A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors redefined the franchise for decades to come. But one of its most crucial lines wasn’t even scripted.
For the modern horror fan, Freddy Krueger and the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise are synonymous with creative kills and clever one-liners. While this has since become the face and personality of Freddy, there was a time where humor wasn’t his strong suit. That changed, however, in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Admittedly, the film isn’t as silly as later sequels, but the iconic line that kickstarts Freddy’s transformation into a comedic tormenter is uttered in this film. And the funniest part is that it was entirely improvised by Freddy actor Robert Englund.
Dream Warriors follows a new generation of Elm Street kids dealing with Freddy constantly invading their dreams. Rather than heed the warnings, their parents send these kids to a mental institution to be evaluated. But the walls of the building aren’t enough to keep Freddy out as he picks them off one by one. What makes this iteration so terrifying is how Freddy preys on each victim’s dreams, insecurities and vices. A great example comes from Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow), who wants nothing more than to be a Hollywood star.
As each survivor fights to stay awake, Jennifer passes the time by watching television. But as the night goes on, she finds it harder and harder to stay up, even using a cigarette burn to jolt her awake. Eventually, she puts on a late-night interview with Dick Cavett and Zsa Zsa Gabor. At first, everything seems normal, until Freddy appears on the screen and kills Gabor.
Jennifer, now confused, approaches the television and tries to change the channel, but two arms made of TV parts erupt from the television and pick her up. Freddy’s head emerges from the top with antennas sticking out of his head, and he says, “This is it Jennifer — your big break in TV! Welcome to primetime, bitch!” As Jennifer screams in terror, Freddy smashes her head into the TV screen, killing her instantly.
In the original script, Freddy was only meant to say, “This is it Jennifer — your big break in TV!” But in one of the many takes, Englund added in the now-iconic primetime line, which leaned more into Freddy’s comedic persona. Since then, the character evolved into something equal parts funny and terrifying, emphasizing witty quips. In the past, Freddy had used demented humor to terrify his victims, but it wasn’t until Dream Warriors that Freddy was able to cut loose.
Since the iconic line, the character and persona of Freddy changed from being a boogeyman to becoming a slasher personality enjoyed by millions. But what makes Dream Warriors so memorable is how Freddy still managed to let his urge to scare guide his humor and lead to unsettling and unforgettable kills even with the jokes.
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