Two years before he would perfect the meta meditation on horror films with Scream, director Wes Craven gave it a test-drive with the final film in the Nighmare on Elm Street series, revisiting an idea he’d wanted to incorporate into one of the earlier sequels of the franchise.
The tenth anniversary of the original Nightmare film is coming up, and New Line Cinema is eager to revitalize Freddy, so they reach out to Wes Craven (himself), Robert Englund (himself) and Heather Langenkamp (herself) about coming back for one last hurrah.
It just so happens that Wes has an idea for a sequel, a highbrow concept about a powerful entity that can be captured and contained by storytellers but should the story be forgotten, then it is free to roam and strike out again. What if the character of Freddy had captured that entity?
Real-life begins to blur for Heather when her husband, Chase (David Newsom) is killed in a car accident and their son, Dylan (Miko Hughes) seems to be suffering from nightmares about a scary old man with claws on his hand. Heather also begins to suffer from waking nightmares, somehow associated with the earthquakes that are plaguing Los Angeles and soon finds herself confronting an updated and even more terrifying Freddy Krueger (strill Englund).
There are nods to iconic lines and exchanges all given a new twist in this iteration. Unlike Scream, New Nightmare is a little clunky and isn’t quite as streamlined, slick, or scary as it could be. It feels a little rushed and uneven despite the great idea at its heart.
I loved that Langenkamp is actually front and center through all of this film and it’s as much about her journey as it is about the return of Krueger. She carries it easily, and seems to be really focused on bringing the best story and arc to her character as possible.
It’s interesting that Englund, like the rest, gets to play a version of himself. This new version of Freddy is, in fact, not in the film all that much. It’s more about his effect on those around him as he attempts to reach into our world.
There are little nods to previous installments, merchandising, the juggernaut Freddy was at that point in the world’s history, and how he was on the verge of disappearing. In that, the film gets the message totally right. I just wish it had been executed a little stronger, or perhaps Craven had someone go through the script and doctor it just a little, smooth things out, and perhaps embrace a slightly longer runtime to tell the story right.
It’s still a very enjoyable entry, and my favorite after the first and third. It was definitely cool revisiting them again.