Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Film Review: NEW NIGHTMARE (1994, Wes Craven)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 112 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: John Saxon (TENEBRE, ENTER THE DRAGON), Heather Langenkamp (GROWING PAINS, SHOCKER, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), Robert Englund (EATEN ALIVE, DANCE OF THE DEAD, ST. IVES), Miko Hughes (MERCURY RISING, APOLLO 13), David Newsom (KISS KISS BANG BANG, 24), W. Earl Brown ("Dan Dority" on DEADWOOD, SCREAM, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH). Shot by Mark Irwin (VIDEODROME, THE FLY, THE BLOB, SCREAM). Music by J. Peter Robinson (THE WRAITH, THE GATE, THE BELIEVERS, COCKTAIL).
Tag-line: "On October 14th, terror no longer stops at the screen..."
Best one-liner: "Every kid knows who Freddy is. He's like Santa Claus... or King Kong or..."

I mean, clearly Wes was more than a little pissed that he created an epochal, child-murdering burn victim (who played our subconscious phobias like a piano) that was subsequently hijacked and transformed into a one-liner machine, corporate huckster, and frequent occupant of board games, pinball machines, yo-yos, and the like.

Wes Craven: disdainful toward what they did to his Freddy.

Personally, I'm cool with a Freddy who scares the shit outta me as well as one who rides skateboards and says things like, "Bon Appétit...BITCH!," but then again, Freddy wasn't my brainchild and magnum opus, so I guess I don't get to say boo. Regardless, NEW NIGHTMARE is a pretty ingenious way to reboot the series after Freddy's much publicized 1991 'death.'

I suppose this sort of thing had been done before (Lucio Fulci claimed that it ripped off CAT IN THE BRAIN), but never on quite such a scale. (Unfortunately, Craven's subsequent meta-effort SCREAM ensured that lower quality, postmodern, wink n' nod horror would stick around for some time.) The self-reflexivity goes nutballs, and in the best possible ways- Wes types his own script as it plays out on our screen:

Robert Englund appears as himself and makes nearly Fosse-esque jazz hands as mesmerized fans chant 'Fred-dy, Fred-dy':

FRED-DY, FRED-DY

and Heather Langenkamp tries to keep her son from seeing the first NIGHTMARE on TV. I love that in this alternate reality, ten years after the fact, all the original NIGHTMARE cast members still hang out on a regular basis. And you have to delight in the fact that the real Krueger (credited as 'himself') is supposed to be an eons-old demon kept at bay by the sequels! (So A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD served some important existential purpose after all!) There's a certain loopy brilliance to the proceedings, and a few actual scares, but there's something about it that never quite blossoms into the masterpiece it might have been (maybe it's Miko Hughes- John's son and the epitome of 'corporate child actor').

Still, there's a genuine power to certain scenes, like when reality fleetingly bleeds away and John Saxon and Heather become father and daughter once more...

Four stars.

Side note: The film also receives bonus points for using music from Wim Wenders' WINGS OF DESIRE in its trailer!

-Sean Gill

5 comments:

Mike B. said...

Loving these "Nightmare" reviews, I hope they keep comin'! Don't really have anything to add here, except that I never thought I'd get to see a Robert Englund abstract painting scene, and I'm all the more enriched for it!

J.D. said...

After the first one, this is my fave NIGHTMARE film. This, along with Carpy's IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS are the true meta/self-reflexive horror films and not the watered down stuff of the SCREAM films. Obviously, Craven was bummed at the lackluster reaction to this film and softened many of the edges when it came to the SCREAM films. Oh well... It was so great to see several of the cast members from the first film reunited in this one and it didn't even feel gimmicky.

Sean Gill said...

Mike,

Thank you! I too felt enriched by the Englund painting scene. I always enjoy seein' the man out of makeup.

J.D.,

Agreed- and IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS is probably my favorite of the bunch. SCREAM is fun enough, but as you say it's a far cry from NEW NIGHTMARE.

Jack Thursby said...

Yeah, I like both New Nightmare and In the Mouth of Madness about equally.

New Nightmare is the more fun movie for me because it's about real people like Craven and Englund playing themselves, whereas ITMOM had the ersatz Stephen King character Sutter Cane. Now if John Carpenter had managed to get Stephen King to star in ITMOM that could have been... oh waiting, Stephen King can't act can he... damn.

Sean Gill said...

Jack,

Well, let's not discount King's ridiculous performance as a yokel in CREEPSHOW, but in terms of the Stephen King-as-himself-in-a fantastical-world trope, I have to say that his multiple appearances in THE DARK TOWER series were quite enough for me.