Wes Craven hates horror sequels. And maybe sequels in general, but horror sequels for sure. After creating the first A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven opted out and let other directors control the franchise. Many films later, New Line Cinema lured him back for the 1994 film New Nightmare. With a storyline similar to one that Craven himself and Kevin Williamson rip off later for a Scream film, this final installment of the franchise (before its remake) possessed a lot of great qualities. I loved a lot about it, but I also didn't love a lot. Isn't that the true definition of a 5?
New Nightmare is hard for me to wrap my head around, for some crazy reason. Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon return from the first film and Robert Englund returns as well. In this film, however, they are all playing themselves. This is a movie about the actors who played in a movie and might make another movie. It was amazing to see Heather back, even if it wasn't technically as Nancy; she's an amazing actress for the franchise even when she's playing "herself." This film follows Heather and her real life with her husband and kid. She is fondly remembered as the actress who played in the Freddy films. One day, she gets a call from New Line. Turns out they want to make another Freddy and Wes Craven is already writing the script. While Heather considers this offer, her "real life" starts to emulate the films and it becomes clear that Freddy has made the jump from screen to reality.
So much of this film reminded me of the first and as a whole, the greatness of the franchise. And I'm sure this was the goal when the studio released it - to remind audiences what they were missing. The film barely mentions any of the prior sequels since Craven hated them, but it doesn't matter. This is a new story with old characters and it did its job. I did remember why I love Freddy and his franchise. Even the new characters, including Heather's son Dylan, were interesting and added to the story well. It was exciting to see Wes Craven play himself and Robert Englund play not only Freddy, but the man behind the glove, too.
Walk down memory lane aside, this film lacked a story with a punch. Sure, the self-aware film with some of our favorite characters was cool, but the premise behind Freddy's return struggled. For a franchise that doesn't need rules because its main character is a figment of your dreams, they tried to bring him back in a way that seemed flimsy. Why not just have Freddy return for no reason at all instead of making up a complex reason that ultimately came off as silly? A few of the graphics sequences struggled, but it was the early 90s, so I wasn't shocked. And while there were deaths, none really blew my mind.
In the end, I felt like all the pieces of this film didn't quite click. I loved the idea of bringing back actors and the film-within-a-film, but the rest of the story lacked vision. Wes Craven is a visionary, I mean, it's from his mind that Freddy was born to begin with. I expected more from this film and his return to the franchise.
If you liked Wes Craven's New Nightmare, you might also like Freddy vs. Jason, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th.