Combustible Celluloid
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With: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Miko Hughes, John Saxon, Tracy Middendorf, Wes Craven
Written by: Wes Craven
Directed by: Wes Craven
MPAA Rating: R for explicit horror violence and gore, and for language
Running Time: 112
Date: 10/14/1994

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Freddy or Not

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After more than a decade's worth of endlessly repeating slasher films, some of them -- like Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives -- became somewhat jokey and self-referential. But it was Wes Craven that made the first flat-out post-modern slasher film, with Wes Craven's New Nightmare.

The stars of the original film, Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, and John Saxon (not Johnny Depp, sadly), all appear as themselves, as does director Craven, in something approximating the real world. There hasn't been a Nightmare on Elm Street movie for a few years, but the series is still very popular, and fans are clamoring for more. Word comes that Wes is working on a new screenplay, but Heather is now married and with a young son and isn't sure she wants to do any more horror movies.

Unfortunately, Freddy Kreuger seems to be making little appearances in real life. At first, Heather's son Dylan (Miko Hughes) begins chanting the creepy "Freddy" song, and then mentions a bad man with claws, etc. Before long, Freddy has emerged, full-blown, and is tearing and rending everything and everyone in sight. In one scene, Craven explains that his new script is coming together based on his own nightmares. He thinks Freddy is a demon that was simply captured and temporarily held by his stories, but by letting the stories die, the demon has broken loose. Their only hope is to make a new movie!

Unfortunately, Wes Craven's New Nightmare doesn't go much further than that. The showdown takes place in a creepy "Freddy-world," rather than on a movie set, although the last few moments are pretty satisfying. And even though Robert Englund appears as himself, there's no mention of any deeper connection between him and Freddy other than that of actor and character. (At one point, Robert simply flees town and is never seen again.) And, oddly, Craven's direction is not as clean or as tight as in some of his other movies, perhaps because the space in this one -- the real world -- is not so well-defined.

But what's here is still unique and inspired, and is easily the second best in the series, after the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Of course, two years later, with the help of screenwriter Kevin Williamson, Craven took horror to even greater post-modern heights with Scream.

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