New Nightmare, or as the title card reads “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”, is a deceptive title. Now almost 20 years after its release it can hardly be called “new”. Basically it should have been called “Wes Craven’s Second Nightmare” as this movie is a true follow up to his original in terms of style and substance. But it isn’t really A Nightmare on Elm Street movie, it’s more a movie about the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies.
The movie has an intriguing concept. It’s set in the real world where The Elm Street movies are just movies and all of the people involved in the original movie are now playing themselves. That includes both the heroine and the villain; Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund, but also director Wes Craven, producer Bob Shaye, co-star John Saxon and a variety of other people working at New Line Cinema. Other parts, like Heather’s husband and son, are played by actors mixing real life and fiction.
Apparently there is an evil entity that inhabits stories throughout the ages which manifested itself in the Nightmare movies ever since the original came out. Since they stopped making the movies the entity has been trying to get into the real world and starts haunting the creators of the original.
After seeing Freddy get more stupid with each installment, especially after the third movie, this is a fresh take on the Fred Krueger character. Well, though played by Robert Englund, the entity is actually not really Freddy, but he does look similar to him. Freddy’s make-up has been made less pizza-like, he has contact lenses, wears a green fedora and a long dark coat. His claw is now more bio-mechanical like it was on a lot of the artwork for the earlier movies.
New Nightmare is a clever movie consisting of several layers. I loved how they incorporated the real world with the fictional part. The visit to New Line Cinema, the talk show appearance of Englund in classic Freddy gear, the behind the scenes of making a new Nightmare movie.
I must admit that when I first saw this movie somewhere around 1995 I was a bit put off by it. By then I had seen all the Nightmare movies and though the latter installments weren’t great I did like them very much. Like every one else I had gotten used to wisecracking Freddy and at the time this movie came as a culture shock for the character. Krueger himself appears around halfway through the movie, and has only a handful of scenes. His screen time is limited as well as his murder rate. In fact there is just one real Freddy kill in the whole movie. So people expecting a true Nightmare movie will be disappointed. Over the years I’ve gotten to appreciate this movie a whole lot more and found the original sequels to be pretty bad compared to this, especially from part 4 and on. It’s probably an age thing.
It’s not a perfect movie; I found it a bit contrived how all of these actors are still so close to each other. They’re colleagues who work together on a project for a few months and then part. Would John Saxon and Robert Englund be still so close to Heather after all these years? It could be, but I didn’t found it likely. The funeral scene is also used as a scene for cameos but it really didn’t make a lot of sense that when Heather’s husband dies there were more people involved with the first Elm Street movie, than family. Even Rod, who had only a few scenes in the original and Tuesday Knight from Elm Street 4 are in this scene. Fun for us, but what is there business there? If my girlfriend would pass away, I find it hardly likely a colleague for a few months 10 years ago would appear to pay his or her respects. And why was her husband already working on a new Elm Street movie when Wes’ script wasn’t even finished and Heather didn’t even say she would star in it? Yet, they were already filming.
But I’m just nitpicking now, something which is easy when you’ve seen a movie a couple of times and begin to question elements of the plot.
New Nightmare is a good movie that features a Freddy Krueger that isn’t really Freddy Krueger and yet is more true to the first movie than other movies from the series were.