1/4, 1990s, Horror, Rachel Talalay, Review

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

#8 in my ranking of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

Finally, one Nightmare on Elm Street film decides to dig even a little bit into Freddy Krueger into a character. However, they made the mistake of being obsessed with his past rather than his present or future. Long-term producer of the franchise and new director Rachel Talalay along with screenwriter Michael De Luca approached this intended final chapter in the franchise by digging into the unknown lore behind Freddy, trying to offer up simplistic psychological reasons for Freddy to be a child-killer in life, none of which were ever interesting questions about an immortal dream demon who keeps killing teenagers in the same small Ohio town.

I will say that the first half hour of the film actually had me interested. It wasn’t great, but it seemed to be approaching the idea of a movie in this franchise from a fresh perspective (while also obviously setting up the cannon fodder that would inevitably take over). John Doe (Shon Greenblatt) wakes up from a nightmare featuring Freddy Krueger (away from Springwood, it seems) with no memory of who he is or where he is from. All he has is a newspaper article in his pocket from years before about a “missing Krueger girl” from Springwood, Ohio. He ends up at a home for mentally disturbed teenagers in a group led by Maggie Burroughs (Lisa Zane), a social worker. She decides that the best thing to do is to take John to Springwood, which is only a couple of miles away, apparently, in the center’s van where Tracy (Lezlie Deane), Spencer (Breckin Meyer), and Carlos Ricky Dean Logan) hide away to escape from the center for at least a bit.

Instead of immediately turning around once the three stowaways are found, Maggie decides to go the rest of the way to Springwood, have them call the center, and then take the van back themselves, apparently leaving Maggie and John behind without transportation. Okay, then. Where this movie gets actually pretty interesting is in the vision of Springwood.

You see, ten years after the events of the fifth film, Springwood has simply given up. There are no children, the population is in steep decline, the people leftover seem to have gone crazy, and the place has become an unescapable maze. Where it feels like this could become something else entirely is in a small scene in the Springwood school where a lone teacher rants to an empty room about the history of Freddy, giving details that don’t make logical, literal sense (like Freddy has been terrorizing the people for centuries), but it has a real In the Mouth of Madness vibe that’s actually quite nice. I was pretty on board.

And then the cannon fodder starts dying, and we get the Freddy movie that Rachel Talalay really wanted to make. It’s bad. The entire franchise up to this point has had the saving grace of a wonderful sense of imagination in the dream sequences along with a fairly sustained sense of horror that only really began to break down in the fifth film. In this sixth film of the franchise that sense of danger is completely gone and the visions are significantly more mundane. There’s some imagination there (like the use of Carlos’ hearing aid or the idea of a psychedelic television program enveloping Spencer), but it’s more concentrated in the base concept than in any of the execution. The worst part is Spencer ending up in a video game with Freddy using a game controller. It’s silly, and I can’t think of anything worse for a horror film than sustained and abject silliness.        

The final third of the film turns on the idea that Freddy had a child before he got caught and burned (also, he made a deal with floating heads to be immortal), and one of our characters is that child (trust me, it’s super easy to guess which one it is). The parent-child relationship ultimately doesn’t matter beyond giving one character a few moments against Freddy in the end that are meant to simply have greater meaning because of the relationship, but it’s all so last-second, full of unnecessary retconning, and unexplored that there’s no emotional catharsis around it. It also ends up repeating the same idea of killing Freddy as the first film (though, admittedly, it’s not like Nancy really succeeded in that one), relying heavily on Doc (Yaphet Kotto, who is in this movie for I have no idea why) who has special powers in that he…never mind that. He doesn’t have special powers, the script just needed him to remember Spencer and Carlos when everyone else forgot about them for…reasons.

Oh, and did you know that Freddy killed kids as an adult because the kids at school made fun of him? I guess. Whatever.

The series hadn’t really been that good, and the last few entries weren’t exactly what one would call masterpieces. However, they could always be relied on for some level of technical fun in their visions of the hellish dreamscape that Freddy inhabited. Freddy’s Dead doesn’t even have that, and when mixed with the fact that Freddy simply ceases to be anything close to scary, it creates a deadweight that the film can never shrug off, not that it exactly tries.

Rating: 1/4

9 thoughts on “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare”

  1. I’m of the opinion (not shared by many, I know) that the only really good film in the franchise is “Freddy vs. Jason,” which also works as the only really good “Friday the 13th” film.

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    1. I have only seen some of the Friday the 13th movies, so I’m not exactly a connoisseur. However, I thought Freddy vs Jason was a better Friday movie than Nightmare one.

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  2. I also liked the idea of Springwood (or Haddonfield) being a blasted, dying town. A haunted place, like Silent Hill in video game lore. Sadly, this version has Tom Arnold, which is jarring.

    Freddy never changes, which as an iconic character I understand, but that means digging into his past doesn’t affect him in the present. Friday the 13th a couple of times uses Jason’s backstory to help defeat him. They don’t even manage to do this here. Because you can’t kill Freddy or Jason. Not for any in-universe reason but because they make money. Which is…frustrating from a story viewpoint.

    They should have gone full Hellraiser and explained how Fred Kruger became a demon.

    Anyway, cared nothing about the characters, haven’t cared about Freddy for a long time. Because Freddy cheats and there are no rules and nothing matters. Bleh. Bad storytelling.

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    1. Those books, I don’t know. (and yes, I feel some shame writing that).

      Oooh, now there would be a twist….an immortal demonic serial killer who can’t stop killing until people stop watching him.

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      1. That’s a reference to Last Action Hero. Arnold played Jack and the comic side character …Protagonist?… makes that quip of Jack being immortal as long as the series makes money.

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      2. Didn’t mean to prank you, honestly. And I think your idea was the basis of “The Bye Bye Man,” which I haven’t seen, but RLM keeps tempting me….(Spoiler alert: Wish Upon was mostly mediocre.)

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  3. If you’re just watching this now, you missed the film had a second gimmick as it’s last action scene was 3D. When the character puts on the 3D glasses the audience was also to Don cheap read and green glasses(cardboard of course). I might even have my pair still as I saw this steaming pile in a local theater. It may have been worse in 3D…

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