35 Years Ago: ‘Nightmare 3′ Reveals Freddy Krueger’s Backstory
Slasher villains who came before hid behind a mask, from Michael Myers (Halloween) and Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) to Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Krueger showed off his disfigured face, and he had personality and flare.
The character was firmly entrenched in popular culture by the time the Chuck Russell-directed A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors premiered on Feb. 27, 1987. But there was still more to be learned about Freddy Krueger.
Dream Warriors takes place three years after the first sequel, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, as Krueger (Robert Englund) begins terrorizing the dreams of local teen Kristen Parker (a debuting Patricia Arquette). She’s committed to the Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital after the slasher injures her arm, making her appear suicidal.
There, Kristen meets Nancy Thompson, the franchise’s original final girl (played again by Heather Langenkamp). All grown up, Nancy is now an intern therapist.
We learn that Krueger's mother once worked at the facility, where she endured unspeakable horrors. It's perhaps the most horrific conception story ever told. Meanwhile, the group is revealed to be the “last of the Elm Street kids,” with parents who first banded together to kill and burn Krueger prior to the first film. His bones have been buried on site.
Krueger continues terrorizing everyone at Westin Hills, committing a slew of high-concept, very theatrical murders. Speaking more than he did in the first movie, he offers the kind of cheesy one-liners that are now part of pulpy horror lore. (They'd be deftly satirized years later on Rick and Morty.) Along the way, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 becomes increasingly wild and campy.
Watch the Trailer for 'Nightmare on Elm Street 3'
In one scene, Krueger comes for Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow), an aspiring actress who is hospitalized for self-harming. There's a surprising — and surreal — double-cameo, as Jennifer dozes off watching an interview with Zsa Zsa Gabor on The Dick Cavett Show.
Gabor discusses her career with Cavett, offering earnest advice to young actresses: “Study, work, and then maybe you can make it.” Suddenly, Freddy overtakes the TV host’s body, aiming his deadly claw at Gabor's face and roaring angrily.
"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," Englund said in his 2009 memoir Hollywood Monster: A Walk Down Elm Street With the Man of Your Dreams. "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?’”
Englund said Gabor had no idea she’d be facing off with the cinematic serial killer, calling her reaction “100 percent genuine. ... When I jumped out, she had a mild freak-out.”
Of course, Jennifer is also toast as the TV comes alive with Freddy’s spirit moments later, setting up the film’s most famous — and improvised — line: "Welcome to prime time, bitch!"
The remaining young patients determine that they must find and properly dispose of Krueger's remains, after resident nun Sister Mary Helena (Nan Martin) reveals the killer's back story. This should vanquish him once and for all. They seemingly succeed, until a final eerie shot reveals that Krueger's powers remain – leaving the franchise open for expansion.
It’s no surprise why: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 made $44.8 million on a budget of less than $5 million, an especially notable feat for an independent film. It's still the third-highest grossing Nightmare film of all time, surpassed only by the follow-up A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and 2003’s crossover flick Freddy vs. Jason.
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