Michael De Luca
Ricky Dean Logan
In the Nightmare On Elm Street series, there are three films that stand out from the rest as not overly fitting in with the rest of the series. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is the first, in which the shuffling of the rules as well as the overt homoerotic subtext takes it out of the running. Then A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child tried unsuccessfully to tackle too many issues, while also trying to balance the now more comedic Freddy with a darker overall film. Then there is Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. This film takes what was once one of the scariest movie boogeymen in history and turns him into a humorous caricature of what he used to be. This is always the one that is pointed to when people try to discuss what ruined the series and Freddy.
The plot is set 10 years in the future (who knew that in 2001 everyone would still dress like they did in the late 80s/early 90s!) in a Springwood that has no remaining children or teenagers, and all of the adults are in a mass state of psychosis. We meet the last remaining teenager of Springwood (he can’t be the final Elm Street kid as was established in The Dream Master) who is suffering from amnesia and as such goes by John Doe (Shon Greenblatt). He is picked up by the police and taken to a youth shelter. He is assigned to one of the workers there, Maggie (Lisa Zane) who decides to try taking him to Springwood to see if it will help trigger his memory. Unbeknownst to them, stashed away in the back of the van is Tracy (Lezlie Deane), Carlos (Ricky Dean Logan) and Spencer (Breckin Meyer) who were trying to escape the shelter. Once they end up in Springwood. John Doe comes to the assumption that Freddy hasn’t killed him due to being his son, while Carlos and Spencer are both picked off by Freddy. As they are leaving Springwood John Doe falls victim to Freddy, who informs him that he kept him alive to bring his daughter back to him. From there it appears that Freddy has completely erased the existence of Carlos, Spencer and John Doe, with the only people remembering being Maggie, Tracy and Doc (Yaphet Kotto), a fellow worker who has the ability to control his dreams. Maggie realizes that she is Freddy’s daughter and has flashbacks to when Freddy killed her mother as a human. This all leads to a final showdown between Maggie/Katherine Krueger and her father in the dream realm. We get flashbacks to Freddy’s childhood and some of the reasons he became what he was destined to, before he is pulled into the real world and then blown to smithereens.
There are so many problems with this entry in the series it’s hard to even know where to begin. It’s clear from the beginning that director Rachel Talalay was not prepared to take on a film that needed to be epic to truly be the swan song of Freddy Krueger. Given that she had been a line producer on the first film and been involved in one way or another with every film in the series it seemed like she had been handed the directorial duties as more of a “thank you” than having actually earned it. Granted, I suppose that she did the best she could with the script from Michael De Luca although she is also credited with creating the ;story. This becomes even more frustrating when it was discovered that the original script was written and intended to be directed by Peter Jackson. What he could have done with the series will always remain a mystery, but needless to say given his talent it would have been better than what we ended up with.
One of the biggest problems with the film is the feeling it gives off. In all honesty, besides a few curse words this film could have been rated PG-13. In fact, if this movie was released today I have little doubt that it would easily earn a lighter rating than an R. The atmosphere of dread and suspense that polluted the earlier films is absolutely missing from here. In all honesty, a lot of the film feels like a joke. From the low bodycount to the high number of survivors left at the end of the movie, it really doesn’t feel like a horror film at all, let alone a Nightmare On Elm Street movie.
The kills are even on a ridiculous level. As I mentioned the body count is low, only featuring the same amount of deaths as the previous film. First up is Carlos, whom Freddy takes advantage of his hearing aid essentially making it super sensitive resulting in his head blowing up. From there we get the death of the video gaming stoner Spencer. In one of the most criticized deaths in the entire series, he is transported into a video game where Freddy plays against him using a joystick, then moving onto the power glove. If that description alone doesn’t invite a groan, then some of Freddy’s one liners during these scenes certainly will. The third and final death in the film belongs to John Doe, who jumps out of a house suspended in the air (as in the Wizard Of Oz, we even get a scene at the opening of the film where Freddy is riding a broomstick a la the Wicked Witch of the West) and sets off a parachute. This is where Freddy reveals that he isn’t his son, before cutting the straps, leaving John in a free fall. While this alone would kill him we get Freddy bringing a bed of spikes into frame, literally looking like a horror movie version of Wile E. Coyote from Looney Tunes. It’s almost like the spoiled cherry on top of the shit sundae.
There are some good parts to the film however, despite being surrounded by so much terrible stuff. One of the biggest standouts is the cameos. Roseanne and her husband at the time Tom Arnold appear as a tortured couple living in Springwood. Johnny Depp also makes a small appearance, returning to the franchise that helped launch his career. The most notable cameo comes from the king of shock rock, Alice Cooper, as Freddy’s stepfather. It’s truly one of the only standout scenes in the film, unfortunately it only lasts a minute or so.
Overall, the film just has too much wrong with it to really belong to the rest of the franchise. The fact that it took six films and suddenly we are discovering that Freddy has a daughter from before he was burned? It seems like a lot to ask (much like the Friday the 13th series did in their ninth entry, coincidentally another “final” entry in that series, Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday). In the end, there is just too much working against the film for it to be the epic sendoff that Freddy deserved.
Body Count: 3
Best Kill: This is the first film where it becomes hard to decipher the best kill, only because none of them really stand out. I will give it to the death of John Doe, simply because of how effective it is while retaining simplicity.
Thankfully, Wes Craven would return to celebrate the tenth anniversary of his original film by essentially recreating Freddy and changing what a horror movie could be.