Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Three years after the aptly titled Freddy’s Dead: the Final Nightmare (1991)NoES fans were chomping at the bit for the inevitable return of their favorite slasher.   As such, when New Line announced that not only was Freddy coming back but Wes Craven, the creator of the series, would be returning to direct, the fans rejoiced at the prospect of the film series’ return to form.  A chance to get back to the formula that made it great.  Then, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare premiered in theaters and they all collectively cried, “Um…what?”

Heather Langenkamp stars as “Heather Langenkamp” as Wes Craven offers her the part of “Heather Langenkamp” in “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” all the while she and her son Dylan (Miko Hughes) are being haunted/hunted by Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) with nary a teenager in sight.  Confused?  That is because Craven has gone all meta-textual on us.

The film takes place in the “real world” in which the NoES series are films.  As it turns out, evil incarnate can be captured like a genie in a bottle if a storyteller can create a persona so rotten that “evil” enjoys staying in the story.  However, if the story ends, evil gets bored and starts to roam once again.  “Evil” has enjoyed being Freddy Krueger for so long that it is not ready to give it up yet and takes steps to ensure that another movie is made.

Wow, that sounds even more ludicrous than when Craven explains it in the film.

This is not a great film.  This is not even a great horror film.  The scares are few and far between.  It plays more like a psychological thriller/child endangerment film than the slasher gore-fest fans of the series had come to expect.  However, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is an incredible coda to the NoES series.

Filmed ten years after the original, New Nightmare shows the audience a vision of what the people that made one of our favorite horror films are up to and how their involvement in the seminal work affected their lives.  At several points in the film, Langenkamp is directly how she feels about violence in film now that she is a mother and she, like others in the film industry, do not have an easy answer.  It is interesting how the Freddy character in this film acts as a surrogate for the audience: he does not want the films to end and refuses to see Langenkamp as anyone other than Nancy Thompson.

And can you blame him?  Langenkamp is just great in this movie as is Robert Englund, who always knows just the right amount of weird to put in every performance.   Craven made it easier for him by redesigning Freddy to look even more sinister than before.  Nothing says “I like to hurt little children” more than a black leather trench coat.  All the while, there are cameos from former cast members, homages, and other easter eggs placed throughout the film.

Like I said, this is not a great film.  It does not stand up well on its own.  However, it is a great ending to the series and helped Craven test drive a lot of the ideas that would be developed to great effect in Scream (1996).

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