Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Wes Craven
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Miko Hughes, John Saxon, Tracy Middendorf, David Newsom, Fran Bennett, and Wes Craven
Ten years after the original A Nightmare on Elm Street Wes Craven returned to the horror franchise he created, writing and directing Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. This time around the film is set in the real world with the Heather Langenkamp (Nancy from the first film) playing fictionalised versions of herself with Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) breaking out into real life. The film manages to both be a celebration of the series, while also a good horror film in its own right.
As the anniversary of the original film being released Heather Langenkamp is receiving phone calls from a stalker, that seem to reference Freddy Krueger. At the same time, she finds out that her husband is secretly designing a new glove for Freddy for a new sequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street. She’s contacted by New Line Cinema and asked to join the cast of the sequel, and at the same time it seems like Wes Craven’s new script is being mimicked in real life.
Freddy Krueger is made out to be a much darker and scarier villain here, after being turned more comical in the later sequels. He’s not telling jokes when killing, there’s no silly costume changes like the wicked witch in part six. It’s back to the original with an actual monster. Wes Craven took this film seriously, and even the reason why Freddy is in the real world makes more sense than why he appears in the later films. The big difference this time with his costume is a trench coat, that makes him look darker, and a more animalistic glove, with what looks like muscles on it.
This time around there’s a lot more focus on building terror than outright shocks and jump-scares. Freddy doesn’t really appear until right at the end, and for a small part you’re not even sure if Heather is making things up in her mind, or it’s really happening. It builds up to a tense and great finale that outdoes most of the previous entries to the series, despite arguably being the most over the top.
The film was ahead of its time with its meta references to the previous films in the series. Much more recent films from the last 12 months like The Matrix Resurrections and even The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, follow in the footsteps of Wes Craven. It’s seamlessly done in New Nightmare, blending the real world and film world perfectly. Wes Craven would also go on to create Scream in 1996, which has some similar metatextual references to slasher films.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is one of the stronger entries to the Nightmare series. There’s a great sense of growing tension and fear. It doesn’t linger too much on nostalgia and successfully makes Freddy scary again.
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