*Originally written in 2004
After 10 years, Wes Craven returned to the series and characters which brought him his greatest success, in an attempt to inject some life into the franchise and again try to re-define the horror genre. A New Nightmare is a success on both counts, even if it was mainly an experiment and stepping stone between projects. A New Nightmare brings attention to themes such as art imitating life and vice-versa, adoration of horror movies, the life of a cult figure, how we perceive violence, censorship, and of course the relationship between parent and child.
Wes Craven has been having nightmares and is using them to write a seventh installment in the Elm Street series. He contacts the star of Parts 1 and 3, Heather Langenkamp, and asks if she would be interested in returning to the role one last time. She turns down the role as she is a happily married mother who has tried to put the films and Freddy behind her. However, the fans are ravenous for more. Recently, Heather has been getting strange phone calls, probably from a stalker or obsessive fan who claims to be Freddy, calls which upset her and her son Dylan. She has also been having nightmares of her own, some involving her old nemesis, but puts it down to stress. Her husband Chase is out of town working on a film, and on his return home he falls asleep at the wheel, crashes and dies. Heather insists on checking the body, and finds claw marks over his chest. She now believes that Freddy, or someone pretending to be him is stalking her family. Freddy is not happy that he has been forgotten and wants out into the real world. He attacks Heather in her dreams, and she is drawn into a final battle to save her son and self from the demon who now seems to be scarier, stronger and more violent.
The film returns to the scares, imagery, themes, and gore which made the original so popular. Bringing back several members of the original cast, Craven manages to create a perfect, dreamlike blend between the real world and the dream world. Heather is an actress but must remember that it was the spirited youth of her character which saved Nancy’s life. However, the fact she has grown up, and that it was just a real world job means that it is difficult to believe such things – she is in danger of becoming like her character’s mother. Freddy is now presented as pure evil, albeit with a few catchphrases, a creature completely intent on becoming real.
Langenkamp takes the difficult role in her stride and is just as good as she was in the original, now a protective mother rather than a paranoid, survivalist teen. Englund revels once more in his role and seems to enjoy himself more here than in some of the previous films. Saxon and Craven are good in small roles, Miko Hughes is annoying at times as Hughes but still good, and the rest of the cast are adequate. The gore is back to basics, not overblown like in the last few films, and certain scenes are shocking – the ‘skin the cat’ scene is probably the most memorable. Craven again knows how our minds and fears work – the fact that Dylan thinks his toy dinosaur can protect him is a good example of this, that we create a blanket or defender for ourselves when there is no-one else to help us. This is overall a good idea well executed, a precursor to the Scream series, and a respectable ending (so far) to the Elm Street franchise.
Let us know in the comments what you thought of A New Nightmare and how it fares alongside the others in the series!