Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) | 31 Days of Horror: Oct 13

by Jovial Jay

Freddy’s dead. Long live Freddy!

After killing off Freddy Krueger in the previous installment, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare takes a stunning new direction for the series.

Before Viewing

The trailer for this film blurs the line between documentary about the Nightmare on Elm Street films and a Freddy Krueger horror film. Director Wes Craven and actors Heather Lagenkamp and Robert Englund appear to be playing themselves as Craven talks about the nightmares that give him the ideas for the movies he makes. An interesting recontextualized idea for a horror movie which continues the scarred killer’s exploits.

Presented below is the trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - Halloween

Wes Craven' New Nightmare

Wes Craven’ New Nightmare title card (end of film only).

After Viewing

On the set of a horror film two FX techs are attacked when a razor glove they are working on comes to life magically and stabs them. It then comes for actress Heather Lagenkamp (Heather Lagenkamp) and her son and husband. She awakens from this nightmare as an earthquake hits the Los Angeles area. Her husband Chase (David Newsom) has cuts on his fingers just as he had gotten in her dream. He heads off to work, and Heather is apprehensive about going off to a talk show appearance due to the repeated callings from a stalker. Her nanny, Julie (Tracy Middendorf), convinces her that she and Dylan (Miko Hughes) will be fine.

After the TV appearance, where Robert Englund (Robert Englund) surprises her and the audience in Freddy Krueger makeup, she meets with New Line Executive Robert Shaye (Robert Shaye) who offers her a role in the new Nightmare on Elm Street film that Wes Craven is writing. She tells him she’ll think about it. Dylan begins exhibiting strange behavior and Heather calls Chase, who is working in Palm Springs, to come home. He falls asleep on the long drive and dies in a car crash. When Heather identifies the body at the morgue she notices long blade-like cuts on his torso, as if from a razor glove.

At the funeral Heather believes that another earthquake has hit and Dylan has fallen into the grave. When she pulls him out, the dead body of Chase speaks to her. Her friend John Saxon (John Saxon) helps her up, telling her it was all in her imagination. She talks with John the next day at the park, where they witness Dylan climb to the top of a jungle gym and jump off. She checks in with Robert to see if he’s had any weird dreams lately, but he is agitated and evasive on the phone.

Wes Craven' New Nightmare

Heather shows Rex and Dylan that at the bottom of the bed, there’s no monsters.

Dylan continues to have bad dreams and sleepwalks, repeating the rhyme from the first Nightmare on Elm Street film about Freddy coming to get you. After a particularly vivid dream within a dream, Heather visits with Wes Craven (Wes Craven), who admits he’s having nightmares of the evil entity that fueled his early films and that his story is the only thing that can contain it. Another nighttime earthquake traumatizes Dylan, so Heather takes him to the local hospital where he needs to stay overnight.

Doctor Heffner (Fran Bennett) believes that the boy is being abused in some fashion and orders a sedative for him. Heather returns later in the night to check on Dylan, and runs into Julie who is looking in on him as well. While Heather is being questioned by the doctor, Julie is killed by Freddy who emerges from Dylan’s dream. The boy escapes the hospital by sleepwalking back to his house. At the house Heather realizes she must enter the dream world to save her son.

She crawls into Dylan’s bed, under the covers, and falls into a Hellscape where Freddy comes for the two of them. Dylan and Heather fight back against Freddy and stab him just as he’s about to eat the boy. They dive under the water in the strange grotto just as the world explodes and emerge from under the blankets back on Dylan’s bed. Heather has a film script still in her hand from the dream world which is signed by Wes thanking her for playing Nancy one last time. She begins to read the script, which duplicates the opening of the film.

Every kid knows who Freddy is. He’s like Santa Claus or King Kong…” – Heather

Wes Craven' New Nightmare

John Saxon visits with Heather, who is grieving over the loss of her husband.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare really blurs the line between fiction and reality. Two years before Craven would release the meta-fictional Scream, which created a horror film that was aware of the “rules of horror films,” he crafted this film which brought Freddy Krueger out of the film and into our reality. This was the seventh film in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, 10 years after the debut of the original movie. It followed Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare which appeared to have killed off the popular killer. Craven had the idea to return to his original idea of what Freddy Krueger was: more brutal and less funny. Setting this film in the context of the real world creates a surreal and unforgettably weird film.

The film begins as if it might be a documentary, showing the behind the scene actions of a film crew working on the latest Nightmare on Elm Street film, but it quickly switches gears into the dreamlike state of the film narrative. Movies don’t often blur the line between fiction and reality, especially horror films. They may suggest a dream state to their imposed reality, but Craven’s film goes further by using actors from his first Nightmare film playing “themselves” with additional cast members being the director and producers behind the film as well. This franchise of films had always drawn a fuzzy line between the nature of the dream state and the reality of characters. New Nightmare takes that additional step and adds in the “reality” of the world the audience lives in. It really creates the question of what is real, which plays into the horror of the film.

Some of the blurring comes from the casting of the stars of the film. Heather Lagenkamp plays herself, but her husband (who happens to work in special effects as well) is played by an actor. Her character in the film shares much in common with her real-world counterpart, such as both of them having had a stalker. The film was also set in the aftermath of the Northridge earthquake which had happened just prior to filming, so the filmmakers included that slice of real-life into the film as well. In today’s reality show world, it becomes hard to understand the line between fiction and reality. And that little extra bit of questioning is enough to throw the audience’s balance off making them susceptible to the various levels of horror that the film presents.

Wes Craven' New Nightmare

Wes Craven admits that Freddy has returned to his dreams and that creating a new story is the only way to stop him.

As an entry in the Nightmare franchise, this is very much a return to form. Craven, who sat out the intervening five films in the series, returns to attempt to breathe new life back into a tired franchise. Lagenkamp made her second return, after Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, which she returned as Nancy in-universe. This film also makes numerous references to the original film, such as Freddie’s nursery rhyme, the appearance of John Saxon (who later believes he’s Don Thompson, Nancy’s father from the first film), and an eerily similar moment of a tongue coming out of the phone to lick Lagenkamps face. It also features the eternally creepy Miko Hughes playing her son Dylan. Any horror fan that grew up watching Hughes in the original Pet Sematary knows that this kid can be creepy! New Nightmare is able to get some slack from the audience since it is supposedly taking place in the real world. The characters believe they are living in our world, so the normal rules of horror are not supposed to apply. When your child is getting sick, it’s not from a demonic entity coming in his dreams, it’s because he’s got a virus or something.

Freddy would return one more time in the 2003 Freddy vs Jason (and a remake of the 1984 film) but hasn’t been seen since. He may have played his time out having only so much that a character in a dream world can do and remain interesting. New Nightmare remains as a scary entry in the franchise for using actors that can portray the horror in believable ways (especially child actors) as well as playing into the audiences expectations and subverting those same expectations for new twists on familiar themes.

Wes Craven' New Nightmare

This incarnation of the serial killer sports new makeup and a new ensemble, including a sporty fedora.

Assorted Musings

  • The premise for this film was originally intended to be used for the third film (Dream Warriors) but was ultimately rejected.
  • The film draws a nice parallel between acceptable children’s horror (Hansel and Gretel) and the Freddy Krueger series. Young Dylan leaves a bread crumb-like trail of his pills sto allow his mother to follow him into the dream world where they would push Freddy into the flames, much like Gretel pushing the witch into the oven.
  • Another homage to the original film is the re-emergence of the white streak in Heather’s hair as the film progresses, mimicking the streak Nancy received from the night terrors.

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