Wes Craven never intended A Nightmare On Elm Street to become a franchise: His original ending for the 1984 horror classic simply revealed that the entire film was a bad dream. But New Line head Bob Shaye wanted a shock ending, something to give the audience one more jolt before sending them home to bed. Shaye must have seen something special in the film as Freddy would return for eight more adventures and New Line Cinema would become known as “the house that Freddy built.” Craven opted out of 1985’s Freddy’s Revenge, but New Line wanted the originator of the series back for part three and Craven obliged, penning the original draft for the film along with writing partner Bruce Wagner. The original script for Dream Warriors is available online and provides a “darker and actually profane” tale according to eventual director, Chuck Russell.
“I wanted to do Nightmare 3 because I felt compelled to come back and expand the original concept.” Craven said. With Craven unable to direct, the studio hired Chuck Russell. Russell and Frank Darabont (yes, that Frank Darabont) re-wrote Craven’s original draft focusing on what Russell refers to as “the imaginative elements of the piece.” The final product retained Craven’s concept of a group of teenagers taking on Freddy rather than just one kid doing battle with the dream stalker. “It had to be a group, because the souls of Freddy’s victims have made Freddy stronger.” Both Craven’s original script as well as the film featured the return of Nancy Thompson, the mental hospital, and the Freddy snake. In Craven’s draft, Freddy does quite a bit more shape shifting—he turns into a dog and a crow—and the kids have different powers than some of the elements that made it on-screen. The original draft also doesn’t feature any mention of Amanda Krueger, Freddy’s mother.
Dream Warriors was an important moment in the development of Freddy Krueger as a character. Robert Englund’s Freddy hadn’t yet developed his trademark brand of humor, displaying just a sign of things to come in Freddy’s Revenge as he taunts teenage Jesse, explaining “You’ve got the body and I’ve got the brain” before pulling off part of his own skull. It was the third film that truly defined the Freddy Krueger that America fell in love with. If Craven’s script had been shot as is, it is uncertain whether Freddy Krueger would have become the pop phenomenon that he was in the late ’80s. Even though Craven’s script does foretell the sillier side of Freddy when the villain exclaims “Screw you!” as he offs one of the Dream Warriors—who turns into a gargoyle—with power tools and drill bits.
The script certainly has a darker tone than what eventually made it to screen. Freddy Krueger isn’t chock-full of one-liners as in the final film; his dialogue is perverse and menacing. Craven’s script plays up the original concept of Freddy as a child molester particularly in the sequence in which Freddy takes out Phillip the sleepwalker. “Why me?” Phillip pleads to which Freddy responds “Because I like you.” as Krueger licks the boys face. It’s hard to imagine Toys “R” Us stocking that talking Freddy doll on store shelves. Wes Craven ended up taking an executive producing credit on the film but was not necessarily happy with the changes made to his script stating, “A lot of the reasons I had agreed to do the picture were taken away.”
It’s interesting to note that the Dream Warriors novelization—which contained adaptations of the first two films as well as a look into Freddy’s past—was actually based on Wes Craven’s original draft for the script, which surely caused confusion for any Freddy fanatics who picked up copy at the book fair in 1987.