Okay, I get it. The full title A Nightmare on Elm Street isn't there. Still stabby stabby dream guy. He murders adults in this one if you think that deserves a PG-13. (It doesn't.) This is still a hard R.
DIRECTOR: Wes Craven
IMDB, you and I have a beef. This movie was always Wes Craven's New Nightmare, not just New Nightmare. If it's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Stephen King's It, then it is Wes Craven's New Nightmare. Look how big his name is on the poster! It is part of the title. But since I always follow IMDB's listing, I had to label it New Nightmare. I'm still putting it in the film listing as Nightmare on Elm Street 7 because I have control of my own domain. Much like the spirit demon in this movie has control over our domain and the kid who was in all those '90s movies.
People preach this one. People swear it is a return to form. It is the one that is special and when I first watched it years ago, I was on their team. I swore that New Nightmare was cool and original. I think time has not exactly been kind to this movie and I might have to blame Entourage. For those unaware with New Nightmare, the movie is insanely meta. The film treats Freddy Krueger as a fictional character, similarly to how we view him in reality. Wes Craven is a real dude. Heather Langenkamp played Nancy and is a working actress. (Okay, not everything is accurate.) The Nightmare franchise has devoted followers and the Freddy's Dead ended the franchise. A viewing audience wants to view more. It is in this world that Freddy comes back. There is no real guy named Fred Krueger, but rather a spirit of evil that has Freddy as an avatar. This all sounds pretty cool and, at one point, I thought this was awesome. Entourage brought us a meta world filled with self-parody and I realized, that's really the only way to make meta really work. The problem is that Wes Craven thinks that he's a genius. So instead of having Wes poke fun of himself (shy of one throwaway line), he's just touting how awesome he is. That is super icky. This movie is just preaching how influential Wes Craven is as a director and how great the Nightmare movies are. That's annoying. That's why I think that the name of the movie is Wes Craven's New Nightmare. It's all about how great this guy is and why would I want to watch that for such a long time. There's no sense of irony in a movie that is definitely screaming for it. (Pun intended.)
What we actually get is kind of a novelty. It is a horror movie that is somewhat unique. It had to be weird for Heather Langenkamp to play this part that was supposed to so closely resemble her life. Not being a fan, I know nothing of Langenkamp's personal situation, but I don't think I would handle reading about the person who is actually supposed to be my spouse or child being cut up or horribly tortured. The movie is about the movie that they are making. Wes Craven plays up the idea that all of his scary movies come from his bad dreams. He apparently looks forward to bad dreams because they give him ideas for films. That's got to be a weird experience. The good news is that this movie allows for the filmmakers to throw away a burdensome amount of mythology and are allowed to just focus on the story. The odd thing is that Wes Craven decided to replace it with a new insane mythology that is possibly equally insane. It's not full on retcon because it acknowledges that the other mythology exists, but that this creature simply inhabits Freddy's form only makes the movie only the more confusing. What inadvertent thing happens, though, and I'm counting my blessings on this one, is that we get a significantly less jokey Freddy. Since this character isn't the same guy as the one from movies 3-6 (and since Wes Craven is throwing his OG gauntlet on the table), Freddy has no reason to really tell jokes. I never really understood jokey Freddy. Is he trying to make his victims laugh before they die? Is he entertaining himself? Isn't the very nature of killing cathartic to him or does he feel like he has to say something before people die. At least James Bond often had a weird audience when he told a morbid joke.
Like the reboot, this movie has a little bit of a problem with being overpolished. Freddy somehow works great when it is from the lens of a struggling director. I know that none of the movies really look low budget, but they definitely have that Cannon touch to them. There's something a little cornball about the whole thing. Freddy himself looks shiny and new. I kind of like it because it seems like a lot of attention was made into making the perfect Freddy. But there are a few sequences where Freddy is brightly lit (a rarity for the franchise, believe me) and you can see every stitch of his clothing. He looks very impressive, but I also like the idea that Freddy always looks a little ratty. This is a deluxe action figure version of Freddy. I'm not saying the special effects carry across the entire film. Perhaps it was a bad idea to watch a high def print of this movie because some of the sequences were never meant to stand up to the scrutiny of a 4K UHD TV. Yup, I'm just showing off that we have a very impressive TV and I'm going to shut up now. The scenes that look good look really good. I think New Nightmare fits in the perfect spot of history. The movie doesn't look so good that it looks sterile, but it also doesn't completely suffer from overly cheap special effects. We're still primarily in the practical special effects era. There's one special effect that is possibly worse than the rest of the franchise. As much as I don't love the Fangoria aspect of these movies, the special effects for the most part hold up most of the time. There's one in this movie that really lacks the polish of a clean effect. At one point, Freddy becomes the moon. It's this morphing effect and it looks absolutely terrible. It doesn't kill the sequence because the sequence, admittedly, is pretty cool. But this is a time when movies were just discovering special effects by computer and I thank my lucky stars that this is the only effect they really tried. It's minor, but it is noticable.
I don't think I like Wes Craven's supernatural stuff. His otherworldly sets always seem to have the same aesthetics and that really gets boring and old over time. His nightmare worlds are all variations of the boiler room. When the movie enters the demon's dimension, it looks exactly like you think a demon dimension should look. Why am I complaining about that? I want to be surprised. I want to be blown away. Instead, it looks like a Clive Barker knockoff. It's that weird gothic nightmare look to everything. I just think that there could be something far more creative. Honestly, the Matrix white room would actually work as a more terrifying idea. What about an adorned room? I think of the room with the eye-hand guy from Pan's Labyrinth. That room doesn't have the traditional look as most demon dimensions, but that locale is way scarier than anything presented in the demon's dimension. I also wonder if the very premise's locale kind of seems blah. I never got much out of L.A., especially when it comes to scary movies. I know that the characters are commenting on their real lives, but Midwest suburbia always screamed way creepier than a rich actress's house. I also don't understand if Heather Langenkamp is honestly that successful to afford such an awesome mansion.
Now, the big question that really is getting my goat is wondering if John Saxon is really amazing friends with Heather Langenkamp. If he is, that's a little bit weird. I don't know what they have in common outside of being in two movies together, one of which is a sequel to the other one. The other scenario might be far more awkward. Did Wes Craven write John Saxon as Heather Langenkamp's best friend and then they had to pretend like they talk to each other, let alone like each other? That's awkward. They would have had to pretend to hang out all the time when John Saxon is way older than Heather Langenkamp. That's pretty bizarre.
I honestly really wanted to like this one again. I had a good time the first time I watched it and I didn't absolutely hate it this time. But I also know that this movie (and even more so Wes Craven) takes itself way too seriously. This movie had such an opportunity, but instead it feels like a huge ego boost to everyone involved.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.