This is the song that doesn't end. Yes, it goes on and on my friend. Some people started singing it not knowing what it was, and they'll continue singing it forever just because. This is the song that doesn't end…
Another month, another Freddy movie. We were promised the abysmal Freddy’s Dead was the last in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, but did they break that promise for good reason? Read on to find out my precious grave toppers and tombstones.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Miko Hughes
We’ll get to the rating later of course, and I’ll explain how I got there, but I need to start by saying the premise of this movie is brilliant. Now, we’ve seen with this franchise already that they can ruin good ideas, but this isn’t just another ‘Freddy survived his apparent death’ movie tacked onto the series. Wes Craven went meta with this movie, before going meta with Scream. Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund return to play themselves, along with Wes Craven, John Saxon and a whole group of other actors and filmmakers that play themselves in the movie.
The movie opens with presumably Freddy Krueger creating a new mechanical hand/blade glove, and severs his own hand. It is quickly revealed this is a scene from a movie being made by Wes Craven, who stops the scene for more blood. When the mechanical glove malfunctions, the effects team scrambles to shut it down, but two of the crew are killed. Heather wakes up in her California home from an earthquake, and realizes it was a nightmare.
We learn that she’s been harassed by phone calls from someone that sounds similar to Freddy taunting and threatening her. Her son in the movie, who also plays her son in the dream movie has been having trouble sleeping. Her husband goes away to work on a movie while she does a TV interview about the Nightmare franchise, where she is surprised by Robert Englund in full Freddy Krueger makeup/gear. Her and Robert share a friendly moment afterwards, when she is called in for a meeting with an actual New Line Cinema agent.
Basically, Wes craven has been having dreams about Freddy Krueger and is turning those dreams into a script for a new Nightmare movie. He wants Heather to reprise her role as Nancy, and even enlists her effects creator husband to create a new bladed glove for the movie without telling her.
All of this business dealing with a new Freddy movie, combined with her son’s health issues, and the phone calls, Heather begins mentally cracking which is further exasperated when her husband dies in a car crash on his way home. In the morgue she identifies the body, but finds slash marks on his chest reminiscent of Freddy’s glove.
Understanding how absurd her thoughts must seem, she seeks solace from her friend and costar John Saxon who played her father in Nightmares 1 and 3. She’s been having waking nightmares where Freddy tries to take her son, and her son has been acting more and more erratically. John recommends that she seek medical help for both her and her son.
The hospital staff suspects that Heather is keeping her son from sleeping, and possibly subjecting him to her horror movies. They recommend he stays overnight for testing, and Heather returns home for her son’s stuffed T-Rex, that protects him from Freddy. Julie the babysitter stays with Dylan, Heather’s son, with strict instructions not to let him fall asleep.
Heather is detained in the hospital when she falls asleep at Dylan’s bedside and has a Freddy nightmare. Dylan is given a shot so he can sleep when Julie is distracted, and this gives Freddy the chance to kill her in very similar fashion as Nancy’s friend, Tina, in the original Nightmare. (At this point I would like to point out that for the entire movie, I thought Julie was played by Jennie Garth of 90210 fame, she is not, and I didn’t realize this until writing this review)
After realizing she never left the hospital, Heather learns that Dylan ran away to get his T-Rex, and he knows that he has to cross the freeway to get home. Heather chases after him in a car, just in time to find him running into traffic. Cars are avoiding him, but Freddy then begins steering him, and playing with him in traffic. Heather runs in after her son, but is chased down by a mac truck. She pulls a Prometheus, and instead of running right or left, runs directly away from the truck, and somehow manages to stay ahead of it. The truck swerves and crashes, causing mayhem on the highway until Heather gets hit by a car. She shrugs it off and follows Dylan home.
Once at the house, she finds John Saxon there. He’s worried about her, she’s worried about her son, and her son is worried about his Rex. John tries to calm things down, but when Heather tries to tell him that Freddy Krueger attacked her and Dylan, John begins quoting the original film. He leads her outside, assuring her that Dylan is safe in the house. Outside, the two are talking, but John calls her Nancy, and doesn’t recognize his name or Robert Englund’s, only their characters; Donald and Freddy. Heather acts as Nancy, and calls him daddy, at which point he leaves, and Heather turns to see her house has transformed to the house from the first movie.
This scene, even with very limited dialogue, was so perfectly written, that it is the lynchpin to the movie’s theme and “believability." That subtle change from Heather to Nancy, and from John to Lt. Donald Thompson, combined with the fact that Robert Englund is missing from the middle of the movie through the end, and only Freddy Krueger is around, goes a long way to sell the premise of the movie within a movie turned real horror.
With Heather submitting to the role of Nancy she is able to enter Freddy’s world via a breadcrumb trail of sleeping pills her son left for her. There, she finds her son, and the two are able thwart Freddy in a furnace, burning him much like the “real” Freddy from the original movie was created.
Much like there were two main reasons the last movie didn’t get the worst rating, there are two reasons preventing this from getting the full mausoleum. 1) I was not a fan of the new look. I understand Wes Craven wanted a meaner looking/acting Freddy, so he got rid of the hat (although they did show him with that hat occasionally) and replaced it with a long black/blue trench coat and instead of a glove with blades, the blades seemed to come from Freddy’s fingers, and it took away from the aesthetic of the character. Also Freddy’s face looked more like a mask than the previous movies which is just baffling. 2) Kids in horror movies rarely add to the movie. Miko Hughes actually has an impressive catalog of movies (more than Heather Langenkamp I believe) but too much of the movie was reliant on child acting and that will almost always be detrimental for a horror movie.
There’s a scene in the movie where Wes Craven explains to Heather that he believes the dip in quality of the Nightmare movies, and the apparent lack of additional movies gave this entity the ability to come back. It was an interesting scene, but raises a point that most creators would agree with, ideas supersede the execution of said ideas. Meaning, a good story is more powerful than how the story is told, and even a poorly told story can have its own strengths as long as the idea that created it remains true.
This is why Wes Craven made Freddy into a darker, more imposing figure, without the humor. This is how he initially imagined Freddy. While I happen to think the jokes are what set him apart from the other slashers of the time, I can respect the man for sticking with his intuition.
Heather and Dylan thwarting Freddy was probably the right way to go with the ending for the movie, but I believe it would have served them better had they killed Heather in the end, with her death reported as an overdose of the sleeping pills she took to enter the dream world. Especially since I find it fitting that the three best movies from the franchise are the ones that Heather Langenkamp starred in.
What happens when the story dies and the evil is set free? Now that the films have ended the demon’s out of the bottle. That’s what the nightmares are telling me and that’s what I’m writing.
Also, I’d like to point out that this movie was made and takes place before Freddy’s Dead is supposed to take place.
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