A Nightmare on Elm Street & Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

 

I’ve written a few times before about Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, why it’s so important to me, and why I love it so. But, I’m gonna go ahead and tell you again, and then cover New Nightmare too.

 A Nightmare on Elm Street was made in 1984, and I hear teenagers now say all the time that it’s stupid and not scary. And I want to punch them in their stupid mouths. (Just kidding! Kinda).

Look, I understand. The 80s were an amazingly awful time for fashion and hair, and everybody looks horrible and dated. And there is such a flood of gory, scary movies now that there’s no way a dude with knives on his fingers that haunts your nightmares is going to creep you out. But I still think it’s brilliant.

There is so much to love here—the creation of the glove at the beginning, the splatteriffic death of Tina in front of her boyfriend, Rod; “Screw your pass!”, the origin of Freddy (before that ridiculous “son of a 100 maniacs” crap in part 3), the fountain of blood that erupts from Glen’s bed, “I’m your boyfriend now!”, and Nancy totally kicking some serious ass when she’s done with Krueger killing all her friends.

Robert Englund was the perfect choice for Freddy, playing him with a smirky glee that’s just the right balance of fucked-up—and though he makes some signature quips, they fit into this original seamlessly; unlike the sequels where he goes totally off the rails.

With Nightmare, Craven not only created an iconic horror movie villain, he created a female horror heroine who stopped running and used her wits to fight back. And that, particularly for the time, is pretty damn awesome. (Related: you should totally buy a copy of I Am Nancy, a documentary by Heather Langenkamp, because it’s rad, and so is she.)

So 10 years later, after complaining about how a bunch of other director’s f’ed up his vision in the sequels that followed, Craven took the reigns again with New Nightmare, and they slapped his name on the title just to MAKE IT CLEAR he was back.

And I will say this: New Nightmare starts out strong. I LOVED the concept. And I especially loved that he started it out with the crafting of a new metal glove in a boiler room as a nod to the original.

In this film, Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, and Wes Craven all play themselves—with the idea that although Freddy wasn’t real when they started the series, he’s become real because of the power given to him through the films, and he’s targeting Nancy/Heather through her young son, Dylan (Miko Hughes – how is this kid not scarred for life between this and Pet Sematary?). Basically, evil is using the fictional Fred Krueger to start some shit. The new Freddy is more frightening in appearance than the old one too, and a lot less comical.

There are a lot of cool touches here; glimpses of the new script Craven is writing foreshadowing things that happen later in the film, Englund acting reclusive and painting some frightening art, and nods to some of the first Nightmare’s best scenes. Langenkamp is flawless as an actress confused by the blending of reality and fiction, and slips back into her Nancy role as if no time has passed at all.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of not-so-good stuff too. Hughes as Dylan is almost laughable when he’s in his Freddy-induced “trances”, and if I could rewrite the ending, I would, because it was a huge let down.

Still, even with those things, I think New Nightmare is the best “sequel” to the original out there. This one’s definitely worth a watch, and is overall a nice way to wrap up the series.

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2 Comments

  1. For reasons that always require a lot of explanation, I actually have a hard time picking a favorite sequel. It used to be easy: New Nightmare hands down. But … when I think of the series as a whole, that’s when it gets tricky. That’s when I take into account the value of every installment and how it affects the others (even Freddy vs. Jason). I also consider the kills, because that’s important. The Dream Master had some really excellent kills.

    I think what kids today are taking for granted with the original is that the story of Freddy isn’t something new to them. But the very idea of a man who can kill you in your dreams? I can hardly think of anything scarier for a movie. Because you’re going to have to go to bed after the movie is over. And you’re going to dream. And Freddy could very well be there. Yeah, it’s not scary to me anymore, I’ve seen those movies dozens of times, but definitely scarier than Jason, or even Michael Myers, definitely scarier than Pumpkinhead. WAY scarier than Jigsaw, if you wanna talk modern franchises. Freddy is the best villain by far.

    Reply
    • Abby, I understand your dilemma! While I think New Nightmare is the most solid, it’s by no means my favorite sequel. My love for the first movie is so great that I’m not sure I have a favorite sequel, although I could take the easy way out and name Dream Warriors – since that’s virtually everybody’s favorite.

      I love, love, love, Freddy Vs. Jason because of its very faithful homework done on the two leads, and the script playing carefully by all the ground rules set before! But I don’t lump it in with the other Nightmare movies, since it has an additional element to it.

      Reply

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