Going from one extreme to the other, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 overcomes the disappointment of the second film to become one of the greatest Slasher sequels of all time! The last of the Elm Street children have each ended up in an institute for trouble teens, where they continue to experience haunting nightmares of the gloved killer Freddy Kruger. Nancy Thompson, now a determined grad student, returns to train the teens on how to turn their fears into strength as they team up to battle Freddy as the Dream Warriors! Part 3 features another excellent cast of likeable teens, but a different sort than those found in the original. These kids have been beaten down by life, and many have given in to fear. They bear their scars on the inside and out. It takes Nancy to give them hope so that, together, they can overcome their troubles. Subconsciously, the film addresses addiction and suicide in the same way that NIGHTMARE 2 relates to homosexuality. Alone, these teens are helpless, but by opening up and relying on one another, they are able to defeat their inner demons. These deeper themes help to create rounded characters that the audience can relate to once more. As we get back into the fantasy elements, having the teens imagine themselves as vamped up super heroes that must do battle with evil in a variety of nightmare worlds is a brilliant concept and a huge step for the series.
The teens are only the first part of the puzzle, however. Robert Englund is the next. This is the definitive Freddy Kruger, complete with quick quips and a demeaning sense of humor. Freddy's lines are sharply written and expertly handled by Englund to make for some of the most memorable moments in Slasher history. Where the sequels to follow would tire audiences with bad puns and lame one-liners, DREAM WARRIORS entertains as it scares. Likewise, Freddy is still as terrifying a villain as he was in the original film. He has not been castrated in to self-parody, and each of his various shape-shifting incarnations elicit true frights. This leads in to the detailed set work, inventive murder pieces, and incredible special effects that NIGHTMARE 3 has to offer which may even top the first film. A giant phallic Freddy-snake attempts to consume one of the girls; Freddy tongue-ties a mute boy to the bed before roasting him over an open fire; a young puppeteer has his arteries cut from his arms and legs with Freddy pulling his strings; another girl that watches mindless amounts of TV is brained against a screen that Freddy has possessed. These deaths are not only wildly imaginative, but they are each pointed directly at each teens' various personalities. Director Chuck Russell is also sure to play strictly within the rules that Wes Craven has created, another vital flaw that led to the failure of the second film.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 functions as the perfect sequel, and has yet to be topped by any other franchise. It manages to make a relevant social stance that teens can relate to without ever becoming overbearing, and it still allows audiences to forget reality and indulge in a bloody teen Slasher.