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Friday 19 May 2023

Burl reviews Wes Craven's New Nightmare! (1994)


Ha ha and high concepts, it’s Burl, here to review the most po-mo of the Freddy pictures! Freddy became self-aware sometime around February of 1987, at about the time A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 came out, but it wasn’t until this picture appeared seven years later that the circle fully closed! That was when Mr. Wes Craven returned to the director’s chair in old Krugerville and made Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, which is the picture under discussion today!

It was clearly intended as a final hoop-de-doo, with the grand return of not just Wes Craven but also Heather Langenkamp, whom we well recall from Star Trek Into Darkness and other photoplays; and John Saxon from Black Christmas and Blood Beach; and background appearances made by a few other people from the first instalment! Robert Englund, of course, never went away, ha ha! And all of these folks play themselves, at least at first; or in Englund’s case, part of the time!

Langenkamp is herself, married to a special effects man (as she is in real, real life), and has a little son, Dylan, played by little Miko Hughes from Pet Sematary and Apollo 13! She’s plagued by dreams and discovers, to her disquiet, that Craven is planning to make another chapter in the Freddy saga in which she, Langenkamp, will play herself! And the ouroboros continues with the introduction of Robert Shaye and other New Line Cinema executives, all playing themselves too!

Langenkamp’s dreams persist, and soon she’s spooked by every little thing; her son is going kwazoo; her husband dies in an accident involving a mechanical Freddy arm, a speeding van, a croscharea, and a concrete wall; and ha ha, won’t anybody do something about all these darn earthquakes! Her pal Saxon provides what comfort he can, but pretty soon he’s calling her “Nancy” and treating her like the daughter she was in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street! And Englund is no help – we see him in his palatial home sans putty, where he looks nearly as fresh-faced as he did in Galaxy of Terror, but he’s too wrapped up in his goofy paintings to offer more than token comfort! (I’m not sure if Robert Englund in real, real life is a painter, but if so, as a painter he makes a fine actor! Ha ha!)

The explanation for Freddy’s presence in the “real” world is quite goofball, but acceptably so – it’s clear Craven gave it some thought so it wouldn’t just come off merely as stupid! Some work is required on the part of the viewer: they must accept the premise as quickly and completely as possible in order to wring maximum enjoyment from the movie! Once they do, they’ll find a picture not replete so much with affrights, but one that functions nevertheless an unexpectedly rich thought-piece! Ha ha, it’s still pretty goofy, but overcoming that is the price of admission!

For a Nightmare on Elm Street picture it’s a real longuebönes (112 minutes!), and this running time excess comes from an inflated opening act and then too many scenes of Dylan acting weird! It’s as though he’s possessed by Freddy, but when it turns out that isn’t actually the case, the moments where he screams or talks in a duck voice come off retroactively as filler! He’s mostly a charming little guy though, especially when he talks about his dinosaur friend Rex!

The second half of the movie has more action and standard-issue genre interest, but by then we’ve accepted Heather Langenkamp not as Heather Langenkamp, but as a fictional character who happens to be named Heather Langenkamp – in other words, ha ha, the meta effect has worn off, to the picture’s detriment! Langenkamp’s acting is a lot better in this one than it was in Nightmare 3 however, and even a step up from the first picture, in which she was mostly just fine but no better!

This picture doesn’t turn bad in the second half though, just less interesting! There’s a well-done scene of young Dylan trying to cross a busy freeway, and his mom trying to save him – ha ha, it gets a little silly when a giant Freddy appears in the sky, but this at least has precedent in Nightmare 3! A frowny doctor becomes the main human antagonist without ever becoming bad or evil, and she’s forgotten about once the standard-issue ANOES climax – meaning a lot of scampering around in downtown Freddytown with its hot pipes and steaming boilers and flaming furnaces – asserts itself!

This came before Craven’s Scream or any of the other meta-horror of the 90s, so it had the exciting flavour of the new at the time, and a lot of that residual goodwill persists for me to this day! I enjoyed it in the theatre back then and enjoyed it again more recently, if a little bit less and without the novelty! It could stand to be gorier and scarier and to have better follow-through, but I still had a fine time watching it! I give Wes Craven’s New Nightmare two and a half sloshing pools!


  1. Trashley: A Rejoicing Bumpkin!24 May 2023 at 10:44

    Bumptious Greetings Burl! Everyone is dancing with fervent joy with the recent spate of movie reviews released by Burl! Your recent review of "Greedy" made me remember another Michael J. Fox movie: "Bright Lights, Big City"! Yow! What a time capsule! For some reason viewing Michael J Fox stumbling around Manhattan reminded me of one of my all time favorite 80's movies that featured an SCTV - heavy cast: "Going Berserk"! There were several bits that have stuck with me over the years like little green burrs that stick to my pleasantly furry cat! As a musician, I was partial to the bit where John Candy's girlfriend (a sort of Meg Ryan Doppelgänger) asks him why he practices drums so much! His reply (while practicing): "Because I'm Bad"!

    I realize this message has been a capricious mélange of thoughts. It's probably due to practicing too much trumpet and spending too much time down on the farm, pitching hay and chopping weeds! Presently, when I have a moment, I have been working through your reviews of the 1950's (I'm glad you categorize your reviews) and making a list of movies for my wife and I to watch! Thanks again for the highly entertaining and thought provoking reviews! Time to go pick burrs off the cat!

    1. Ha ha, and thanks for your note! I very much appreciate all messages from readers, especially readers who can actually get helpful information from these reviews - I hope you and your wife find some good 50s movies to watch!

      I've never actually seen Bright Lights, Big City, but maybe one day! I would like to review Going Berserk one of these days soon, though! I've only ever seen it once, so it's probably time for a re-watch - I sure do love SCTV and the marvellous Mr. Candy!