Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Miko Hughes, John Saxon.
Series: A Nightmare on Elm Street
MPAA Rating: RLength: 112 minutes
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So Freddy’s Not Dead … He’s Actually Real?
(Spoilers for the previous six Nightmare on Elm Street movies are below).
It turns out Freddy’s not dead … rather he’s not even fictional. He’s a real terror in the filmmaking world. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is a metafilm about it’s own production starring a number of key actors from the original movie. Breaking from the original Nightmare sequence was definitely the right idea – you can really only resurrect Fred Krueger and kill him so many times before it gets old. What follows is a tense and entertaining horror film, but it also runs with some serious flaws, too.
Heather Langenkamp (as herself) lives in Hollywood with her husband Chase (David Newsom) and their young son Dylan (Miko Hughes) where she’s enjoyed success as an actress due to the popularity of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Heather is pitched the idea of making a new Nightmare movie, but she becomes reluctant when she and her son begin to have nightmares with Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) in them.
The meta aspects of this movie definitely makes this the most unique film in the series, but they really make it feel self indulgent at times, and a lot of those aspects haven’t aged well either. A movie about the making of a slasher film is asking a lot out of an audience who’s more then likely there to see some brutal deaths and get scared shitless. As expected with a metafilm their are a lot of average to below average acting performances. Heather Langenkamp was never that great of an actress, and her son lacks subtlety in a number of important scenes. There are a lot of non-actors – like Wes Craven and Robert Shaye – that come in to fill important parts of the story with some lengthy exposition, but they struggle with the flow and delivery of their lines.
Despite those issues though this turns out to be one of the better films in the Nightmare canon.
Craven only directed the first Nightmare movie and collaborated on writing the third. Those two movies along with this one are easily the strongest movies in the series. Wes Craven puts on a clinic that demonstrates just how important it is to have a director that knows what they’re doing. This movie should, by all means, be a failure. The fact that a seventh movie from a worn out franchise could be one of the best movies from that franchise is a pretty impressive achievement.
This is easily the most tense of the Nightmare movies and possibly the scariest, although I’m inclined to favor the original. Since the original, Freddy has devolved from a violent child molester into a comedic killing character. Craven harkens back to Freddy’s roots, bringing back a much scarier Fred Krueger. His physical appearance is altered and so is his costume. It almost feels like a new character, and it also results in one of Englund’s best performances as Freddy. Craven deftly handles a number of callbacks to some of the most famous scenes from the original film, adding a nice sense of nostalgia. Like so many metafilms, it also blends reality and fiction together, questioning the truth of what’s real?
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare feels less like a Nightmare movie and more like a prequel to the reality and horror filmmaking commentary Scream movies … which would be Craven’s next major project. At the same time I don’t feel like this was an experiment for a new series. Instead I believe Craven saw Freddy’s Dead and just decided that “his baby” didn’t deserve to go out like that. He would be right to think that, and I’m glad he set things straight.