Monday, April 26

Some quick thoughts on Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

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From the IMDB: A demonic force has chosen Freddy Krueger as its portal to the real world. Can Heather play the part of Nancy one last time and trap the evil trying to enter our world?

Jason might have gone galactic and become über. Chucky might have fucked plastic and reared a gender-confused son/daughter. Busta Rhymes might have happily drove the final nail into the real Michael. Pinhead might have even grown rather chubby and got shoehorned into shitty screenplays that had been languishing in Hollywood for years. But Fred Krueger received the sweetest retirement package by the hands of his original creator and his New Nightmare.

The concept of a dormant depiction of on-screen evil conjuring into a demonic rendition of Freddy set to stalk the character's first love final girl in reality is simply tremendous. It's the best and most mature way of resetting the very idea of A Nightmare on Elm Street back from five perfunctory sequels. It's also something so drastic that it's rarely done, let alone to a beloved franchise, mostly due to financial and studio concern. Though New Line Cinema owed Wes Craven in more ways than one and let the director/writer craft the night cap for his iconic horror creation. The question is does the execution live up to the lofty premise?

I hate to say this, with New Nightmare being so lauded, but I personally don't think Craven quite hit the right target despite an undoubted commitment toward fresh originality with his series return. In fact, the only thing the feature does really well is imbuing itself with an atmosphere reflective of Craven's 1984 classic. Heather's husband's funeral, the fantastic scenes with John Saxon, the hospital sequences, the white lock of hair, and the babysitter's wall crawling death serve as both fan service and a method of conveying the cyclical theme Craven wanted. In a moment of perfect fan appeasement, just as we feel the Elm Street déjà vu of Heather once again running into her home in search of her young son, the film ingenuously shifts Heather back into her role as Nancy. At this point, the chunk of diseased brain matter that makes you a horror fan instantly ignites and you find yourself giddy over the possibilities. Yet, before anything potentially juicy is explored, Craven delivers the very "theatrically pleasing" antics that make him such a name in Hollywood. That's what essentially damns New Nightmare. The entire film seems torn between the fanbase and the mainstream, in spite of its great concept, as evident in its long, obvious build brimming with red herrings from the first scene.

The main vessel of delivering these unsubtle hints is Heather's on-screen son; who simply screams one-dimensional "creepy horror flick kid" you'd wish the villain would turn into cubed flesh. Craven should have had the child be more aware of his "possession" and absolutely terrified over what's happening to him. Instead, the little bastard relies too much on a damn stuffed dinosaur, even after witnessing his babysitter butchered above him. An (absent) aspect of awareness of evil in the boy would have given Craven another chance to mirror the original in a "reality revised" take on the chat Nancy and her mother have about the origin of Krueger. At least Craven and execs had the balls to allow a scene of a child with kitchen knives taped to his fingers. Another great change would have been to have Englund "himself" more involved. After all, the actor was largely responsible for crafting the demon's Freddy-infused netherealm.

Imagine Englund confronting his creation and realizing he can also "take the energy" away from the evil much in same way as Nancy's final confrontation with Freddy in Elm Street. Taking the idea to a crazy degree; after Englund's realization, he could have turned the underworld against the demon, materialized his glove, and destroyed the threat against Heather. A new, more interesting bond between Heather/Nancy and Robert/Freddy would have resulted. Talk about an amazing conclusion that would have driven the series into a full well-defined circle. Damn, I might be smarter than Wes Craven. Okay, I'm getting full of myself, but that hypothetical scenario certainly sounds better than than terrible CG-demon burning climax seen in New Nightmare. I mean, how in the hell would fire adversely affect a demon anyway? Also, why would the demon choose to bother Nancy or anyone involved with its chosen form? I guess we can either blame the ambiguous earthquakes or perhaps 1993's megabomb Last Action Hero for ruining the thought of a Robert vs. Freddy meta-battle.

Wes Craven's New Nightmare is without question the best conclusion to any of the matriarchs of '80s slasherdom. Still, getting into the "what-ifs?" in this case proves far more interesting and lively than Craven's wooden vision of the "end" of Freddy Krueger. The film is too processed to kindle the imagination of fans and proved too unlike the expected norms of the series for more mainstream audiences. It's not hard to believe this feature being much more substantial if written and directed by a younger Craven.
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4 comments:

William Malmborg said...

Though I really enjoy this movie, and watch it all the time, I to wish that Robert Englund had had a bigger part to play. I would have loved to see the 'demon' take him over and turn him into Freddy rather than just slowly making his way into our world.

Drunketh said...

Nice hypothetical scenario. I like it, yet am torn. But then, I do still like the movie as is. It would have been great if what you said was the case or that they made two versions. Meh. Those are only the standards these days though, and they don't stray as far as your imagination does.

This film already gave a new dynamic to the Nancy/Freddy relationship. If we went as far as they would become partners (in crime, or whatever), then wouldn't it have to end with a wink and a nudge from Englund? And then a fade to black laugh? I don't know.

Erik said...

Thats a pretty cool idea you have there with the bond between Heather/Nancy and Robert/Freddy,Craven should have done that!I vote for that and your idea.

Planet of Terror said...

This is my second favorite film in the series. Great conceptually and for the most part, well pulled off. But the end is the biggest gripe I have for the same reasons you mentioned. I like your idea.

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