Darke Reviews | Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Another review from the request bank, quickly running out of those, comes one of the few Nightmare movies I had the opportunity to see in the theatre. I remember the weird push for 3D on it and even have some of the tie in merch. Considering how much the first Nightmare scared me years before I turned around and embraced Krueger. I had books, I watched the TV show after I was supposed to be asleep (it was really bad), even had comics for it.

So with that much love for the franchise so far, especially part 3 and 4, how did what was reported to be The Final Nightmare hold up?

We can start with the director on this one Rachel Talalay, one of the few female directors in the field and even more important in the field of horror. She was also one of the producers on Dream Warriors and Dream Master of the Nightmare series. This film would mark her directorial debut, she would go on to give us Tank Girl then is largely relegated to TV for her career to date. In the documentary Never Sleep Again you can tell how passionate she is about the series and how much she believes in the franchise. Sadly, I am left to wonder how we got this product and design. It makes no bloody sense even on expanding Kruegers story, nothing is sold.

So let’s look at the script where Talalay has the story credit, with screenplay by Michael De Luca.  De Luca would also give us In the Mouth of Madness and Judge Dredd (the silly one). Largely he is a producer and based on the turn out of this film he should stick to that. The story is nonsensical even for a Nightmare film with some of the worst possible dialogue in the franchise. I love that they let Freddy quip by part 3, part 4 was ok, part 5 was bad, this is worse with near product placement levels of dialogue from Krueger. I have seen old Warner Bros cartoons with less sound effects and slapstick. Any evidence of subtlety is just gone with effects that break even more of the rules of the franchise at a level that pushes to the ridiculous. I really could keep tearing into this part, but we should move onto the acting.

Englund clearly was in it for the paycheck. He was here to mug for the camera nothing more; I mean he is having a good time but it’s just comical now. Shon Greenblat as John Doe at least tries to play it as straight as he can along with other previous leads. He brings a level of self awareness to the not so subtle dream states that makes him watchable in that early 90’s teen kinda way. Lisa Zane, older sister to Billy, plays Maggie; and I swear I think Freddy took her ability to emote. Every line reads flat. Honestly, no one does a great job here, even Yaphet Kotto, Breckin Meyer, and completely random cameo’s by Johnny Depp, Rosanne Barr, and Tom Arnold. It just doesn’t work on any level.

Even the effects have gotten laughable. As mentioned I’ve seen Looney Toons with less ridiculousness. This movie is a freedy cartoon given to us in 3D. The make up is horrendous. Nothing and I mean nothing works. Even Krueger looks like he is wearing a twenty buck halloween mask.

TL:DR?

This movie is awful. Just awful. It isn’t the worst of the series, that belongs to 2, as this is at least watchable in how bad it is vs. being some kind of fetish film. It looks cheap. It is cheap. You can see the Matte painting back drops. The sets look left over from the even worse TV series. There’s so very little redeeming about this MST3K worthy film. It is just so silly. There’s nothing even remotely scary about it.

The best way to see this is with alcohol or sleep deprevation so you just don’t care.

There are no nightmares to be found in this film.

Darke Reviews | A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

It seems fitting to start this years October reviews with the film that started it all for me. I channel surfed into it when it was on network TV a couple of years after its release. It is one of the few movies to ever actually scare me. It sticks with me today for more reasons than one. While not the original slasher film, not by a long shot, with Halloween and Friday the 13th beating it by a solid 6 and 4 years respectively. Heck, Halloween had already had two of its sequels out before this was released and Friday the 13th had four. This one stood apart from the rest though. There was something new here. So let’s talk about A Nightmare on Elm Street.

It should be noted, this may not be spoiler free due to the age of the film.

Written and directed by Wes Craven, a name now synonymous with the horror genre, but was at the time relatively unknown. He had some mild success a full decade before with The Last House on the Left and the Hills Have Eyes, but he was aboard the New Line Cinema train to get a new “slasher” out. Where as Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees are “men”, he wanted to create something new. Something scarier and he went into the land of dreams. Sure we all have nightmares, but what do you do when you can’t wake up from it? When the Nightmare follows you? How do you fight something like that? This added a new level of fear to the teen slasher and it was unlike much we had seen before.

The script uses similar tropes from other slashers of its ilk, which were relatively new at the time. You have your imperiled teens, quaint suburbian life, a brief bit of recklessness from the teens, and a relentless killer after them who is seemingly unstoppable. What makes our killer here different was motive. Jason was about revenge on the “type” of teenager. The people who let him die and the stereotype that exists all the way into todays films some thirty years later. Michael was driven by something else, something broken in him but at the time was purely human. His type was similar to Jason overall though, with anyone getting in his way just as much a likely victim as well.

Then we had Freddy. Freddy went after the kids not because of anything they did, planned to do, might have done, or didn’t do; but instead he went after them for the sins of the fathers and mothers. This makes him an entirely different kind of monster. He tortures the children in order to make the parents suffer for their crimes of killing him. The original film doesn’t entirely address whether or not he actually committed the crimes he was accused of and that the mob burned him for. It hints at it with the opening credits that he was in fact guilty of something, but that ambiguousness adds to the horror that is Freddy Krueger.  It’s never explained how he does what he does either, it just is (again original only), leaving that supernatural mystery to make him even more terrifying still.

All of this wouldn’t work without the right people though. Heather Langenkamp owns this film as Nancy Thompson, as much as Robert Englund does as Freddy. Her evolution from a scared teen, to understanding what hunts her, to trying to become the hunter is a classic to watch and sold for every single moment she is on screen – which by the way is most of the running time.  Englund gives the definitive performance of what it means to chew scenery in this as he cuts his way through the cast. The supporting cast is equally as important here for their own parts, with the esteemed John Saxon as Lt. Donald Thompson, Nancy’s father, and Ronee Blakley as Marge Thompson her mother. It’s one of the earliest times, to my recollection, we dealt with a couple who had divorced in a horror film with their child literally caught in the middle of it. The reasons for the divorce, the tension between them, and even how they deal with their own guilt through the film is as telling as any lines of dialogue. When discussing the supporting cast, its impossible to not mention a certain young mans first role – Johnny Depp as Glenn, Nancy’s disbelieving but big hearted boyfriend.

From a practical and movie making standpoint, while the effects don’t always hold up. The make up varies from scene to scene if you look too close; but this is an acknowledged mistake by the filmmakers. The music follows Cravens usual style of simplistic piano/keyboard with a guitar. It doesn’t sound elegant, but man does it work. It, much like the Jokers Theme from Dark Knight, is so offputting and uncomfortable it makes you squirm a bit. The lighting and practical effects help sell the movie and make it work. CG could only damage it and the weakest sequence is the one with some CG in it. One of the best and most iconic is Freddy pushing through the wall over a sleeping Nancy. For the record though, the one that got me was Tina’s death in the beginning.

TL;DR

If you have not seen A Nightmare on Elm Street and love horror movies, you must see this. It is one of the triumvirate of slashers and arguably the best.

While it may not be scary to individuals now, this one will always hold a special place in my heart and my nightmares. It is probably one of, if not the, most influential film of my childhood.

If you want to know more about the Nightmare saga, I recommend Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. It’s on Netflix and runs 3 hours and I enjoyed every minute of it.