I’ve never considered New Nightmare a true sequel, more like a lateral move from the first one. Craven is back as writer and director, simply chomping at the bit for a final crack at Freddy. While he had some nice things to say about some of the sequels, it’s pretty apparent he wasn’t crazy about the direction they went, making Freddy more comical than scary. The flaw in his logic, however, is he’s as guilty of making a mockery of Freddy as anyone else was. At least with the other films in the series, they knew to keep things to about 90 minutes, a nice tight running time. Craven, on the other hand, had to ramp it up to nearly two hours, which would be fine if it was interesting, but alas, New Nightmare suffers from the most fatal of errors in a horror movie (let alone a Nightmare movie), it’s got a great opening 5 minutes, a great ending 20 minutes, with the rest being dead boring.
Even with the poor quality of some sequels, I never found myself checking my watch as often as I did here. Getting through it was actually a bit of a struggle. I find this odd now because I remember when I saw this in the theater I liked it a lot more and didn’t find it especially boring. Perhaps I’m getting cranky in my old age…well, crankier, I guess, but even with a kick ass ending, I was still glad it was over. (I could also attribute this to having watched each movie twice in the past 10 days as well.) Craven goes the meta route in New Nightmare, and how you like the movies really hinges on how much you like the direction he went. It’s hard to do well, and to his credit at least, Craven pulls it off (as opposed to say Stephen King imposing himself in the Dark Tower books). There are some shaky places, and I think it’s a bit more than he could handle, but Craven is nothing if not ambitious here. Apparently having a relatively decent budget unleashed his creativity.
We start off as we did in the first, with Freddy making his glove. This one, however, is all high tech and Terminatorish looking. When it gets a mind of its own and kills the two effects guy, you think maybe it could be Freddie haunting the set of a Nightmare movie (which really, would have been cool), then we see Heather Langenkamp playing herself, her “son” and her husband who happens to be the head effects wizard. The disembodied glove goes after Nancy and her son, and she wakes up in the middle of an earthquake. This is one of many tremors she goes through in the movie, and will all due respect to Wes and crew, the earthquake bits reminded me of Star Trek TOS where they would all throw themselves around the bridge as the camera shook one way then the next.
Heather has been receiving crank calls and anonymous letters from an obsessed fan taunting her with the nursery rhyme from the movie. After doing a TV interview, she stops at New Line’s offices for a meeting with Bob Shaye, who plays himself. They want to do a new Nightmare movie and have Heather come back to star in it as Nancy. She wants nothing to do with it and heads home, only to find her son Dylan having a fit of some sort.
She calls her husband Chase, who reluctantly leaves a job to go home because of his son, but on the way, he falls asleep behind the wheel and dies in a car crash. At his funeral, there’s another earthquake, and Heather hits her head on the casket, knocking herself out and seeing Freddy. From here on it’s Nancy and Dylan (and sometimes Dylan’s babysitter), racing to keep Freddy from reemerging.
Fans of the series (of which I’m one in spite of some negative comments), will no doubt enjoy seeing nods to the original movie, as well as the sequels. There also nods to classic horror movies such as Nosferatu, which might be lost on today’s younger audiences.
With the set up out of the way, the first thing I need to say is the revamped Freddy, the 2.0 version I guess you could call him, sucks. I know that’s not a professional criticism, but it fits. I don’t like the new makeup, and the addition of an overcoat, and a new hat, plus the Doc Martens is simply not needed. I’d say it’s overkill if it weren’t quite so silly looking. Freddy looks more like a flasher than a villain here. The saving grace for Krueger is Englund, who seems to have some of his fire back and gives his best performance since Dream Warriors. He also does a great job playing himself as well. And please don’t get me started on the organic looking new glove he has. It’s awful.
Those who have read up this entry know that I haven’t been especially kind to Heather Langenkamp’s acting abilities. While she will never be, what I would consider a great actress (or even a good one), she is pretty competent here and show far more range than she had previously. It’s obvious she’s been working at her craft, but she will always be a weak link acting wise in the series. It’s very hard to critique someone’s acting ability when they’re just playing themselves, but I can say, Wes Craven, Robert Englund, John Saxon, and Robert Shaye do what they need to. John Saxon does the best of them all, and it’s always a pleasure to watch him.
Miko Hughes (who also played Gage Creed in Pet Sematary), is surprisingly good. He’s asked to do a lot of things I’m not sure I’d want my child doing, but he’s quite believable, and when he slips into Freddy possessing him, he has the voice down pat. It’s really a diverse performance, and it’s to Craven’s credit that he managed to get Hughes to act on a truly adult skill level.
As I said earlier, there are a lot of things that New Nightmare has going for it, but the total isn’t greater than the sum of its parts I’m afraid. Think too much about the plot, and you’ll see inconsistencies; some of the dialogue is really kind of hackneyed; I already mentioned the makeover for Freddy, but perhaps the biggest offender is the final 20 minutes or so.
We’re taken into Freddy’s world which seems to be a mix of a boiler room, elm street house, and Greek ruins. There’s a giant Freddy head that Heather and Dylan fall through when they get to the dream world, and you kind of roll your eyes and shake your head. And for all of the talk about wanting to get away from the silliness of the other movies, there’s one bit where Freddy goes to eat Dylan, and his jaw elongates like a snake’s and it’s perhaps one of the silliest things from any of the movies. Still it is an exciting end if you can get past some of the contrivances. Your best bet is to keep your finger on the fast forward button.
After the Psycho series, Nightmare is my second favorite franchise. In spite of it not living up to its full potential, they’re still good entertaining fun, and we can always pretend the bad ones were simply a dream.