Wes Craven's New Nightmare

From Academic Kids

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) is the seventh in the A Nightmare On Elm Street horror film series. It was preceded by Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, and followed by Freddy vs Jason. The film was the first in the series since the original to be directed by Wes Craven, who also wrote the film. Heather Langenkamp appeared in a "Freddy" film for a third time, playing herself and reprising her role as Nancy Thompson.

The tagline of the film was This time, staying awake won't save you. A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 7: The Real Story and A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 7: The Ascension were working titles of the film.

Wes Craven set out to make a deliberately more cerebral film than recent entries to the franchise - which he regarded as cartoonish and not faithful to his original theme. The film was well-received critically, particularly for a film in its genre, but failed to make as big an impression at the box office as any of the previous six films - the United States take was $18m dollars. Several critics have subsequently said that New Nightmare could be regarded as a prelude to the Scream trilogy - both sets of films deal with the idea of bringing horror movies to "real life". Whilst the Scream trilogy appealed to huge audiences, New Nightmare is talked of as a clever project, personal to Craven.

Contents

Plot Outline

Just as the first Nightmare film opened with the creation of Freddy's famous glove, New Nightmare opens with the creation of an updated, more sinister and sleeker looking glove: "We open on an old wooden bench. There's fire and tools, and a man's grimy hands building what's soon revealed as a gleaming set of claws. And the claws are moving now as if awakening from a long and unwanted sleep..." As the maker of the claws appears to chop off his own hand in preparation for attaching the claws to his own wrist, we see the other people on the set wince, and hear the director, Wes Craven, encouraging the effects specialists to pump more blood. Soon he yells, "Cut! Print that, Gretchen!", and we see Heather Langenkamp with her husband, Chase, and their son, Dylan, wandering around the set of a new Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Presently the claw, which was a only a prop a minute ago, comes to life and starts maiming and killing the special effects guys, Dylan disappears into thin air, and, as the claw prepares to attack Chase, Heather screams, waking up in her own bed in her own house with Chase, in the middle of an earthquake. Welcome to Los Angeles. After the earthquake dies down Chase has a couple of scratches, the same as he'd gotten in the dream. Were they sustained in the earthquake or in the dream?

Of course, we know they're from the dream because this is Freddy we're talking about, but the rest of the movie keeps us guessing by portraying these events as actually happening to people in real life, not just to characters in a movie. After the earthquake, they go about the rest of their day just like we would. Heather's been receiving harassing phone calls from "some deranged fan" acting like Freddy, but they've stopped for the last couple weeks. There have been five earthquakes in that time, and Heather has been having nightmares. Chase leaves to drive a few hours away for a job, the babysitter arrives, and Heather gets picked up in a limo to appear on a talk show. On the set of the talk show, the host starts asking questions about Freddy, "Is he really dead?"

Suddenly, Freddy slices his way through the back of the set! ... Well, actually, no, it's just Robert Englund dressed as Freddy. "Love ya, Babe! Let's do lunch!" he hams it up for the crowd. From here on, Heather's week goes from bad to worse. She learns Craven has been writing a "New Nightmare" script, and gets offered a part in it, which she turns down. When she gets home, her son has some sort of episode during which he warns her in a voice not his own, "Never sleep again!" When she asks Chase to come home immediately for Dylan's sake, Chase falls asleep at the wheel on the way, and dies in a car crash (with a little help from Freddy's claw). Dylan, now also grief stricken, continues acting ever more strangely. When Heather takes him to a hospital, the doctors suspect her of being insane and of abusing him.

She goes to Wes, who also plays himself, for help making sense of what's happening. Craven tells her he doesn't know much more than she does - he dreams a scene or two each night and wakes up and writes them down. He goes on to tell her that in the script he's been writing, Freddy is trying to cross over fully into our reality, but a guardian, a gatekeeper of sorts, bars in his way. He tells Heather, Freddy sees her as that gatekeeper. Nancy defeated Freddy in the first movie, and Heather gave the character of Nancy her strength. Freddy is attacking her at her weakest points, trying to break her down before confronting her. The question is whether she has the courage to play the part of Nancy "one last time". She leaves him as confused as when she arrived.

Finally, Freddy really shows up and Heather's week goes from worse to nightmarish. By removing all her supports and friends, through death or obfuscation, he forces her to accept the role he wants her to play. At the same time, he eviscerates the toy dinosaur Dylan believes has been protecting him and abducts the boy. The final showdown between Freddy and the mother-son duo occurs in a steamy and water logged dreamscape ruin, apparently Freddy's home turf. Even so, the two succeed in killing Freddy and escaping back to the real world. There they find the script of the film Wes has been working on waiting for them! Dylan asks his Mom to read some of it to him, which she does: "We open on an old wooden bench. There's fire and tools, and a man's grimy hands building what's soon revealed as a gleaming set of claws. And the claws are moving now as if awakening from a long and unwanted sleep..."


Trivia

  • Johnny Depp, from the first Nightmare, doesn't appear in this film because Craven was too timid to ask him. On running into each other later, Depp said he would have been happy to do it.
  • Freddy Krueger is credited as "Himself" in the ending credits of the movie.
  • Freddy's makeup and outfit get a complete upgrade for this feature. Shinier claws, more realistically grotesque features and skin, and styling leather pants and combat boots. For some scenes he even gets a flowing, dark gray, woollen trench coat.

Lead roles

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