As is commonplace in most horror franchises, the promise of Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare proved to be an empty one. Although not as blatant as Friday The 13th which had two promised final entries (Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter and Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday) no one truly expected the dream demon to rest in peace. When it was announced that Wes Craven was returning to the franchise to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original film, fans began to clamor for what would eventually become Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
The plot centers on Heather Langenkamp, the star of both A Nightmare On Elm Street and A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. It appears that she is having nightmares involving a newer, darker version of Freddy. These nightmares have been brought on by a stalker who quotes Krueger. The film begins with a nightmare sequence where a new Nightmare On Elm Street movie is being filmed. The new Freddy glove assembled by Heather’s husband Chase (David Newsom) goes haywire and kills two of the FX team. Heather then wakes up in the midst of an earthquake, where we are also introduced to her son Dylan (Miko Hughes). Heather is partaking in the media rounds to celebrate the original films tenth anniversary and is surprised by the appearance of Robert Englund playing himself but at this point in the Freddy makeup. Shortly after she receives a call from New Line Cinema for a meeting with Robert Shaye also playing himself. He offers Heather a role in the “definitive Nightmare On Elm Street film” which is being written. Her husband Chase is then killed in a car accident but she suspects Freddy is responsible. During all of this, Dylan has started acting incredibly weird, quoting the famous Freddy nursery rhyme among other things. She meets with Wes Craven also playing himself, and discovers that he is essentially writing everything that is happening as it comes to him as part of the script. He explains that there is an ancient evil that has lived through the ages existing solely for the “murder of innocents”. The evil takes different forms, and its most recent form is that of Freddy. Given that the films have ended this evil has been set free and is now targeting Heather due to her being Freddy’s most formidable foe. This all leads to a final standoff between the evil and Heather, with Dylan on the line.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was a film ahead of its time. Many genre fans rightfully point to this film as a precursor to Craven‘s next film, Scream. Its deconstruction of the horror genre separated it from any other horror film released up to that point. At the time of its release, the film received much greater critical reception than its counterparts but unfortunately did not have the success at the box office that was hoped for. It ended up being the lowest grossing film in the series, effectively ending Freddy’s run as the horror box office king. Whether the failure could be attributed to the “meta” nature of the film, or the return of Krueger after his promised demise, no one can say for sure. But through the years, New Nightmare has maintained a reputation as one of, if not the, best Elm Street film. Does it hold up twenty years later?
Yes and no. The ideas presented in the film were truly groundbreaking at the time, and with more success in retrospect could have had the genre changing impact a year or two before it happened with Scream. But there are certainly some aspects of the film do not work. Given that Heather Langenkamp had been acting steadily for ten years, including regular roles on television, but her acting is truly the worst part of the film. In the original Nightmare On Elm Street and Dream Warriors it could be forgiven as she was just at the beginning of her career. At this point it is just sad, especially when you take into account that she is only playing herself.
The rest of the cast fares better. Robert Englund, Wes Craven, Robert Shaye and John Saxon all excel in their roles, which isn’t too surprising given that they are playing themselves so none of the roles are a stretch. The other big standout of the cast is Miko Hughes as Heather’s son Dylan. Back in the late 80s and early 90s Hughes was the go to kid for creepy roles. His performance in Pet Sematary as Gage is now legendary, and he also had solid roles in both Kindergarten Cop as well as a later role in the live action adaptation of Spawn. He handles the role in this film wonderfully, which is a true testament to his talent, given how absolutely awful most child actors are.
The kills are mostly basic, including an homage to one of the series’ most iconic kills. In the initial nightmare sequence, two of the FX team members working under Chase are murdered by the Terminator-style Freddy glove. Chuck (Matt Winston) and Terry (Rob LaBelle) are completely eviscerated by the glove, which is partially a throwback to Rick’s death in The Dream Master. One of them has their throat slit, while the other has his chest clawed up. The next one to bite it is Chase, who is attacked by Freddy’s hand while driving gets the claws dug chest deep. The only other death is a brutal recreation of Tina’s death in the original. In this version, Julie (Tracy Middendorf), Dylan’s babysitter, is attacked by the Freddy evil in the hospital room, and is dragged along the wall and ceiling. The main difference between the original and this scene is that Freddy stays visible for the entire kill, making it seem much more brutal.
Overall, New Nightmare ended the series on a high note. Of course, Freddy would return for one more go around in the epic showdown of Freddy Vs. Jason. Seeing as it is a crossover film, it will be covered separately from the Survivor Series articles.
Body Count: 4
Best Kill: Julie. Even though it is a reduxed kill, it still stands out head and shoulders above the rest.
Well, it’s been quite a ride through the entire Nightmare On Elm Street series. Given that Freddy Vs. Jason will be covered separately, and the 2010 remake will be touched upon in a forthcoming feature for the site, this is almost the end of the line. There will be one more article reflecting on the series, and giving a ranking of the best to worst films in the series.