy does this by dragging all but one of the protagonists through a set of mirrors.
  • Down in the Dumps: Freddy's remains are hidden in a junkyard. Late in the film, Neil drags Donald there to give them a proper burial.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: We meet Donald doing this in a bar called Little Nemo's. He's also ditched his police lieutenant uniform for a security guard outfit, so it's likely he's fallen on hard times since the first movie.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Despite being fatally stabbed by Freddy, Nancy manages to save Kristen by ramming Freddy's own claw into himself and holds onto him long enough for Neil to finish off Freddy's remains in the real world.
  • Eaten Alive: In one of Kristen's nightmares, Freddy transforms himself into a giant snake creature and tries to eat her from the feet up. He lets her go when Nancy comes to the rescue.
  • Epigraph: The film opens with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe.
    Sleep. Those little slices of Death. How I loathe them.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The closing scene shows one of the windows in the replica of the 1428 Elm Street house lighting up. Possibly subverted in that it's implied to be Nancy's spirit rather than Freddy's, and indeed the following movie has him resurrected without any connection to this scene.
  • Eye Scream: Neil mentions a former Westin Hills patient who cut his own eyelids out.
    • In the first "in-hospital" nightmare, Nancy stabs dream-Freddy-worm in the eye with a shard of broken glass. 
  • Fanservice: Joey's private meeting with Marcie, which turns out to be a trap by Freddy.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: Fittingly for a movie that has the teenagers role play badass versions of themselves in the dream world, with one of them being a D&D enthusiast. Will, said D&D fan, is obviously the Mage, with Kincaid and his Super Strength being the Fighter and Taryn the knife user being the Thief.
  • Final Girl: Kristen Parker, though Kincaid and Joey survive as well.
  • Ghost Reunion Ending: Subverted. After apparently defeating Freddy, the ghost of Nancy's father appears to her. It's really Freddy in disguise, using it to give her a Deadly Hug.
  • Groin Attack: When Don gets clawed by Freddy's skeleton, it at first looks like he was stabbed in the stomach, but when the skeleton lifts him up, it reveals he got it in the balls.
  • Haunted Technology: Freddy kills Jennifer by possessing a television set and jamming her head through the screen.
  • Heroic BSoD: Don is a broken-down drunk due to what happened in the first movie.
  • Holy Burns Evil: When Neil buries Freddy's skeleton, it's quite clear the blessing of the Last Rites is hurting him severely—the holy water splashed on the skeleton causes holes to tear Freddy open so light can burst through them, and placing the crucifix on the skull causes a cross-shaped hole to appear on his forehead
  • Hope Spot:
    • When Freddy goes after Taryn, a short Knife Fight ensues where she actually seems to genuinely hurt him. She was beating him at his own game. And then Freddy produces a load of syringes and pumps blue crap into her arms, killing her with an overdose.note 
    • During the battle between Freddy and Will, Will uses his magic to destroy the wheelchair that Freddy was using to attack and Freddy gets a look of disbelief and possibly worry on his face, leading viewers to think that Freddy may be vulnerable to Will's magic. Freddy is immune to Will's power and kills him quite quickly.
    • Nancy joyously declares that "It's over!" after Joey utilizes his dream power and is visited by her father in the dream to declare that he has to cross over and is sorry for what he did to her and tells her how much he loves her. Turns out that her "father" is actually Freddy and Freddy then murders Nancy.
  • Hospital Hottie: Marcie in Joey's would-be erotic dream.
  • Hostage Situation: Freddy captures Joey and keeps him alive to goad Nancy into coming after him.
  • Idiot Ball: The reaction to the on-screen deaths rely on this. Phillip "sleepwalked" his way out of a secured area? Jennifer rammed her head into a TV mounted about six to eight inches higher than her actual height without a chair? Neil is the only one without any Freddy experience that views these acts as more than suicide. This is so he can take Nancy's advice and try unauthorized action that ultimately gets them both relieved of duty, kicking off the rest of the story.
