Review Date: November 15, 2003
Released by: New Line
Release date: 9/1/1999
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Whenever a series promises a "final" chapter, it is basically another way of reassuring at least one more venture. Friday the 13th - The Final Chapter
, Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday
, and of course Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
. Despite its atrociousness, Freddy's Dead
cleaned up at the box office, and as along as the cow has milk it has to be milked. Instead of bringing in a new bunch of teens to get slaughtered in some paper-thin story, New Line brought back Wes Craven to write and direct New Nightmare
. Utilizing cast members and recurring themes from the previous films, is New Nightmare
the farewell that Freddy's Dead
should have been?
The film begins with that oh-so-familiar shot of a workbench. On it is tools, and using them is a man in a red and green sweater. He is crafting a hand with razors, but this one is much more sophisticated than the little old one from the original film. As the glove is completed we discover it is actually a film within the film, and the guy in red and green is really just a stunt man. Then, in a hazardous event, the glove takes on a mind of its own and kills two of the special effects crew members. And then Heather Langenkamp wakes up. It was all just a dream, or was it?
Heather lives with her husband, Chase (David Newsom
), and son, Dylan (Miko Hughes
). Its been ten years since her success in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street
, and she has lived comfortably as a house mother. Things have been hectic lately though, as some stalker keeps threatening her on the phone. Not only that, but her husband is working long hours, she wishes to return to the business, and earthquakes are shaking up the city. While doing a celebrity interview with Robert Englund, she is approached by New Line executive, Bob Shaye. Shaye tells her that Wes Craven is writing a new Elm Street film, and that she is the star. Heather, disgruntled and tired, denies the offer of starring in a new film, and returns back home. Her son is on the bed reciting "one, two, Freddy's coming for you..."
Heather begins to figure out that Wes's story is actually becoming a reality, and that her son is becoming affected by Freddy himself. Freddy is entering his body, and episode after episode little Dylan gets weaker. Heather takes him to the emergency, but that is only the beginning of the nightmare that is to follow. Freddy wants to escape film and move into reality, and he will do anything to destroy Heather and her family in order to cement his existence.
With Wes Craven behind the director's chair once again, New Nightmare
is a welcome return back to the dark, creative and political roots of the original film. First of all, Freddy is back to being the shadowed and menacing murderer he was ten years prior. Gone are the ridiculous costumes, horrible puns and cheesy murderers. Instead, Freddy exists as a sheer villain from the depths of hell; he stares and he smirks, but ultimately he scares. In New Nightmare
Freddy doesn't kill for fun and games like in many of the sequels, he is striving towards an ultimate purpose here, and as a result he comes across as much more frightening and powerful. As he drags a victim up a wall and over the ceiling, we are reminded of how scary the similar scene was in the original film. We are also reminded though, at how good Robert Englund can be when he under the leash of Wes Craven.
Craven's script has a few lulls, but ultimately it is a boldly original work. For instance, Craven daringly waits until well over an hour into the film until Freddy Krueger even surfaces. People go to see Freddy, but Craven holds him back to prove he can create suspense without him, hence giving the series a level of prestige that had long been missing. Less is definitely more. Keeping Freddy back is only a small facet of Craven's compelling screenplay however. The major triumph of the screenplay is its ability to both reference the past as well as recreate it to generate new meaning.
Freddy, of course, was a child molester and murderer in his younger years, and this attribute was always brought up with references to children's fairytales in the previous films. The fairytale imagery is continued in New Nightmare
, this time with Hansel & Gretel as the primary focus. That story is rather dark and gothic in the way of the other tales by the Brother's Grimm, but it also embodies the gothic tones of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street
. The dream imagery was not entirely surreal in Craven's original film, and instead was much more realistic in a grim and gothic sort of way. So by referencing Hansel & Gretel, he signals to the audience his intent at bringing the series back to its gothic roots, while at the same time maintaining the fairytale motif of the previous sequels.
The Hansel & Gretel analogy also, more importantly, emphasizes another major connection to and revision of the first Elm Street film. Freddy was killed originally by the parents of some of his victims on Elm St. With Heather Langenkamp now a parent herself in New Nightmare
, the series thus comes full circle, as she must defeat Freddy in order to preserve the life of her child. The end battle is fought in a burning labyrinth, similar not only to the boiler room where Freddy used to take his kids, but also to the stove in which Hansel pushes the wicked witch. For even more childlike references, be sure to stick through the credit sequence and look for the disclaimer.
