Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.
Freddy’s Dead, by all accounts, seemed to be the end of things. It was a big deal. The movie’s entire hype train hinged on the fact that it would deliver on the promise of its title and truly be the final Nightmare. There was even a huge, public funeral for Freddy in the Hollywood Cemetery to promote the film’s release. There was a “Freddy Day” in his honor. And yet, of course, it wasn’t. And New Line knew it. They were the House that Freddy Built, after all. It’s only natural they wouldn’t want that foundation to collapse if they felt there was more fuel left in the tank. Which is ironic, because part of what killed Freddy in the first place was overexposure. By the time Freddy’s Dead came out, Mr. Krueger not only had five previous films under his belt, but three seasons of a prime time TV show as well. That’s not to mention video promotions, music videos, talk show appearances, etc. He was a Yo-Yo, a video game, a doll, he had all kinds of posters, comics, you name it. Freddy was everywhere and absolutely unavoidable and while you would think that would only get people more excited for his new releases, it really did the opposite.
New Line must have been aware of that, too, because while every Nightmare on Elm Street sequel went through many different versions to get to what eventually wound up on the screen, the follow-up to Freddy’s Dead had one crystal clear point of origin: putting it back in the hands of Wes Craven. It made every kind of sense. Who better to carry the torch than the person who lit it in the first place? Who better to make Freddy scary again than the man who had made a whole generation of kids afraid to go to sleep thanks to the original film? And so that’s exactly what New Line and Bob Shaye did, they reached out to Wes Craven to come back to his most famous creation, and he said “yes.” What we got, of course, was one of the best installments of the franchise and one of the best horror movies of the ‘90s in general: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
But that wasn’t an idea that Craven had immediately upon that initial conversation with New Line. Far from it. In fact, developing his next Freddy feature took some time, because the studio certainly didn’t reach out asking for a deconstruction of the series and a thoughtful commentary on the power of myth and storytelling. No, obviously they asked him “Would you like to do Nightmare on Elm Street 7?” And so, for a while, Nightmare on Elm Street 7 was what Craven tried to do.
In those earliest Fangoria reports, Craven noted that he was trying to find a way to follow up everything that had come before, even watching every sequel and taking note of the things he both did and didn’t like, so that he could try to find a way to move forward from where the franchise had ended. Initially, that was both his and New Line’s goal. In an interview in Fangoria #122 Craven said, “Freddy was dead, anyway,” in regards to the previous movie’s title and his decision to return, and went on to say: “I’m writing the script now and I’ll be directing, but I have the option to do another film before this one. Freddy will be involved, and Robert Englund has agreed to come back. We are devising a sufficiently acceptable way within the mythology for Freddy to come back.” It’s unclear whether or not the seeds for New Nightmare were already laid out at this point, but it doesn’t sound like it. This was also so early in development that Craven, even technically before the start of any official development, that Craven even thought he might do another movie before it. That didn’t wind up happening. At the time of that Fangoria interview, Craven had just directed The People Under the Stairs. New Nightmare would be his next, followed by Vampire in Brooklyn.
It’s also worth noting that this was around the time that New Line started to become seriously invested in the idea of Freddy vs. Jason. While the shot of Freddy’s gloved hand pulling Jason’s mask down into the dirt was not meant—according to the filmmakers—to tease the crossover, it still did exactly that, and the first script was turned in in 1994, not even a year after Jason Goes to Hell hit theaters. And, of course, while Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was in the middle of production. Craven was even asked in the Fangoria interview if the sequel he was working on would be the long-rumored crossover, but he completely dismissed the idea, saying: “I think that was a card they were going to play if they couldn’t get me back for this one.” Wishful thinking, of course, as they wasted no time starting to get cracking on Freddy vs. Jason while Craven was still neck deep in New Nightmare.
Craven has noted in interviews and documentaries that he tried to wrap his head around how to approach Nightmare on Elm Street 7 in several different ways, trying to make sense of what had come before, but it’s clear that even initially he knew he wanted to make his next installment something unique. “I knew it had to be something different,” Craven said in an interview in the New Nightmare Official Movie Magazine. “It wouldn’t have worked for me to have Freddy’s Dead simply be a dream and go on into another adventure.” He added: “I’ve always liked the characters and I’ve always liked the concept… I thought real hard about exactly what it would take to make a new and original Nightmare on Elm Street vision.” That’s really interesting, that before even landing on a concept, Craven simply thought about the original characters. He even met with Heather Langenkamp before the New Nightmare idea was formed, which is fascinating considering the fact that Nancy was dead at the time.
It’s important to note, though, that in many drafts of the script for Nightmare 3, which Craven co-wrote and laid out the initial story for, Nancy’s death was far less permanent than it is in the finished movie. In those early drafts, when Kristen says “I’m going to dream you into a beautiful dream,” that’s exactly what she does, and Nancy effectively becomes Freddy’s opposite in the dream world, as the guardian of good dreams. The Nightmares on Elm Street comic series from Innovation in the early ‘90s carries on from this concept. Craven could easily have carried on from that point as well, and it’s possible that he had something like that in mind when he went to meet with Heather Langenkamp, as the concept for New Nightmare didn’t start to form in his mind until after he had met with her and Robert.
Craven met with Langenkamp and heard about her incidents with stalkers and harassing phone calls and that, according to the director, is when the idea started to form. “Finally, I was reunited with Heather and heard about what had been going on in her life. Those real-life terrors struck me as the perfect jumping-off point for a new look at what Freddy really means,” he said in the New Nightmare Official Movie Magazine interview. In the documentary Fear Himself: The Life and Crimes of Freddy Krueger, Craven added, “I just had this sort of flash moment where I thought it would be really interesting to do a movie about all of us who had made the film, and if the films had stopped and it had somehow profoundly affected our lives, that it released something because the story was not being told.”
Ultimately, things absolutely worked out for the best. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is not only a standout installment in the franchise, but also one of the absolute highlights of Craven’s career. It’s pretty clear that Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street 7 was never actually written, although Craven did say he was writing the script before it sounds like the New Nightmare idea became fleshed out. But it’s unlikely any of that made it to the scripting stage before he settled on the idea he clearly knew was the right approach. Even still, it’s exciting to think about a time when Craven was briefly wrapping his head around how to legitimately, literally tackle the seventh installment in the saga, carrying on in that same world, with those same characters he had originally created. Even though Freddy is still very much Freddy in New Nightmare, if simply a new incarnation of him, and Heather is in many ways still Nancy, the idea of Craven literally doing Nightmare 7 is impossibly fun to think about even if it almost certainly would have been worse.