It should come as no surprise that Wes Craven's return to the horror series he created is the strongest of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequels, but even his fans might not have expected the ironic depth and self-reflexivity he brings to this chapter. It's a wry and scary exploration of the
impact the NIGHTMARE films have had on the people who made them, with several participants in the original film (including Craven) playing themselves.
Heather Langenkamp (herself), star of the first NIGHTMARE movie, is now married to special effects artist Chase Porter (David Newsom) and has a young son, Dylan (Miko Hughes). She's been plagued by nightmares about cinematic villain Freddy Krueger, and so, evidently, has Dylan; she's also been
receiving harassing phone calls from someone apparently pretending to be Freddy. After taping a talk show, where actor Robert Englund (himself), who plays Freddy on screen, makes a surprise appearance, she is called to New Line Cinema's offices, where chairman Robert Shaye (himself) reveals that
Wes Craven is planning a new NIGHTMARE film and implores her to take part.
She is reluctant, though, in part because Dylan's nightmares seem to be getting worse. Then Chase is killed in a car accident, and a visit to the morgue leads Heather to believe Freddy was responsible. After further visions of the scarred killer and increasingly frightening behavior from Dylan,
she takes the boy to a hospital and goes to meet with Craven, who reveals that he's been writing the new NIGHTMARE script (which appears to reflect Heather's real-life situation) based on his own dreams. He also tells her that Freddy is the name he gave to a malevolent spirit that has been freed
since the movies stopped being made. Only making another film--with Heather in the lead--can put him to rest.
After being attacked by Freddy (Englund) in her house, Heather runs to the hospital, where she has further frightening visions and Julie (Tracy Middendorf), Dylan's baby-sitter, is murdered by Freddy. Dylan escapes the hospital, and Heather chases him back to their house, where she enters
Freddy's nightmare world, rescues Dylan, and destroys the villain forever. Upon returning to reality with her son, she discovers a copy of Wes's completed script on the floor.
Bringing Freddy Krueger back for another film after 1992's FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE might seem like a cheat, but NEW NIGHTMARE is a marked departure from the familiar formula. Craven reimagines his character in the context of the people who gave him "life," placing him in a realistic
Hollywood milieu where earthquake aftershocks (which recur throughout the movie) and celebrity stalkers are more frightening than any horror villain. This new conception of Freddy, as an omnipresent force that has only been held back by the movies made about him, adds an intriguing dimension to
the NIGHTMARE mythology, and Craven's own on-screen explanation of this idea incorporates some amusing inside references (particularly a sly comment from the filmmaker about how the character has gotten stronger in real life as the subsequent movies became "watered down").
Compounding the film's effectiveness is the believable acting by the real-life NIGHTMARE participants, particularly Langenkamp, giving her strongest, most mature performance of the series (she also starred in NIGHTMARE 3). It's also nice to see Englund play the gentle man behind the monster in
addition to his cinematic alter ego, and Hughes is uncommonly good as the tormented youngster. Craven never forgets to make the film scary (complete with numerous well-executed and harrowing special effects), yet the terrorization of Dylan never becomes exploitative.
Not surprisingly, Craven also slips in some jabs at those who think horror movies can be a destructive influence; this entry's de rigueur uncaring adult is one Dr. Heffner (Fran Bennett), who chides Heather for exposing her son to her movies (and is named after then-MPAA chairman Richard
Heffner). Yet Craven never gets heavy with a message, focusing instead on breaking new, scary ground and (presumably) making a decisive finish to the franchise he invented. (Graphic violence, adult situations, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: It should come as no surprise that Wes Craven's return to the horror series he created is the strongest of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequels, but even his fans might not have expected the ironic depth and self-reflexivity he brings to this chapter. It's… (more)