Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Written and directed by Wes Craven
Released October 1994
New Line Cinema

Five years after Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare New Line resurrected its most well-known movie character with this film, released in time for the 10th anniversary of the original film (dang, it’s almost hard to believe that they did so many films in this series in such a relatively short time). Wes Craven returned to helm this new film, which would not be just another sequel. At the time of this film I had never heard the word “metafiction” but now I am aware and this is one great example of it.

The premise of this film is that it takes place in our real world, where Freddy Krueger is a fictional character created by Wes Craven, who appears in this film as himself. Heather Langenkamp stars as herself. She’s married to a movie special effects designer named Chase (David Newsom) and they have a young son named Dylan (Miko Hughes) and live together in Los Angeles (in real life she is married to a makeup artist named David Leroy Anderson and they have two children, a boy and girl, and own an F/X studio together). Recently Heather’s been getting phone calls and letters from someone claiming to be Freddy Krueger, which they assume is just some deranged fan/stalker. Heather gets called in to New Line Cinema studios for a meeting with Chairman Robert Shaye (playing himself) about starring in a new Nightmare on Elm Street film, which she later finds out Chase has already been secretly working on, designing a new glove for Freddy to use in the movie. Heather talks to Wes Craven about it,  and he tells her that the idea for a new film came from some new nightmares he’s been having.

The idea is that are real evil supernatural entities in existence that sometimes take the form of stories, myths, legends, etc. Like old fairy tales and nursery rhymes. And their continued re-telling over the centuries is what keeps these entities trapped in the fantasy world. This is what happened with an entity that has taken the form of Freddy Krueger and now that the Elm Street movies have stopped being made, this force is escaping into the real world. It’s coming after Heather because she represents “Freddy Krueger’s” greatest opponent, “Nancy Thompson”. And according to Wes the only way to stop it is to make another movie before this entity is released into our world for good. Heather is skeptical at first, but her nerves are already rattled by the stalker. And then when Chase is killed by “Freddy” in a dream and Heather imagines seeing Freddy at Chase’s funeral, she begins to take it more seriously, especially after Dylan begins having severe behavioral problems. Soon enough Heather finds herself being forced to enter the dream-world to battle Freddy Krueger for the soul of her son.

It’s a very intriguing premise, and has many great moments that harken back to the original film. John Saxon also appears as himself, under the guise that he and Heather have remained in touch since they made their movies together (remember, both also starred in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors in 1987) and now have a close friendship where he is like a father figure to her. Robert Englund also appears as himself, dressing up as Freddy to appear on a news program with Heather hosted by Sam Rubin, and then later revealing that he’s been having nightmares of Freddy too. Tracy Middendorf plays Julie, a nanny that Heather hires for Dylan after Chase is killed, who becomes another of Freddy’s victims.

While financially successful on its own (making $18 million on a an $8 million budget) it remains the lowest-grossing film in the Elm Street franchise, and remains a divisive film among fans. Part of me thinks maybe it was a little before its time? A few years later Craven would team up with writer Kevin Williamson for the slasher film SCREAM, which would also be metafictional and self-aware and become a smash hit. And in 2000’s Scream 3, also directed by Craven, he revisits the premise of a fictional movie being made at the same time that similar events are happening in the “real world.”

Another part of me thinks its relative lack of success is due to the fact that Craven didn’t quite go far enough. even when I saw the film I kept expecting Craven himself and/or Robert Englund to show up at the end to help Heather fight Freddy. An Englund vs. Krueger showdown seems really conspicuous by its absence. I mean, how frakkin’ awesome would that have been?!? But the main thing I credit this for is the portrayal of Freddy. No joking around or wise-cracks, he’s back to being the purely evil monster that he was in the original film, and I loved it. So for that alone this film will always be one of my favorites in the franchise.


Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

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