  • I'm Not Afraid of You: This film suggests it's actually Freddy's belief that trumps this trope:
    Freddy: "Sorry, kid. I don't believe in fairy tales.'' (kills D&D geek)
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Donald is impaled on the surrounding wreckage when he starts fighting with Freddy's skeleton.
  • Karma Houdini: Dr. Simms, despite technically being the one responsible for the kid's horrific deaths (sedating them so Freddy can kill them), gets absolutely no comeuppance whatsoever, which is unusual for a character like this in a horror movie. Her behavior, denying the bizarre nature of the kids' situation, even led some people into thinking she was in league with Freddy, but if she was, nothing was ever said.
  • Kick the Dog: Not only does Freddy kill Donald, but he disguises himself as him in order to fool Nancy into entering his Deadly Hug. What makes it particularly malicious is that he quite obviously knew how much he meant to her and was able to convincingly portray him, and that (his ability to take on the appearances of others aside) the idea of Donald's spirit appearing in the dream world before moving on is not as far-fetched as it appears at first glance, so that the viewer could be as fooled as she was until The Reveal.
  • Leno Device: Played with in Jennifer's death scene, when she dozes off watching TV. Chatting with his talk-show guest Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dick Cavett abruptly transforms into Freddy and attacks her. It's unclear if Jennifer dozed off mid-broadcast or if the interview itself was part of her dream.
  • Losing Your Head: Freddy messes with Kristen by decapitating her mother, and presenting her scolding head to her.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: Joey's dream power, which contrasts with his muteness in the real world.
  • Mama Bear: Nancy, the Action Girl survivor of the first movie, turns into this while fighting to protect the kids from Freddy.
  • Medicate the Medium: Turns out that sedating a person being stalked by Freddy is not conducive to their health.
  • Menacing Hand Shot: Philip's death sequence starts when one of his puppets transforms into Freddy. The puppet's head morphs into Freddy's likeness, and then the shot focuses on its right hand remolding into a human-like hand from which blades extend from the fingertips. 
  • Mirror Monster: Near the end, Freddy Krueger leads the remaining kids to a room full of mirrors. They see him standing in the largest mirror, upon which he duplicates himself into every mirror in the room and drags them inside kicking and screaming. Fortunately, Joey learns to use his powerful voice — his own dream skill — to attack Freddy and free all his friends.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Kristen eats instant coffee grounds when she's trying to stay awake at the start of the film and washes it down with caffeinated soda.
  • Naughty Nurse Outfit: Seen in Joey's dream. Justified in that it's a teenage boy's sexual fantasy least, until Freddy takes possession of the dream-nurse.
  • Neck Lift: Freddy does it to Kincaid when he tries to fight him.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: Kristen constructs a model of Nancy's old house, now abandoned and creepy-looking, based on how it looks in her dreams. Once she's committed she draws the same house.
  • Noodle Incident: The other teens' "suicide attempts" hint at some pretty harrowing nightmares.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Kristen is at Westin Hills because her mother thinks she tried to kill herself. Other patients have similar stories. Of course, their "attempts" are really wounds from Freddy's attacks.
  • Nuns Are Spooky: Sister Mary Helena. Justified because she really is a ghost.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Doctor Simms.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Nancy is stunned to see that Kristen built a replica of 1428 Elm Street. She's even more surprised when she sees that Freddy is back.
    • Kincaid's speechless reaction when Nancy starts describing Freddy.
  • Orderlies are Creeps:
    • There's an orderly who tries to have sex with ex-junky Taryn by promising her drugs for it.
    • Averted by Max, who's a friendly, lenient guy and genuinely wants to help the kids.
  • Parental Neglect: Elaine Parker demonstrates this. She thinks that Kristen's "suicide attempt" is an attempt at getting attention, especially after Elaine took away her credit cards. 
  • People Puppets: Freddy Krueger does this literally to poor Philip — first animating one of his own carved puppets, then graphically stringing him along by his bloody tendons until he forces him to leap from a high tower.
  • Perverse Puppet: Freddy Krueger appears as one by manifesting himself through a marionette doll. 
  • Portal Door: Nancy and the teenagers are ready to confront Freddy Krueger when a floating door appears in front of them. There's nothing behind it, but the door itself is a portal to Freddy's hell-like lair.