As the climax of the film begins, all of the surroundings begin to resemble that of the original Elm Street film. John Saxon shifts into his lieutenant character, Heather's house begins to resemble her house in the original, and she even get the trademark grey hair. So in a way, Craven is sending Heather (Nancy) back into the past in order to right the wrongs. Nancy's parents in the original killed Freddy in an unjust manner to protect their daughter, and now Nancy must deal with Freddy in a just manner to protect her son. The film doubles over itself like this in many ways, and Craven really has fun with adding a new disorienting element to the series.
All the Nightmare films have always toyed with the division between dream and reality, but New Nightmare
throws another ingredient into the formula, it throws in film itself. Is what is happening on screen footage from a film-within-a-film, or is it just a dream, or is it actually happening? Such an ambitious premise could get confusing and tough to follow, but Craven handles is ably, and establishes this blurring right at the start. The film-within-a-film is first shown, and then it becomes Nancy's dream, and then it becomes her reality. Craven holds nothing back here, really pushing the limits of film in a self-referential manner.
This film, coupled with Craven's Scream
trilogy, demonstrate the path Craven was paving for himself in the 90's. All those films deal with the horror genre in a post-modern manner, and they once again reinvent the very genre they convey. Craven first reinvented the slasher genre with the original dream-heavy A Nightmare on Elm Street
, and with New Nightmare
he takes it a step further. Never content with complying with genre boundaries, Craven really takes New Nightmare
to his creative limit.
As far as the photography is concerned, the film looks fairly standard, but that is just as it should look. This film aims to be a document of the real, and therefore a stylized visual template would clash with Craven's intents. Although most of the actors are playing themselves, they all do a great job here. Heather Langenkamp gives what is easily her best performance ever as herself, readily conveying the stress, emotion and worry that a mother feels towards her crumbling family. Englund, as I mentioned previously, is nicely restrained, and little Miko Hughes gives another fantastic little creeper of a performance. Looking at his films like Pet Sematary
, Jack the Bear
, and this film, it is safe to say he was the pinnacle child actor of his day.
In a series almost destroyed by the parody of Freddy's Dead
, Wes Craven does the unthinkable by concluding the series with elegance and pride. New Nightmare
is a smart, scary and poetic return to grace for the lengthy Elm Street series. This is one of the strongest horror efforts of the 90's, and those looking for a return to the original's themes and moods need look no further.
Being the newest of all the Elm Street films, it is no surprise that this is the sharpest looking transfer of all the films. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, edges look clear but smooth, and the colors are pitch perfect. The print is free of grain or blemish, and the resulting transfer is deep with strong blacks. Every little groove on Freddy's singed face is visible, and other textures are just as clear. New Line has really treated this series to some great transfers, and this one is no exception.
This DVD includes the original theatrical Dolby Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, and they both sound wonderful. This 5.1 track is easily the most engulfing of the series, with plenty of discrete directional effects, from phones ringing to Freddy's menacing, bass-pounding laugh. Explosions and the rumblings from the earthquakes are rendered nicely around the 5-channel setup and create a realistic ambiance. As the first, and only, original 5.1 track of the series, this easily sounds the most realistic and active of the bunch. Great work, New Line!
Like the DVD for the original film, this one contains a commentary with Wes Craven. This is a very interesting and informative track full of anecdotes and elaborations by the master himself. Craven talks about events like how the original earthquake opening was scrapped and how they did some of the effects sequences. He takes time to talk about dream research he had done prior to filming, as well as his opinion of Freddy's portrayal in the sequels. He is very talkative throughout, and there is never a dull moment. This track may even better the track for the original film; great stuff!
The rest of the stock extras are on here as well ("jump to a nightmare", bios, DVD-Rom trivia and screenplay). The interesting and bizarre trailer is included on the standalone release, and can be found on the bonus disc for those who get the box set. There are also other nifty extras included only on the box set bonus disc as well.
Wes Craven's New Nightmare
is a stunning example of post-modern creativity and definitely a worthy end piece to the Elm Street series. It compliments and builds upon the original film perfectly. The audio and visual presentations are stellar, and the commentary by Wes Craven is a must-hear for all Elm Street aficionados. This disc is recommended to all horror fans, regardless of whether or not you like the previous Elm Street films. Pop some popcorn, stay up late, and enjoy this nifty fright fest. Just don't fall asleep.
Movie - A
Image Quality - A
Sound - A
Supplements - B
- Running Time - 1 hour 42 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English subtitles
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English Stereo
- Commentary by Wes Craven
- Cast & Crew bios
- Jump to a nightmare feature
- Interactive screenplay (DVD-ROM only)
- "Dream World" trivia game (DVD-ROM only)
- Theatrical trailer (standalone only)