Review : Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

It has been 3 years since New Line Cinema released what was supposed to be the very last Nightmare on Elm Street film. In 1994, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare came along to give us a new concept and end the franchise on a better note. Wes Craven wrote and directed this last entry and took the nightmare in an entire new direction to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the original Nightmare on Elm Street.

It has been ten years since the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Heather Langenkamp (who portrayed Nancy) is now happily married to Chase, a special effects artist, and has a young son, Dylan. Heather is receiving creepy phone calls from a deranged fan imitating Freddy and is having bad dreams. When her husband dies under suspiscious circumpstances and her son starts acting out and having strange episodes, she realizes something evil is going on. She is soon contacted by New Line Cinema and finds out Wes Craven is working on the script of a new Freddy feature. But this time, Freddy seems to have entered the real world and to stop him, Heather is going to have to reprise her role as Nancy.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is difficult to review as part of the franchise because it is self-aware. The film acknowledges that A Nightmare on Elm Street is a franchise and the actors play themselves : Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund and even Wes Craven are themselves in this film. This is an original concept and New Nightmare definitely paved the way for Scream which Wes Craven directed only two years later.

I thought Wes Craven did a great job at explaining why would Freddy exist in a world where he is clearly shown as a fictional character and a horror icon. Freddy is the incarnation of an ancient evil entity. Making movies about him acted as a catarthis for this evil force but once they stopped making new films in the franchise, the evil wasn’t contained anymore. The only illogical aspect of this concept is that we see the script of the film within the film so it feels weird that, for instance, Craven would kill off Heather’s husband knowing that what he writes is actually happening. While the idea is original, it raises a lot of questions and some plotholes emerge.

Freddy gets a new design here and it’s not all good in my opinion. I really didn’t like his face make-up. It looks extremely fake, like a Halloween mask you would buy at the store. I had never seen such symetrical and well-rounded burn scars. His new glove also doesn’t match the greatness of the original one. They chose a more flesh and bone design and it doesn’t look right. However, Freddy looks awesome wearing the trench coat, I absolutely loved this wardrobe choice. Despite not liking his new look, I found Freddy really menacing and it feels great having a scary Freddy once again. They finally brought him back to his roots and dropped the stupid comical version of Freddy and we absolutely needed that.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare being a meta film, it offers interesting views on the franchise and horror movies in general. It raises the question of the influence of horror movies on audiences and, something the fans will appreciate, it is a reflexion on what the franchise has become and how Freddy became a pop culture icon. The final act of the film brings us classic Nightmare on Elm Street with a final confrontation in the dream world.

New Nightmare is an interesting film. It does have its flaws and is an outsider in the franchise but it brings back scary Freddy and has a refreshing concept. Some of the effects are not so great and Miko Hughes (playing the young son) is really annoying but other than that, it is definitely an enjoyable watch and is much more satisfying as a last entry than Freddy’s Dead.

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