Wes Craven's New Nightmare
Release Date - October 14, 1994
Opening Weekend - $6,667,118
Domestic Total Gross - $18,090,181
Starring: Heather Lagenkamp, Robert Englund, Miko Hughes, Wes Craven, John Saxon
Written & Directed By: Wes Craven
One of the most gripping things about the Nightmare on Elm Street series has always been how it blurs the lines of fiction and reality making Freddy’s dreamlike fantasy in to a nightmare that can’t be escaped from. Aside from the original, this is my favorite Nightmare on Elm Street film and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they are the only two films in the series that Wes Craven created. The first Nightmare was creative, fresh, and gave birth to the most satisfying horror villain. New Nightmare is the one that brings something new to the plate and enhances the powerful themes of there being no safety net, not even in the world outside of the typical Nightmare world.
New Nightmare includes several cast and crew members from the original Nightmare On Elm Street film, playing themselves in the movie. They are in the reality that we would normally recognize to be the same as ours, the world where Freddy is only real in the movies. Heather Legenkamp is our protagonist once again. Nancy did have a bit more strength, but the determination to protect is just as strong since Heather is now a wife and a mother. As Wes points out, it was Heather who gave Nancy her strength, even if that is a strength that is being held back from fear of allowing Freddy to be a part of her world in a real context. Heather is trying to move on with her life and away from the Freddy movies. Even when she is on a talk show to talk about other things, Robert Englund as Freddy makes an appearance. Heather is then propositioned to play Nancy one last time in the sequel Wes has been working on. Nancy refuses since she wants to make films that would be more suitable for her son, Dylan (Hughes), to watch. Not to mention she has been getting threatening calls from a man that sounds unmistakably like Freddy. She has also been having nightmares where Freddy attacks those around her. Her son seems to know more about Freddy than Heather would like. Dylan begins having episodes where he appears to be possessed by Freddy himself. Heather has a history of mental instability in her family and fears she might have passed it along to Dylan. Dylan is taken to a facility where they try to understand what is happening to him.
More and more people start dying, just as they do in the nightmares. Heather can’t deny the connection that it all has to Freddy. She talks to Wes and learns that the script from the movie is written scene by scene based on the nightmares that he has every night. This movie is Wes’ sub-conscious, very possibly fed in to his mind by his very creation. Even the man who gave birth to Freddy might not be able to stop him. Wes claims that making this last movie is his chance to get control back and to lay Freddy to rest once and for all. Wes writes the script and surely enough, word for word that is how it happens in real life, every line and action occurs just as it was written. Wes can set up the outline, but it is Nancy who has to bring Freddy down. After all, she has a bit of Nancy inside of her. She was the one who helped bring Freddy down as the first person to challenge Freddy and to beat him at his own game.
We do get a bit of comedy through Freddy, which has always made him seem like a more crazed and out of control killer, making him both chilling and entertaining. Yet, New Nightmare deals with this better than some of the other sequels that made him seem more laughable than threatening. Freddy is taken back to his original presence, regaining that darkness that he embodies. The comedy that is here is much more subtle and hits more on the maniacal and menacing aspects to him and for the most part, staying away from the cheesy aspects. Freddy actually isn’t in a significant part of the film. He is still present during the deaths and through some of the nightmares, but even when he is mentally there we don’t always see him such as when he is essentially inside of Dylan. The film spends most of the time building upon the suspense and creating the fiction merging in to reality atmosphere. There are some decent deaths here, but not as notable as in some of the past Freddy films.New Nightmare is more about the psychological elements than the kills themselves. At one point Freddy brings Heater in to Nancy’s reality where no one recognizes that she is actually Heather, we are back inside of that first film.
New Nightmare presents the theory that dealing with evils through films can be a form of fighting against these things. Freddy only comes back in to reality, truly creating an evil in the world when he is killed through film. The darkness can’t be examined through film any longer, where it is safe, so it emerges in to the real world since that is the only place Freddy can go on living and killing. Through New Nightmare, Craven shows us why horror movies are an essential art form and can be used to examine what we fear. This is used for many of the characters in the film, as they try to shield themselves from Freddy through art. Robert Englund paints a mural of Freddy being unleashed and Wes writes a script to try to examine and contain the haunting of Freddy that he has been experiencing every time he sleeps. For Heather, the earthquakes that occur resemble the element of fear and danger that coincide with Freddy, but as she is trying to ignore his presence she is ultimately the one that has to face him head on. In New Nightmare, Wes not only takes a very darkly intriguing psychological approach to the resurrection of Freddy, but examines it in a way that it relates to the audience that it is the same as any other evil in the world. The audience is able to put the pieces together and understand Freddy, his world, and the way he works. As the producer says, “Evil never dies”. Freddy might never die, especially for the fans; he truly is immortal.