Director: Chuck Russell (1987)
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Craig Wasson, Robert Englund
The first Nightmare may have been the best; the second is the strangest; the third, however, remains my personal favourite so far. Heather Langenkamp's Nancy returns to the franchise to do battle with Freddy for a second time. But we're no longer in residence on Elm Street. The action switches to Westin Hills, a psychiatric hospital for young people (fun fact: we'd return to Westin Hills in Freddy vs Jason, to find it filled with annoying arseholes who deserve to be bloody locked away). Lead loony is Kristen Parker (Arquette) a girl with the unique power to pull others into her nightmares. With the help of Nancy, dishy Doctor Neil (Wasson) and her fellow inmates, Kristen hopes to put Freddy to rest once and for all...
For my money, this is where the Nightmare franchise hit both its stride and its peak. Nowhere to go but down. Freddy, despite getting a few more wisecracks this time, is still scary and menacing; the kids are likeable and (mostly) non-annoying; The John Saxon returns to the fray; and a young Larry Fishburne moonlights as hospital orderly Max. The deaths are grisly, memorable and apt. As with the best Nightmare deaths, each individual kill manages to fit the character perfectly. My favourite: tied between either the puppeteer death or the girl who gets her head shoved through a TV screen. Most satisfying: the Harry Potter kid in the wheelchair. Whoever said Freddy wasn't an equal opportunities killer?
It also rounds off Freddy's origins with perhaps my favourite bit of backstory, ever. Dream Warriors is where we meet Amanda Krueger and hear her "bastard son of 100 maniacs" story. It's brilliantly grotesque and a great background for everyone's favourite killer. The overall tone is a little lighter than Craven's original movie, and Freddy's showing signs of softening up, but is still crucially a harsh bastich. The pace snaps along nicely, with a couple of genuinely shocking moments in store for the movie's final beat.
Dream Warriors is my favourite of the Nightmares. All the classic Elm Street elements are there; Krueger at the top of his game, The John Saxon, Nancy, disturbed kids, cruel death scenes and a few chilling dream sequences for good measure. Ignore the laughably 80s' subtitle, Dream Warriors is a franchise at the peak of its excellence.