There were key movies in my life that helped to make me who I am today. Movies that I have loved from the moment the opening credit rolled and still love now. This blog series is about those, My guilty pleasures, my favorites, my escapes. Some were very popular, others not so much. Some of these will have some real life take-aways, others are just for fun. Today we discuss the last of the solo Freddy Kreuger films but with a twist. This is Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
Today’s Key Movie:
Have you ever wondered where Freddy Kreuger came from? I know his in universe story, the child killer who was burned by the parents of Elms Street because he was let free due to a technicality, only to return to kill in the dreams of their children. We all do, but where did he come from? What are the origins of his inception in the mind of Wes Craven himself? That is what this film attempts to answer by bringing the idea of Freddy Krueger into the real world and explaining that he is not just a fictional character…he is in fact something more.
The story is a cool one. Wes Craven is making a new Nightmare on Elmstreet bringing back many of the original cast members including Heather Langenkamp and even a cameo with Tuesday Night (from the fourth film). Heather begins to have nightmares about Freddy and soon learns that the nightmares about this fictional beast are real and threaten her son and husband. Soon Heather is unsure what is real and what is the New Nightmare itself.
Starring Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Miko Hughs, John Saxon, and Wes Craven as himself, this is the ultimate in meta horror tales.
Why this movie?
After the disaster that was Freddy’s Dead The Final Nightmare, it was doubtful that a new Nightmare film would be produced anytime soon. However, we soon heard rumblings of a new and vastly different installment in the Nightmare franchise indicating that something was brewing. When we heard that Craven himself was returning to the Nightmare films it was clear that this would be something special, if not a return to form. The problem was, having been burned by the Final Nightmare, I opted out of seeing this in theaters instead figuring it was safer as a VHS rental.
After popping this in my VCR, I was shocked at the new take on the classic Nightmare on Elmstreet story and regretted not seeing this one in the theater. Not only was it a unique take, it brought back the original cast and the classic Wes Craven storytelling that only he could bring.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is the most original take on the Freddy Mythos to date. Instead of focusing on Elm Street and the classic Freddy invading the nightmares of teens, this film asks the question, what if the creature was real. What if, Craven made these films not to scare people, but to keep something else at bay. That is where this film shines…
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
Going in, you have to know that this is NOT a traditional Nightmare on Elmstreet film. As I indicated, this is a new take on the classic story bringing the nightmare of Freddy into the ‘real world’. You see, Craven created the character of Freddy Krueger to appease a demon and when the films ended, that demon was not happy in the least. So, what does it do? It returns in the form it is most comfortable with, one, knife handed murderer, Fred Krueger only this time he is after those who his character interacted with, specifically Heather Langencamp and the rest of the original films cast. This is the definition of a meta story successfully blending the fictional and nonfictional worlds into a fascinating and terrifying film.
The cool thing about this film is that the cast play versions of themselves that feel real. From Langencamp to Craven himself, it could not have been easy playing a film version of a person you know better than a fictional character. How do you perform as a character based on you? Even a fictional version? I don’t know but everyone in this completely and totally nails their roles to a tee, creating a realistic world superimposed on top of the fictional one created by Craven himself. This is one of the rare times that characters are super aware of themselves and their place in a horror film which has invaded their very lives. In a way, this film feels like Craven’s prototype for his later franchise, Scream but without the dark humor the later series is known for.
While the original cast does a tremendous job acting as themselves, I have to call out Miko Hughes who plays Heather’s fictional son Dylan. Dylan is crucial to the films story because it is he who the demon is attempting to use to get to Heather and the rest. He is tremendous in his role and comes across as a genuinely creepy and disturbed kid through and through. If you’ve been a fan of horror for a while you may recognize him from his first film as none other than Gage from the original Pet Sematary. This kid originated in horror and fully owns it in every way.
As with most horror films, special effects and a solid score are paramount for a quality product. This one slacks on neither with some subtle but very solid effects utilizing a combination of practical style blended with some cgi. While I much prefer practical effects, Craven pulls of the combination admirably with only a few moments that feel dated. To enhance the story and the effects, Craven recruited J Peter Robinson to create an intense and exciting score that only gives a credence to the film not unlike the original. At times it feels as if Robinson taps into Philip Glass’ score for Candyman and it works perfectly in every way.
With how great this film is, there must be something that doesn’t work right? The truth is, no, there isn’t. While it doesn’t have the kill count or the overly produced death sequences the rest of the franchise is known for, this film manages to make the character of Freddy a much more dark and ominous creature that is more than terrifying. In fact, it is this version of Freddy that really sells the film. He is no longer the scarred dirty creature but a cleaner and more visceral version that is darker and more frightening than ever before. Dressed in similar threads as his namesake, this Freddy also wears a long trench-coat over his red and green sweater making him that much more menacing. This version of Freddy works perfectly and, while he is only ever seen in this version of the film, he is unforgettable nonetheless.
All in all, this is my favorite sequel in the Nightmare on Elmstreet franchise, not because it is a continuation of the original story but because it takes that story and has fun with it. It is something unique and original and that is rare when it comes to film sequels. Personally, I would have been happy having this as the final entry for the franchise as it works through and through. That being said, as Yoda once said…There is another…. but we won’t be talking about that one for a while because first we have to talk about another slasher….one that has a penchant for campers.
OK, where do I get this movie?
This one is becoming hard to find on disc as a single release so it is probably best to grab the boxed set when it is on sale. If you’re patient you can find it for around $40 which is a steal on Bluray. Do yourself a favor and jump in to the nightmare franchise.
Till next time, here’s the trailer.
Late To The Game 1/7/2021
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
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