I usually don’t put the director’s name in the titles when I write up a review. For instance, I didn’t list the title of Halloween as “John Carpenter’s Halloween” even though that’s what it says on the opening credits. What makes Wes Craven’s New Nightmare different is the fact that Craven directed, produced, and stars in the flick. Also, Craven says he has several nightmares during the movie, so this literally could be called Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
I’ll tell you one thing; I liked his Old Nightmare a Hell of a lot better.
Heather Langenkamp (the chick who played
New Nightmare was Wes Craven’s warm up to Scream. He’s clearly having fun being self-referential and playing with the conventions of the horror movie. While Craven’s approach is ambitious and potentially fascinating, the results are overlong and flawed.
This movie came out shortly after The Player, right when it was hip to throw in a lot of celebrity cameos playing themselves. Langenkamp does a fine job at playing herself but Craven is kinda hammy. I liked seeing Robert Englund as himself too, yet I was a tad disappointed by his “New” Freddy performance. He just wasn’t very menacing (that had more to do with his needlessly redesigned make-up and cheesy looking retrofitted claw) and the padding they used to bulk him up is obvious.
The idea of Freddy coming after his creators sounded great on paper but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. After Craven expertly sets up the premise, he doesn’t do a whole lot with it. He spends more time psychobabbling about it than actually producing the scares, which is kind of unfortunate. He also unnecessarily hits us over the head with all the bedtime stories allegories. (Like Freddy being killed by getting shoved into an oven a la Hansel and Gretel.)
It doesn’t work completely yet it has moments where you go, “Oh damn!” I think my favorite scene comes when Freddy’s Special FX animatronic glove gets a mind of its own and slices up some crew members. The twist on Tina’s paint-the-room-red death from the original also has quite a kick to it too.
The extremely bloated running time (112 minutes) sabotages what should’ve been a dynamite concept. The subplot about the overbearing doctor and the snarky nurses trying to keep Heather from her kid is more a little grating and slows the flick down just when it should be ramping up. Craven also gives us one too many scenes of Heather waking up and finding her son sleepwalking for any sane person to endure. Speaking of the kid, Miko Hughes was great in Pet Sematary but he gives one of the worst child performances in history in this flick. He almost single-handedly ruins the whole deal with his incessant screaming.
I appreciate the fact that Craven at least TRIED to reinvent the wheel though. Ultimately, in a horror franchise as popular as this one, it’s better to aim low and succeed than to shoot for the moon and miss. Wes Craven's New Nightmare is the most interesting of the Nightmare series but it also happens to be the least entertaining. Still, if you ever wanted to see someone shove a moray eel in Freddy’s eye, this is the flick for you.
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