Directed by: Wes Craven
Premise: The seventh film in the Nightmare on Elm Street series takes place outside of the world of the films and in the “real” world of Hollywood as the cast and crew of the original Nightmare film play themselves. Actress Heather Langenkamp, who played the heroine of the first film, is haunted by a demon that looks and acts like Freddy Krueger.
What Works: New Nightmare is a smart and scary send up of the Nightmare on Elm Street series and of horror films as a whole. There are lots of in-jokes and references to the other films in the series but it’s not a parody. The film returns Wes Craven to the writing and directing duties, and New Nightmare has a sarcastic edge about it, as Craven vents his frustrations with the cartoonish turn that the Nightmare on Elm Street series had taken and the way horror has been ghettoized by critics. In New Nightmare, a demon that lives for the murder of the innocent has been captured by the story of Freddy Krueger and now that the films have ended the demon is free to roam at will. This is a metaphor for the way horror stories capture the dark parts of human nature and make them understandable. It is also a warning to those who would stop these stories; losing them would render the culture unable to deal with or understand its own violence. Making the point even clearer, New Nightmare also references fairy tales like “Hansel and Gretel” and the comparison between the Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the Nightmare on Elm Street series is made clear. Aside from the thematic content, New Nightmare is also impressive as a horror film. It has a lot of jump scares and mixes that with a frightening atmosphere. Robert Englund returns as Freddy, and in this film he is allowed to unleash a cruelty and psychotic black humor not seen since the original film. New Nightmare also returns the focus of the film from Freddy and back to the heroine as she solves the mystery and protects her son (Miko Hughes).
What Doesn’t: The film is a bit heavy handed in its message and plays fast and loose with the Nightmare on Elm Street rules, as the demon of Freddy intervenes without being inside of a dream.
DVD extras: Commentary track, DVD-ROM features.
Bottom Line: New Nightmare is one of Wes Craven’s best films and an important precursor to later post-modern horror like Scream. This is a frightening film that also indulges the subversive qualities of the original Nightmare film.
Episode: #261 (October 25, 2009)