Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) Review by Sean Murphy

(This article would have appeared in Video Junkie Magazine #3 but the issue never went to press).

I finally got a chance to check out the letterboxed laserdisc of Wes Craven's New Nightmare and I must say, I was very impressed. Here is a story that returns the character of Freddy Kruger to his roots as a killer of innocents and someone to be feared, which is the Freddy I feel we really haven't seen since the original Nightmare on Elm Street.

The story in New Nightmare takes place in the "real world" and unfolds as the actress who played Nancy in the first and third films, Heather Langenkamp, finds her dreams being invaded by Freddy. She slowly discovers that the director, Wes Craven, is working on a new script for the seventh Nightmare on Elm Street film and that, somehow, she is living the pages that he is writing. (This same approach was used in the John Carpenter film In The Mouth Of Madness where all of the characters were living out the story that was being written by a horror novelist. These two films also share another connection : Michael De Luca, Head of Development at New Line Cinema. De Luca wrote the script for In The Mouth Of Madness as well as having a cameo in the New Nightmare film, but this was ultimately cut when he decided he wasn't comfortable with his performance.)

Since Freddy was killed off in A Nightmare on Elm Street 6 : Freddy's Dead, Craven had to come up with a new way to bring Freddy back that wasn't hokey. He achieved this goal by having the story occur outside of the events found in the first 6 films and introducing a new version of Freddy, one that has it's roots in an ancient evil. According to Craven, there is an ancient entity, a killer of innocents, whose essence is sometimes captured in a storyteller's tale. For a while this ancient evil is trapped in the story until that story dies. The premise in New Nightmare is that since the Elm Street films have ended and Freddy is "dead", the entity is free to do what it wants. What it wants to do is cross over from film into the "real world" in the form of Freddy and he has to come through Heather Langenkamp in order to do it. Gone is the Freddy that had emerged and evolved over the first five sequels and who had, to quote Craven, become a "jokester and buffoon".

One of the more enjoyable aspects of Wes Craven's New Nightmare is all of the references to the original Nightmare on Elm Street. This includes, but is definitely not limited to, a strip of Heather's hair turning gray, the infamous mouth-on-the-telephone gag, and the ever popular opening sequence of a new glove of knives being built. There are many more similarities throughout and trying to find them all heightened the enjoyment of the film for me. It's also interesting to note that at one point the title for New Nightmare was "A Nightmare on Elm Street 7 : The Ascension". This title was wisely rejected by New Line Cinema because they didn't want the film to be seen as a direct sequel to the previous six films.

What do you find on the widescreen laserdisc of Wes Craven's New Nightmare? The film letterboxed at a 1:85:1 ratio, an interesting audio commentary by Wes Craven, a cool theatrical trailer which is done in the spirit of the film (i.e. it is presented with the actors talking about the making of the film intercut with footage from the film) and six television spots (which begin to get redundant after the first three).

Have we really seen the last Freddy film? Possibly. But in Hollywood, is anyone (or any film series) ever really dead?

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Last updated by Sean (figment@figmentfly.com) on January 1st, 2006