  • Pre-Explosion Glow: In the end, Freddy explodes in a swirling beam of light. Before he does, circles of light emanate from his skin. A cross of light even forms on his forehead.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Jennifer's death has the distinction of having Freddy deliver two of them in a row.
    Freddy: This is it, Jennifer, your big break in TV! Welcome to prime time, bitch!
  • Precision F-Strike:
    Freddy: (to Zsa Zsa Gabor) Who gives a fuck what you think?!
    Kincaid: Let's go kick the motherfucker's ass all over Dreamland.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • During a group session, Phillip points out how unlikely it is that all of the patients had dreams about the same guy before they met each other.
    • Neil initially believed the "attempted suicides" story, but after Phillip and Jennifer's deaths, he questions the plausibility of it all and listens to whatever Nancy has to say.
  • Psycho Knife Nut: Taryn's dream power is being "beautiful and bad," which means that she carries two switchblades.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The roasted pig that snarls at Kristin at the dream version of the Elm Street house looks like a plastic prop. The film's F/X budget was nearly tapped out when they shot the scene, so they roasted a real suckling pig and turned it into a puppet.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Nancy gives the kids the benefit of the doubt because of her own experiences.
    • Neil soon proves to be one when he believes Nancy and helps the kids to control their dreams to fight Freddy.
    • Max also allows Jennifer to stay up past curfew when he sees how terrified she is, though she still dies. He does interfere with Nancy's attempt to help Kristen, but it's clear he genuinely cares for the kids and thinks he's doing the right thing.
  • Scaled Up: Freddy transforms into a worm-like creature and tries to eat Kristen during her second onscreen nightmare.
  • Self-Harm:
    • Jennifer burns herself with a cigarette to stay awake. It isn't enough to save her. Kristen's parents also think this is what happened after one of her early nightmares...and even she herself isn't sure at first.
    • Philip isn't allowed to have a knife to make his sculptures, for fear he might cut himself. 
  • Series Continuity Error: Nancy's skunk stripe returns, but it's on the wrong side.
  • Shapeshifter Showdown: An early version of the movie featured one of these between Freddy and Will.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer: Freddy Krueger uses his dream powers to turn himself into a beautiful nurse working at Westin Hills whom Joey was in love with to lure him away from the group. Things get ugly fast, and he ties Joey to the bed over a fiery chasm before turning back to his burned, dreamstalking self.
  • Shapeshifting Squick: One of the dream sequences has Joey being seduced by a sexy nurse, who turns into Freddy from the neck up at a key moment.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shovel Strike: Freddy's skeleton knocks Neil out with a shovel.
  • The Shrink:
    • Dr. Simms genuinely wants to help the Elm Street kids, but her refusal to acknowledge the supernatural threat only puts them in worse danger.
    • Dr. Neil Gordon is mostly an Awesome Shrink, but subverts it when he's willing to use drugs (Hypnocil) to aid his patients.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Because of Patricia Arquette's pronunciation, it's often hard to tell if her character's name is Kirsten or Kristen. Other characters' pronunciations clarify the issue.
  • Staircase Tumble: After Kristen makes a Super Window Jump out of her bedroom, she finds herself falling down the staircase in the Elm Street house.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Sister Mary Helena does it to Neil when he sees her for the first time by disappearing behind a crowd.
  • Stop Motion: Both the transformation of Philip's unfinished marionette into a miniature Freddy, and Freddy's reanimated skeleton.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Subverted with Nancy and Don as they both die right at the end and both die killing Freddy.
  • Super Strength: In his dreams, Kincaid is a superstrong bruiser who can bend steel with his bare hands. Not strong enough for Freddy, however...
  • Super Wheelchair: Villainous example: Freddy conjures up a rusty, spike-covered killer wheelchair to attack a paraplegic youth in his dream.
  • Super Window Jump: Kristen dives through the closed window of her bedroom to escape Freddy. Justified as it is a dream and she has mad acrobatic skills in her dreams.
  • Take My Hand!: Nancy does this to save Joey when he is about to fall into the fiery pit.
