So…Freddy’s Dead ended the franchise on a disappointing and sour note. Three years later, Freddy was back.
Sort of. As far as Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is concerned? It is outside the continuity of the six films that came before it. Wes Craven crafted a clever horror film with thrills and also a philosophically challenging work of Meta fiction. What does horror do to the people who create it? How does it impact the people who watch it? What separates the real from the fantasy? Wes Craven returned to make a horror film to make you think.
I must admit that I just cannot take the snarky tone I did for the other sequels. I really want to avoid spoilers as well, because of the entire series, this is the most clever and really worth giving a watch.
When New Line brought Wes back as writer and director, they did not stand in his way, and with clear reason. What Craven delivered was intelligent, scary, chilling and exciting. The film opens to reveal there is a new Nightmare film being made. Heather Langenkamp (as herself) is not initially aware of it, because her special effects man husband has kept it hush-hush. Heather is invited on a talk show where she meets up with Bob Shaye (former head of New Line, again playing himself) who tries to sell her on coming back to the role of Nancy. She declines, but starts to find her world seemingly encroached upon by Freddy. And it seems to be impacting her young son.
Craven explains that the original series tapped into an ancient evil. It’s an evil that is kept at bay by being the inspiration in stories. Apparently, it became very attached to Freddy, and the only way to cage the beast is for Craven to tell a new story. He explains it much better in the film. Heather finds herself going head to head with the Freddy monster (who is more beefed up and ominous than in pervious films-his claw is a boney extension-resembling the movie posters of earlier Elm Street films- and he wears a flowing trench coat) in several confrontations that culminate with a final battle in Freddy’s lair (which is a fantastic looking set).
Part of what works so well is that most of the cast is playing themselves (Langenkamp’s husband and son are fictional and portrayed by David Newsom and Miko Hughes-you might recognize him as the creepy little kid in Pet Cemetary). Some are even duel roles (Robert Englund plays himself and Krueger, John Saxon plays himself and Don Thompson from the first and third films). The effects are really nicely done, as is the set design. Well worth renting. Heck, Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars.
So there you have it. The seven Elm Street films. The ones worth watching are the original, the third one (Dream Warriors) and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Happy Halloween kids!