New Nightmare sees Freddy leaving the realm in which he was created. After his escape, he begins to plague the performers from the first Nightmare film. Like in the first picture, Heather Langenkamp is the protagonist but this time, the terror doesn’t stop when the cameras quit rolling. Freddy is tormenting Heather and her family and will not be content until he gets her into his world for one last showdown.
New Nightmare veers away from the campy tone the films began to take on towards the end of the series. Freddy no longer spends his time reciting tired one-liners and stale wisecracks. He is a serious and very ominous adversary in this final installment. New Nightmare is the first film in the series with Wes Craven at the helm since the first. And it is also the best installment in the series since the original. Craven recaptures the terror that made the first film so frightening and he adds a meta twist similar to that which the director later used in the Scream series.
Craven’s screenplay for New Nightmare is revolutionary. It breathes new life into an ailing series and prevents Freddy’s Dead from leaving the franchise in a bad way. Creatively speaking, when Wes Craven is good, he’s very good. And this is really Craven at his best. He takes one of the most original and entertaining slasher film killers and reinvented him in such as way as to keep from upsetting long time fans and simultaneously making Freddy even more terrifying than he’s ever been.
Craven is also on top of his game as the film’s director. He creates a dark and unsettling atmosphere that makes the film frightening even to seasoned horror fans. And he makes use of an assortment of lenses that are fitting to the scenes in which they are used and lend an extra layer of intensity to already terrifying situations.
This 1984 slasher sequel features some very solid performances. Robert Englund is exceptional as Freddy. And Wes Craven and John Saxon are also very good as themselves. Like in the original, Heather Langenkamp isn’t the most believable performer but she plays the part with conviction and makes up for what she is lacking in heart and raw tenacity.
The effects in the film are primarily practical. There are a few scenes that appear to have been reliant on primitive, early ‘90s CG that do not hold up particularly well. But ultimately, the effects are very seamlessly orchestrated and are sure to leave a lasting impression on the film’s audience. The death scene that occurs in the hospital will be particularly noteworthy to fans of the series. It harkens back to the original film but puts a new spin on the situation that keeps it from being too derivative.
Like Most of Craven’s films, there is no excessive nudity in New Nightmare. He proves to be a director that does not rely on bare skin to sell his films. New Nightmare is a very strong picture that doesn’t need any filler or cheap thrills to attract an audience.
Not surprisingly, Craven was ahead of his time with this film. It was meta before most horror fans even had a clue what that meant. Naturally, it wasn’t a huge box office draw upon release but has gained a very loyal following since its home video release.
If you are reading this retrospective, it’s a safe bet that you’ve already seen New Nightmare. But if you have somehow missed it, New Nightmare is a brilliant, terrifying, and well-written slasher film. It fires on all four cylinders and proves an enjoyable experience for both fans and non-fans of the Nightmare series. As for the home video release of the film, if you don’t already own the Nightmare Blu-ray box set, it is worth looking into. The collection features films one through seven and also includes a respectable arsenal of special features.
Director(s): Wes Craven
Writer(s): Wes Craven
Stars: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, Miko Hughes
Studio/ Production Co: New Line
Budget: $8 Million (Estimated)
Length: 112 Minutes