  • Television Portal: Freddy manifests himself on a television set to kill Jennifer.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!
    • "Welcome to Prime Time, bitch!"
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Joey manages to overcome his muteness to scream the Big "NO!" that shatters the mirrors and saves his friends.
  • Time Skip: At first, it appears to be this. This entry, which came out in 1987, takes place six years after the first, released in 1984. However, the first one actually takes place in 1981, because of the fourth and fifth films setting themselves in 1988 and 1989 respectively. This also means that the film does not contradict Freddy's Revenge, which takes place five years after the first film.
  • Took a Level in Dumbass:/Too Dumb to Live:
    • While Nancy is one of the more competent characters in this movie, she very easily fell for Freddy posing as her Father to kill her. Even though in the first movie she has seen him imitate her friends and loved ones before.
    • Will and Taryn. Unlike Kincaid, Nancy, and Kristen, who opt to look for one another, these two decide to fight Freddy on their own. They don't win. Will especially fails hard since he decided to rush Freddy even though he had him somewhat at bay with his magic and had a ranged advantage.
  • Truth in Television: An exaggerated example with the dream suppressing drug Hypnocil. There are drugs which are used to help suppress nightmares in PTSD sufferers. Alpha blockers have been in use for this purpose since the mid-70s.
  • Unhand Them, Villain!: Happens when Nancy, Kristen and Kincaid discover Freddy has Joey suspended over a flaming pit.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Taryn is the more stereotypically "badass" female Dream Warrior, and dies because of it.
  • Vehicle Vanish: The first time Dr Gordon sees Sister Mary Helena she vanishes when a group of people walk in front of her and block his view. At the end of the film, he learns she is a ghost.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: All four walls start closing, and heating up, during the "group" dream session.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Elizabeth Simms and Donald Thompson. In the case of Simms, although she doesn't believe them about Freddy, as a doctor she genuinely cares about her patients and is worried about their mental health. In Donald's case, he's trying to protect his daughter from Krueger and bury the past even though it's clear that it's crippling him. When Neil accuses him of not caring about Nancy, he slaps his arms away from him (Neil slams him against a wall earlier) showing clearly that he does care.
  • Wham Line: Nancy delivers one to Kincaid when she reveals she knows who is trying to kill them.
    Kincaid: Save it, lady. We're not in the mood.
    Nancy: He wears a dark brown hat.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The movie makes no reference to the fate of Jesse and Lisa, the surviving protagonists of the second movie, and who had been attacked by Freddy in the final scene. In fact, this movie, as well as almost every sequel, makes no reference to Freddy's Revenge events. You can imagine that Nancy, who no longer lived in the old neighborhood, may never have heard of the events, but at the same time it's hard to believe that she hadn't paid attention to any news that might signal Krueger's return. It would take 18 years until finally a sequel, Freddy vs. Jason, mention the events of Freddy's Revenge and confirm them as part of the franchise canon (The end titles of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare also features footage from Freddy's Revenge).
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: The heroes discover they can use dream powers. Kincaid gets Super Strength, Taryn turns into a badass punk chick with two switchblades and the skill to use them, Will can turn into a wizard straight out of his Tabletop Games, and Joey gets something like a sonic scream. Kristen...can do gymnastics.
    • Kristen's real dream power was always her ability to draw others into her own dreams; the gymnastics were a secondary power. It's still better than Nancy, who doesn't get any dream powers, even though the first movie established she was capable of setting up complex traps incredibly quickly in the dream world.
  • Wormsign: Shown before the Freddy-worm tries to eat Kristen.
  • The World's Expert (on Getting Killed): Not just Nancy, but Phillip as well. He seems to be the Only Sane Man and calmly points out the faults in the Doctor's beliefs in the cause of the deaths. As well as the fact that they all dreamed about Freddy. To top it off Phillip is the first onscreen death of the movie.
  • "You!" Exclamation: Freddy's reaction when he sees that it was Nancy who stabbed him in the eye.
    Freddy: You...!
  • You Owe Me: Nancy tells her father this when she asks for his help finding Freddy's bones.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: For the first time, Freddy does this to his victims in order to make himself more powerful.