Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Mike Hughes, Wes Craven, John Saxon, Robert Shaye, Sara Risher, David Newsom, Tracy Middendorf, Matt Winston, Rob LaBelle
Freddy Krueger, the child murderer of Springwood, returns to the big screen for the seventh time with horror maven, and series originator, Wes Craven back in control.
Wanting to take the series to a new reality, one that had never previously been envisioned for the franchise, Craven returns with a vengeance to bring the dream killer back for another round of mayhem. This time, the story takes place, not in Springwood, but in the very capital of cinema Hollywood.
Returning to the series’ origins, Craven, who wrote and directed this edition, brings back actors Heather Langenkamp, Robert England and John Saxon, and even adds himself and producers New Line execs Robert Shaye and Sara Risher. Instead of having them play characters in the film, he has them acting as themselves (Englund plays a dual role as himself and Krueger). The premise is that, long after the first film became a cultural phenomenon, Langenkamp has gotten married, had children and is trying to manage her new career as an actress and celebrity.
Believing Freddy is a work of fiction, she soon discovers that it is not the case at all. Freddy’s real and is stalking her, her husband and her son (Miko Hughes). As Langenkamp slowly unravels, she is given guidance by her friends (the other actors from the original production), and ultimately understands that to defeat Krueger, she must take on the role that made her and him famous and bring to a conclusion his dark reign.
The film takes liberties with reality as Chase Porter (David Newsome) and Dylan (Hughes), plus most of the other characters with whom they interact, are fictionalized. The changes don’t matter much as the story itself is perfectly capable of generating realistic moments. Craven’s marvelous screenplay shows us what horror can be when it’s not just trying to gross out its audience.
Langenkamp does her best work yet in the series, putting on the guise of a mother trying to save her child from becoming Freddy’s next victim or something potentially worse. Newsome and Hughes add strong supporting performances and Englund has never been better. These small, contributing elements help make the film far more satisfying than any of its contemporaries.
The film uses updated visual effects (a few look a bit dated 13 years later, but that was 1994) to supplement the story, not wanting to overshadow the plot.
Newsome plays a visual effects guru who has been hired by Craven to work on the new production, a fact he doesn’t share with his wife. However, Langenkamp has already envisioned his role, even though she writes it off as a dream. When the film opens, we’re treated to the nightmare where she’s on set with her husband and the visual effects gurus. Is it Freddy presenting her with a potential vision of her future? Or is it an attempt to scare her into submission? Either way, those scenes tell us more about the film’s historical perspective and simultaneous respect for the genre. It’s not only an homage and pseudo-sequel to the original; it’s a testament to the wit, craft and creativity of the entire genre.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare didn’t break any barriers and certainly didn’t start any trends, but for anyone who has enjoyed film history’s most inventive horror series, the reward is in the viewing. With small tips-of-the-hat to the original film (including a ceiling-thrown hospital scene), the movie transcends traditional sequel labels and stands on even footing with the original film. It examines the psychological frights associated with nightmares and their impact on the human psyche while delivering chills and thrills for the viewer.
September 5, 2007