Merry Christmas! The Nightmare franchise is the gift that keeps on giving, even if you no longer want it. So, this edition of Macabre Movie Mausoleum takes a look at the 6th entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street series.It’s also the first movie of the franchise to not have “A Nightmare on Elm Street” in the official title. Freddy’s back, and according to the title, he’s dead as well. In what was originally planned to be the final movie in the series, the poster promises that they saved the best for last. Did they live up to that promise?…
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
Director: Rachel Talalay
Starring: Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Shon Greenblatt
So last month I had mentioned that Nightmare 5 had an easy task of improving the franchise from the poor Nightmare 4, and it failed. This only means that Freddy’s Dead had an even easier task of being better than its predecessor. But right off the bat, the opening music isn’t exactly promising. Unless it relates directly to the first scene, I will never understand a horror movie opening with upbeat music. Set the mood people!
The movie itself takes place 10 years in the future, and we’re told this through a pretty shitty graphic of a computer screen. With the movie being made/released in 1991, if my math is correct that should mean it takes place in 2001. But no, it’s happening in the year 1999. Stumbling pretty hard out of the gate here, but that’s far from its only flaw. Oh, if only that were the only flaw… if only.
First scene, we’re introduced to a teen on a plane, who we learn is heading out of Springwood, Ohio, away from Elm Street. Knowing what movie we’re watching, we quickly understand that this is a nightmare when the little girl in the seat in front of him informs him that “he’s going to get you.” Then this John Doe (seriously that is his credited name) proceeds to fall for roughly thirty minutes, give or take. He falls out of the airplane. Then he wakes up in bed, only to fall out the window, then fall down the longest hill in the world. I’m sure as far as nightmares go, it was terrifying, but as a scene in a movie, it came off as comical. And as we all know, the only comical element in a Nightmare movie is Freddy himself. The dream ends with Freddy hitting him with a bus, and driving him out of town.
Basically, this John Doe is the last teen from Springwood, and since Freddy can’t leave the town, he gives this kid amnesia in an effort to bring other people to the town. One person in particular, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
John ends up at a homeless shelter/child psych ward with three other teens; a stoner, a deaf teen who’s the product of child abuse, and a girl who was sexually abused by her father. Unfortunately, the kids aren’t given much of a story beyond that. The resident therapist decides to take John to Springwood when she finds an article about a missing woman from the area in his wallet. Little does she know, the other three teens had stowed in the back of the van.
Once in Springwood, the five discover that there are no kids at all in the town, and it’s generally a miserable place. There’s a wasted cameo of Tom Arnold and Roseanne Barr at the town fair. The remaining adults of the town continue their lives as though nothing was wrong, even teaching history to an empty class. We learn that before he died, Freddy had a child, and we’re led to believe that John Doe is his son, and that is why John was left alive and allowed to leave the town.
Does that mean John Doe is actually Jacob from Nightmare 5? Well, they don’t address that at all, nor his mother. Although they do show that when Freddy was a kid, he was taunted and bullied with the phrase “son of a hundred maniacs,” so they kept that intact! They also show that his adoptive father abused him, and that he killed the mother of his child.
In a twist no one cares about, the therapist, Dr. Maggie, is his daughter, and John Doe was just a pawn to bring her back to town. Entering her consciousness, Freddy was able to finally leave Springwood and start his murder spree anew. Because, as he says “Every town has an Elm Street”.
Before we continue, lets talk about the three deaths that are in the movie. That’s right, a horror slasher with three deaths. Sound familiarly disappointing? First, Carlos, the deaf kid, he dreams of his mother abusing him, who then turns into Freddy and has his ear with the hearing aid cut off. Freddy replaces both of Carlos’ ears with these weird tumor like spider things that amplify all sound to ridiculous levels. Scratching his claw hand on a chalkboard, Freddy causes Carlos’ head to explode, resulting in one of the more fun deaths of these later movies. Watching Freddy stalk a deaf kid while pretending to be quiet was more humorous than the movie needed to be, but it felt good watching Freddy have fun again.
Spencer the Stoner falls asleep in front of a TV and watches a commercial of Johnny Depp, marking his return to the franchise that made him famous. Spencer is then drawn into a video game nightmare where Freddy attacks him with minions controlled by a Freddy styled Power Glove. The problem with this is, the Power Glove was discontinued in 1990, and this movie takes place 9 years later, making their attempt at embracing technology feel sadly outdated. While hearing Freddy exclaim “Now I’m playing with power” (a play on Nintendo’s slogan from the early 90’s) was a treat for the gamer in me that always wanted a Power Glove, it’s actually woefully anachronistic, and yet another point against the film.
After Dr Maggie, John Doe, and Tracy (the other teen from the home) escaped Springwood, Freddy tells a still dreaming John that he isn’t his son, and kills him by letting him fall (again) onto a bed of nails. This leaves Dr. Maggie, Tracy, and Doc (another doctor from the home), to have the final battle with Freddy at the safe house they work out of. Thankfully, Spencer was a terrorist in the making and had dozens of weapons confiscated from him that the police were conveniently too lazy to remove from the premises.
Doc tells the others about ancient Mayan dream deities that would feed off of the nightmares of others, and we learn that at the time of his death, just before Freddy was burned alive, he was approached by three of these deities, and this is why he’s able to constantly come back from the dead.
The trio of survivors plan to defeat Freddy by pulling him out of Maggie’s dream and killing him in the real world, like what Nancy did in the first movie. Doc gives Maggie a pair of 3D glasses and tells her in the dream she can make them whatever she wants. For some reason that translates to the final battle being in 3D, but only in theaters! I remember watching this movie when it first came out and the child in me was happy with the effects. Watching it now, it was clear this was a cheap trick to push the technology of the films into what they thought was the future. It’s hokey, poorly done, and it doesn’t add anything to the movie. Instead of a fun battle, or even a scary scene, we get the cheap ploy of items ‘coming at our faces’ years after the trend died already.
I do remember hearing that the director was forced into this situation, and that it took away from her vision of focusing on Freddy’s actual death, but for even what it was, it was a fail. Maggie shoves a pipe bomb into a wound she created in Freddy’s chest, and for whatever reason the deities left him to die. The End.
There are two reasons I’m not giving this the worst rating possible. 1) they tried something different and were actually planning on killing Freddy off for good. Somehow even with negative reviews and a poor box office return, they went back on it, but they thought they were done with the franchise. 2) Robert Englund was again having fun with the role, and it showed. He was funny when he needed to be, and menacing when it was called for. No one can take away Englund’s presence on the franchise and the entire horror genre as a whole.
The reasons why this movie doesn’t deserve a better grave marking are too numerous to list, but the immediately dated references and technology was a big one. However, the major draw back for the movie was that they gave away the mystery of Freddy. The Mayan dream demons, his childhood, his family life, murdering his wife and having his daughter taken away from him. It was all too much information for a character that didn’t need it. When we tune in for a slasher, we don’t want to know too much about the slasher. Even after six movies, we should still be guessing about something.
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